Greengard's ChessNinja.com

Right Move Not for Sale

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Not wanting to deluge the Dirt with the political releases coming out from the Ilyumzhinov and Kok campaigns on a daily basis I've skipped most of them here. (Although the Right Move position papers have made for good reading and are recommended even if you don't care about the election. Here's the latest one on sponsorship and a link to all the articles.) While the result of the election will have a huge impact on the sport we love, the only people that really matter are the delegates. In that regard Kok's campaign is hobbled by their unwillingness to pay cash for votes. Beyond that, from my chess fan's perspective it seems so obvious that Ilyumzhinov has been a disaster for the sport that arguing about the election here seems like a waste of space. Not only would anyone this side of Kirsan's friend Saddam Hussein be worth a shot at this point, but we have an eminently qualified and sane individual and team on offer in Bessel Kok.

I'm making an exception here for an open letter from FIDE General Secretary Ignatius Leong, who proposed a Faustian deal to the Right Move team. In it, Kok would abandon his campaign and join the Ilyumzhinov-led FIDE in a role surely possessing no actual authority but a great deal of scapegoatability. This page also contains Kok's reply, which, thank god, is no. Gee, I can't see why he wouldn't want to hand his credibility over for Ilyumzhinov to squander until it's gone.

Leong has experience with such things. In the last FIDE election Leong started out to run against Ilyumzhinov on a reform ticket that published a manifesto for change. He later bailed out and dropped his candidacy in exchange for a vice-president position and is now general secretary. Since Ilyumzhinov has 100% control, Leong may as well be coat-check boy when it comes to institutional reform. Guess how many of the changes he said were needed in 2002 have been made?

The FIDE edifice is hollow and condemned. It needs to be torn down so something decent can be built on the land, not propped up (new names with no power) or given a paint job (matches with no commercial sponsorship instead of a cycle). This isn't a matter of making the right move. For anyone who actually cares about the game it's a forced move.


... well, I know I usually pay too much attention to those things, but something that "makes for good reading" shouldn't have as much orthographical errors as his positional papers. Don't those guys have spellcheckers and stuff???

Nevermind, I'm just generally disgusted by the quality of printed media let out in the open these days.
I know that content should have precedence over appearances, but there comes the point when you start to wonder how much time someone really invested in a positional paper that has several sentences that have a finite verb missing...

Don't worry, Kirsan won't win. Although he claims to have 75 federations, I think he's lying, since most of the letters for "proof" are too short with only a single sentence like: I suport your ticket. The real number should be about 40, and bessel has already 39 (and counting).

Why would Kirsan *want* to squander his credibility like that? Any federation that has *not* expressed their support for him should have protested. Kok mentioned the examples of Tunisia and Palestine, who are not on the list now. I think adding those were probably just a mistake.

Doesn't this show once one thing.

That the Kirsan ticket is scared on the verge of defeat while Bessel's ticket is confident of victory.

And anyone thinking that Leong wrote this open letter without Kirsan's blessing is mistaken.

But alas we have one strong presidential ticket which believes in itself and will not allow itself to get corrupted.

Well done!


This post argues for greater commercial support for chess, and makes some recommendations as to how to achieve it. Briefly: 1] Chess-related websites and some tournaments should be supported by advertising, or other commercial sponsorship; 2] In return, these websites (and the chess community in general) must demonstrate that the sport is worth supporting.

The rationale is based on several items of evidence. First, most sports are commercially supported. Recently, there has been some progress in this direction. The recent US Championship was supported both by contributions through the American Foundation for Chess, and by direct commercial sponsors. This is a positive development: It creates incentives for more players to remain in the game. However, the current level of commercial support for chess pales in comparison to support for other sports.

In this respect, the businesses that have advertised in chess-related publications and websites have often been firms that sell books and equipment directly to players. In this sense, the game has been supported largely by the players themselves.

Second, chess has suffered from a very high rate of attrition. As documented here in the “After the Game” posts, many talented players either gave up chess completely, or became inactive. Many businesses are currently dealing with the same problem, attrition of their customer bases. Particularly in markets that are nearing saturation, firms that do not succeed in retaining customers become more vulnerable to failure. The same is true of organizations like the USCF, which has faced both high rates of attrition and aging of its membership. As a result, firms are actively studying the causes of attrition and taking initiatives to retain their existing customers. Chess-related organizations should consider similar measures.

If there are any chess entrepreneurs on this website, it is hoped that they will consider the following proposals.

Recommendation 1: Firms in certain sectors such as computers, software, and engineering should actively sponsor chess tournaments, and support websites.

Justification: The players themselves often consist of middle class professionals, in intellectual fields ranging from law to applied mathematics and engineering. For example, firms like Intel actually have internal chess clubs, and the sport is quite popular throughout the tech community. These tech professionals also deal with other commodities such as computers and software, and interact with other professionals in their field. By sponsoring chess, the firms will reach a wider community of natural clients.

Recommendation 2: Firms should consider chess-themed advertisements. Even among non-practitioners, the sport is viewed as intellectual. So firms that associate their products with chess will be able to appeal to certain types of professionals. For example, consider an ad along the lines of: “Compaq computers with AMD Processors: the winning combination”. This might be surmounted by a picture of a photogenic chess player, someone like Susan Polgar or Elizabeth Zatonskih, with her set. In order to do this, however, an ad agency would need to actively market this idea to firms.

Recommendation 3: Chess entrepreneurs should actively market the sport to firms. No firm will support a sport unless it is guaranteed of a return on its money. To this end, chess organizations might want to portray the sport as having a large fan base of educated consumers worldwide. For instance: “Chess, the undiscovered sport with high-income fans in every country. We are the world’s professionals.”

Several times in this blog I have asked a vital question which has gotten no answer. Several times I have made unimportant trivial comments about Kamsky, Tal, Topalov, Anand, and got floods of responses. Let me ask the vital question again:

How does chess sponsorship work?

Do most people who sponsor tournaments to make money?
Do most people who sponsor tournaments do it to gain exposure? (find this somewhat doubtful--how many chess fans are there? how many non-chess fans will see their name as result of sponsorhip?)
Are most people who sponsor tournaments simply chess fans with money?
How severe was the deterioration of chess tournament sponsorship in the wake of Soviet Union collapse? (how many regular top-class tournaments died out)
How severe was the deterioration of chess tournament sponsorship in the wake of Kasparov forming PCA? (same)
What percentage of his yearly time does a championship contender have to dedicate to tournament/match play to stay at that level?
What percentage of current chess sponsorship funds come from FIDE?
What percentage of current FIDE sponsorship funds come from Kirstan?

I know there are good players on here as well as people who work closely/deal with GMs. Any info would be appreciated.

Well said Yuriy. It would be interesting to find out - however, with appearance fees negotiated privately between organisers and players, we'll never really know.

That "paper' is just a childish attempt at pretending a serious plan for attracting chess sponsorship can be developed from assorted dubious/mismatched data.

Pathetic, if well-intentioned.

First, thanks to Yuriy for his response to the initial post. Also, irrespective of one’s views, it is irresponsible to denigrate the other participants in this discussion. Clearly, everyone has an interest in attracting more support for the game. Therefore, let me ask that we keep the discussion civilized from now on.

It may not be possible to quantify the existing sources of support, but it may not be necessary. As a professional statistician, I recently did a study on the high rate of attrition from the subscriber base of a well-known Fortune 500 company. The main cause: the price elasticity of demand was extremely high. In plain English, clients cancel in response to high prices. Chess has a similar problem. Further, again without rigorous statistical testing, anecdotal evidence suggests that the rate of loss of players is very high.

My own proposal for corporate sponsorship would be something along the following lines. All names here are just for purposes of illustration. Hypothetically, Compaq and Advanced Micro Devices jointly sponsor the World Open. In other words, they make a contribution to the prize fund, and underwrite the cost of renting the tournament hall for three days. In return, the website for the tournament reads “The AMD-Compaq World Open”, the corporate logos are prominently displayed, and there is a prominent link to the websites of both companies. At the tournament, players pick up an additional information package. The players benefit by the fact that they pay lower entry fees, and compete for a larger prize fund. This in turn attracts more players.

The general idea here is to build, or retain a larger base of clients, people who continue to compete in tournaments, although they work in other professions.

tgg 's comment is both pathetic and not well-intentioned....

Interestingly, collapse of viable match cycle structure structure can be most immediately linked not to collapse of USSR or to formation of PCA, but to Kirstan's election as FIDE president. One has to wonder how viable such a structure really is, especially if chess organizations worldwide weren't compelled by Kirstan to conduct championships by his conditions and were able to host/promote/seek sponsorship for events.

Some decent ideas but: "Chess, the undiscoverd sport (right so far) with high income fans in every country." "We are the world's professionals." I can't say for certain, but I doubt if 2 in 10 can fit that bill. It's just not the average day-to-day chess world that I've seen and been a part of for too many years now. Maybe I'm wrong and have become too much of a cynic but...

Also, chess and corporate sponsorship have been discussed adnauseam on this and other chess blogs for some time now (years) without anything substantial happening. In fact, after HB Foundation just the opposite. I truly love this game, but chess is not a winning venue for corporate profit in this country. (USA)

The collapse of the viable match cycle structure can be blamed on the combination of
a) Kasparov, whose departure from FIDE deprived that cycle of its reason for existence and whose conduct scared off potential sponsors and
b) Kirsan, who replaced the old cycle with one godawful nightmare after the next, and who also scared off potential sponsors.

Addendum: Benjimin Franklin enjoyed the game as well as others from that time. Later Morphy created a "boom" of sorts. Then there were great players like Pillsbury, Marshall, among others. After that Reshevsky, Fine and Kashdan. The great Fischer and his "boom" on up to the present day. During this whole time no corporate sponsorship of any significant value has taken place. The track record speaks for itself. There is chess history in this country, but its legacy is unimportant and meaningless when it comes to corporate backing and the hope of grand profits on a grand scale that modern day corporations feed on.

Ignatius Leong´s proposal seems so unusual (weird, strange, I cannot pinpoint the right english word), that one is led to speculate about the real motivations behind it.

What exactly was that? Forget all together about elections and form a joint governing body...?

But it seems it won´t have any effect as it has been denied by the right move ticket. He plainly states that it is simply illegal. So, that ends it.

Well said, ChessTraveler.

The fact is, there has not been a single point in chess history where the average chess "pro" has been able to make a decent living from legitimate commercial sponsorship.

Chess has never been viable as a profession ANYWHERE (even the USRR).

Yes, Kirsan is a piece of s**t. No question about that. But chess had the same problems LOOOOOONG before Kirsan took over.

The solution is very simple: all problems with chess would go away if the "professionals" accepted that there's no money in it.

As simple as that.

Hey, I have been playing on and off for 20+ years and the game is as enjoyable as ever; most other players feel the same. The turmoil is only for those wanting to extract blood from a rock.

Yeah, Leong's comments are somewhere between kooky and downright sinister. Elections always have losers, and it's bad to be a loser, so the obvious solution is - not to have elections at all! Brilliant!


There are many chess professionals as of right now. They are not all backed by government money.



Look what your average chess "professional" is making:


Topping the list is former world-class GM Yudasin. It took him 385 games to make 16 grand.

That should give you a good idea of the type of income a chess "pro" can expect...

In the wake of Kasparov leaving FIDE, five championship matches and 3 championship cycles took place over the next five years. The FIDE cycle did not collapse until 6 years later when Kirstan decided to change the nature of the cycle. I am unaware of him attempting to set up a classic cycle unsuccessfully during the period between Anand-Karpov and Las Vegas Khalifman.

I also am not convinced of "sponsor scared off argument," if only because Kasparov and Kirstan have since been the two men most successful at securing sponsorship for matches, tournaments, cycles, etc. If the sponsors were really as careful in evaluating chess cycle integrity and past behavior of participants, the situation would be as different.

I can understand why Leong would send such a letter to Kok, but for the life of me, I have no idea what prompted him to make it public!?

I have often thought that a bank should be asked to sponsor state scholastic events, i.e. put the bank name on the trophies and every thing else connected with the scholastic event. Chess organizers are not going to get anything unless they ask for support in some manner. You ask and keep asking with a good plan and good stats. Ofcourse it takes a lot of time and effort to get sponsorship. I have no idea if anyone has really ever done much asking with a plan. ACF4C in the USA must be asking as they have several commerial sponsors for their various programs.


Here... let me tell you what is going to happen. Ilyumzhinov will win easiliy, and it doesnt matter if he is a crook, a gangster, if he has sunken international chess even more, etc. Its all about political power, and he has a lot more than kok. The delegates are mostly politicians, not normal people (lol).

Its sad, but living in the third world one learns a lot about what's important for elections and what's not.

to me it seemed obvious as I read Leong letter that he was told to do this by Kirsan. I felt the entire thing was a way for Kirsan to protect himself from losing.

Leong is a puppet of Kirsan. It could not be otherwise than Kirsan wanted it all done exactly as it was done.

Leongs comment: "If you lose, you might turn your back on a 'united' FIDE, or worse, take your supporters with you to form a parallel organisation." Hadn't thought about it, but since the majority of the current corruption is located in the eastern hemisphere, perhaps not a bad idea if Mr. Kok was to lose. A new western organization and the old eastern FIDE. Hypothetically, the wall is already there. Why should the west continue to subserviate itself to a system of government it no longer shares any ethical and moral values with? Although highly unlikely, food for thought. If it were to begin to happen, just keep Garry out of it and who knows?

All bask in the greatness of Kirsan's generosity. He felt sorry for Right Move. He knows he will squash them to a degree that will become suicidal for all the members of it. Kirsan loves life and he does not even want misguided mortals to die from shame.

So out of pity he decided to let them become part of his greatness. But no, arrogantly they have refused!!

This would be like if the USA had refused Frances offer of the Louisiana Purchase. That's a big mistake!

Kirsan’s smile has been winning the hearts of children playing chess for years, who will vote against the children's happiness?

Unlike Right Move, the voters love happy children.

Kirsan Fan

And to think I actually believed that KF was for real for sometime. I have to admit this character did get me. Credit when credit's due.

Me too!

TGG: That's just one tournament. Yudasin has played in other tournaments. Also, professionals also make money from simuls, giving lessons (online and in person), writing books, writing chess columns, etc.

I have known several chess professionals personally, and they seemed to do OK, if not scintillatingly.


How good can the situation be when world-class (or former world-class) players like Kamsky, Yudasin, Elvhest, Nakamura, etc. are entering $200 tournaments?

The last thing these guys want is to play serious chess with players rated 300/400 points below them...

I'd go as far as to say that the average chess-related earning of GM's rated between 2500 and 2700 is well under $25,000/yr.

How many run-of-the-mill GM's are giving simuls?
How many have enough paying students?
How many are writing chess columns?
How many are winning money in tournaments?

(and notice I'm not even bothering to lower the figures even more by including IM's)

Honesty and Integrity in Chess?

what is happening at USCF with Beatric Marinello going over to the enemy and opposing the USCF. this is incredible.


things are rotten right here at home. who is this woman. where did she come from. how did she get this power. why does she abuse her power.

The United States is something of a special case, in that it's one of the few western nations where chess players get no government support at all.

In many countries, GM's get government funding. And a $500 prize won in an international tournament goes a long way for a GM living in Eastern Europe. As does a $40/hr lesson on ICC.

There are also various European leagues that pay players stipends.

The only real mystery is how US professionals survive. And that's probably why there aren't too many of them.

With regard to promotion:

I can see chess(in US markets)on ESPN II and Fox sports. Classical would not work, but rapid chess with good commentary (teaching, just like the poker model) would be exciting. The US likes personalities and chess certainly has personalities, they just need to be promoted. Poker found a cash cow in the US, chess could easily follow the same model. Like poker, in the US, the sport has to be taught. There is very little current general knowledge, although some of the names are known.

Actually it would probably have more clout in the US if Kirsan hosted or directly advertised the games. Americans like to watch wealthy, egotistical, power hungry, colorful characters.

Start small, build, then there would be lots of money for a heavyweight battle (classical, taped on fast foward, lol), as long as the commentary is colorful and can bring out (or create) colorful interesting competitors. Get out of the library and into the gym.


Bessel already answered that the result of the election will be respected. So there is no chance of a new west chess organisation. I wonder whether Kirsan will respect the election.

Kirsan Fan....you're the man. You crack me up!


I read what Kirsan Fan says and I dont know if I should laugh or cry.

I just dont believe him. It seems to me he is making it all up to be funny.

No tommy, kirsan fan doesnt make fun although it seems he/she does. Everything will become obvious, because i intend to reveal his/her identity.............Kirsan fan is ....his mother who tries to defend her unprotected , beloved child from the blind rage of this malevolent,envious, chess journalist named MIG...Her maternal affection is touching.

Thanks, Christos, but most of us are more interested in the real identity of....tommy.

You just wait till he takes hemlock. Then I will say "I tell you so".

Regarding income of chess professionals (debated on this thread between "tgg" and "macuga"):

As in other threads and other subjects, tgg's comments should be read as tongue-in-cheek -- akin to those of "Kirsan Fan."

For instance, his comments about the Yudasin and the New York Masters series at the Marshall Chess Club clearly were not made to be taken at face value; no one is that ignorant.

Similarly, consider tgg's $25,000 per year estimate for the average chess-related income of GMs in the 2500-2700 range.

I know someone who is just an IM, and a below-average one at that, who has a regular career unrelated to chess, and does chess as a side business -- a few private students, occasional articles and lectures, a tournament every few months, 4 or 5 books to his credit, now working on a DVD, and the like. I believe that his chess-related income is around $25,000 per year.

I repeat: this guy is doing chess as a side business, not full-time; he is roughly 200 points weaker than the range tgg specified; he lacks a GM title; and to top it all off, he lives in America -- so there is no commercial sponsorship or league play available to him, as it would be if he lived in Europe or the UK.

Nor are there any special factors I'm aware of that magnify his chess earning potential, as was true for famously successful non-GMs like Dan Heisman or Bruce Pandolfini -- both 2200-level players who got rich teaching chess because they happened to be in the right place at the right time early in their careers -- or Eric Schiller (a one-man book-mill).

Draw your own conclusions about how much money GMs can make if they pursue chess full-time and can draw on the broad chess resources of Europe, while using the Internet to reach students in the U.S. and Canada.

Who started that tommy=Socrates stuff anyway!? I hope it wasn't me.

With so many organizations behind Bessel Kok, I don't see why he can't use the PCA or just his contacts to create a rival organization to FIDE, but one that will actively try to undermine FIDE. I guess there are problems with that scenario, but are those problems worse than the status quo?


No, you didn't start the Tommy=Socrates scandal. Unfortunately, you did help get the ball rolling. Therefore, by a majority vote of one...mine, you are now suspended from the Daily Dirt Chess Blog until you put up your next post. I hope you've learned a lesson young man!

Greg, I confess to being the first to bring Socrates onto these pages. While I did not directly "out" tommy as Socrates, it was my comment (re: Socrates on observing and judging oneself, vs. judging others) that led someone else (I forget who) to that conclusion.


I knew it was you but didn't want to drop a name. Now that you have confessed and shown remorse by doing so, your rendered verdict has been suspended. You are free to continue blogging.

I can address a few of the questions about how sponsorship typically works, both in nonchess areas and for some chess activities (notably in Europe).

(Oh, and remember that both IBM and Intel put some large amounts of money into sponsorship of chess events at one point.)

Sponsorship occurs for one of three reasons:

1. Sponsors want to market to the activity's participants or fans watching a specific event (e.g. selling ski equipment to skiiers).

2. Sponsors want to associate their brand with the image of the activity/competitor, because they believe this will help them sell more effectively to a general audience, whether ornot tht audience is watching any specific event. This is the basis of almost all PGA and LPGA sponsorship. Sure, there are some golf club manufacturers involved--but Kraft Foods and Lowe's aren't trying to sell just to golfers. They're using golf's image to make a statement to their wider audience. This is the same idea in having Tiger Woods driving a particular car or Michael Jordan wearing a particular brand of underwear.

This type of sponsorship does NOT require that the target consumer have ever seen the actual sport in person. They just have to have a symbolic attachment to the competitor that can be associated with the sponsor's brand.

3. The sponsor gets personal satisfaction from supporting the competitor. This can either be a sense of charity or some kind of vicarious cool factor. This happens more often than you would expect. There are a lot of "syndicates" that sponsor pro golfers that are made up of individual doctors, lawyers, real estate agents. Sure, some may think of it as a long shot investment, but a lot of them just like the idea of being associated with the activity. And again, sometimes the motive is charity or community good will, although this is most often for junior players.

Sponsors associated with an EVENT are usually in the first category--they're trying to market directly to the audience for that event.

But these days most nonchess competitors get a significant portion of their income from PERSONAL sponsors--sponsors in any of the 3 categories who are sponsoring them directly. You start out with small amounts. You work up to much larger amounts. But at every level you may have many, many personal sponsors.

Almost all professional sporting organizations have a whole handbook of rules for how these personal sponsorships can be managed and still stay within organization rules. How can logos be worn? What if a personal sponsor is a competitor of an event sponsor? Does the organization get a percentage of the individual sponsorship also?

Complex questions, but essential to the long term financial wellbeing of the professional sport. Because it is these personal sponsors that enable the pros to keep playing.

That's how professional sports, including individual activities like golf and tennis, are run today.

Consider the world tennis (ATP) rulebook. It has two paragraphs covering rules on physical abuse. Two paragraphs covering rules on verbal abuse (such as fines for yelling at an official). 6 pages covering the exact size, shape, and affiliation of logo placement on everything from a player's wristbands to his drink cup.


The ATP assumption is that players may have lots of different individual sponsors, and that events may have lots of different individual sponsors, and that the organization itself may have its own sponsors.

And that's where a lot of the money comes from. By using the iconic power of the activity and its participants, you can create a material value in the association held by a much larger audience than just the core fanbase.

Finding one or two big sponsors to cover one or two big events is great. But to enable the existence of a group of playing professionals, I think we need to look at enabling individual sponsorship on an annual basis.

However, it may be that the whole concept of personal sponsorship is just too uncomfortable for the culture of the tournament chess community. So event sponsorship may be the best we can do. But in that case we're dealing with a much, much smaller "pie" to divide up among the participants.



I don't know who you are and I may not always agree with what you express, but I always find your posts articulate and well thought out. Even more so, and unlike myself, you never seem to let yourself get caught up in personal squabbles.

You may or may not be into the political arena regarding chess, but showing the knowledge and equamimity that you have, you would make a good candidate for a position in the USCF. That's probably more of a curse than a blessing (in fact it is), but the USCF could use more people like yourself.

Just a thought from your friendly curmudgeon. Yes, I know that's an oxymoron.


You are much too kind, but thank you.

I am afraid that these days my activities in any sphere are extremely limited due to my illness (an MS-like condition that regrettably has me in a wheelchair). And I've never had the talents required for political dynamics in any case.


p.s. If you are at all curious, you can read a bit more about my chess career here:


Dear FlyOnTheWall

Unlike you, I'm not making these numbers up. The link is there for everyone to verify whether it is true or not.

You might not like it, but these are facts:

It took GM Yudasin 384 (yes, THREE HUNDRED EIGHTY FOUR) games to make $16,156.

Nakamura made $5360 in 107 games.

Elvhest: $5,555 in 144 games,

Chess is rough as a "profession".


While it's true that "chess is rough as a profession," the numbers you're looking at are from a single tournament series, the New York Masters. The tournaments were held once a week at G/25 speeds. GMs enjoyed the competition and the format, but it was far from their only, or even typical, source of livelihood. Numbers don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole story, either.

There are a number of national masters, let alone IMs and GMs, who are able to make a living from chess in the US. Remember that a chess professional has multiple potential sources of income:

1. Prize money. (This is one of the only ones you can see publicly recorded)

2. Appearance fees (called "conditions" in Europe). Only applies to the highest levels of GMs, but it's real.

3. Lessons. A very significant source of income for many chess pros in the US. Just as in golf, where your local teaching pro may in fact make more money than the guy on the playing tournaments as a new pro, local teachers may indeed be full time professionals. Some teach in elementary schools, some in high schools, some take private students. For many years I published the online International Directory of Chess Teachers (a memorial project for IM Boris Kogan,now being transferred to a new website). There are many teachers who charge $50 an hour and up. Also, these days teachers can teach online which lowers their costs and increases the number of students they can get.

4. Coaching of titled players. This is normally something that a retired GM, a young GM, or a particularly gifted IM might do for a world class player. That is, people like Topalov, Kramnik, Ponomariov, etc. employ other chessplayers to assist them in various training and research projects. Not open to many, it's nonetheless another real source of chess employment for some players.

5. Writing. Titled players, again even just national masters, can write books, computer training material, Internet newsletters, etc. No one gets rich from this, but it can definitely help.

6. Pay for play. This can be either exhibitions or club leagues. Again, most popular in Europe, but it does happen. And some US GMs, such as GM Larry Christiansen and GM Yasser Seirawan, have also played in some of the European leagues. These opportunities are pretty much limited to GMs, but you don't have to be world top 100 to get them. In addition, some of the Internet servers provide small fees to titled players who give simuls or do commentary on important matches.

7. Chess entrepreneurship. GM Ronald Henley was one of the founders of the World Chess Superstore. FM Bill Goichberg, of course, became a tournament promoter. NM Fred Wilson runs a chess bookstore. IM Pein operates the Chess Cenre bookstore in London. Others players have shifted from playing careers to tournament promotion or retail sales related to chess.

8. Endorsements and personal sponsorships. We do almost none of this in the US, but some in Europe.

Again, this is like most other sports. Most people who make a living from tennis or golf in the United States, for example, are not competing in top level tournaments. They're giving local lessons, selling equipment, perhaps doing some writing. They may have never reached the highest levels of their sport.

So we look at three different issues here.

1. Can someone who never reached the top 100 make a living in an area related to sport? Here chess has a huge advantage over, say, scrabble or darts, because there's a large market for lessons. I'm not saying you can make a lot of money, but in particular if the player is married to a spouse who has a regular job (and consequently health benefits), yes, many people at master level and above can and do make chess their full time career. They don't make a lot of money, but they make as much as a retail clerk. (But again, without benefits)

2. Can the very very top players make enough money to do the things they need to do to sustain their careers? For the top 20, living in Europe, yes. Probably an American can also do this, but living in Europe reduces travel costs. Again, chess has a real advantage in this area over many other competitive pastimes, a mark of its stronger iconic power.

3. Finally, the big question--can someone who has talent but is not yet in the very highest levels, afford to spend the time and money that they need to to reach their full potential?

This is always the most difficult group to support in any sport. They have to spend a lot on coaching and travel. And they don't have time to be teaching in their local elementary school. They have to devote themselves, usually 7 days a week, to honing their professional skills. Yet their costs can be significant.

Again, chess is not the only sport with this issue. It comes up in golf, in tennis, even in sports like basketball and football for those players not quite good enough for the top leagues.

Yes, maybe they earn a little in prize money--but it's rarely enough to cover their travel and training costs. They’re not good enough to be paid for pay-for-play or appearance fees in most cases. And they just don't have time for teaching, coaching, or chess entrepreneurship.

So that leaves only one thing: endorsements and personal sponsorships. And that's what "pros" in just about every other competitive activity use to bridge that gap between "teaching pro" and "world class." Now a lot of them never make it all the way to world class. Their sponsors know that. It's just like when Home Depot helps sponsor US Olympic Athletes. It doesn't expect every one of them to come home with a medal. It understands, as a sponsor, that it's sponsoring the attempt, not investing in the outcome.

This is what cyclists, golfers, skaters, crew teams, and gymnasts have to do. It's what chessplayers have to do, too, in the absence of a program of government support for this transitional group.

But...chessplayers don't do it. I don't know why, I think it's just a cultural thing.

Tiger Woods once said, “The only time I was actually worried about money was when I turned pro. I was just trying to get my card, get on the PGA Tour.” The point in his career when expenses are going up but time to do anything but concentrate on the sport is nonexistent. But he eventually got sponsors.

Here’s another set of interesting numbers; Golf Digest’s list of the top 50 earners in golf, with income separated into on course and off course categories. Tiger Woods regularly makes 6 times as much money from off-course activities as from on course ones! And he wins a lot a lot of money on the course.

You might say, “But that’s Tiger. He’s very popular for endorsements.” Sure, but the ratio is even higher for some of the lower ranked golfers. In 2005, for example, David Duvall made $60,000 by playing golf—and $4 million for golf-related off course activities, including endorsements and sponsorships. Ernie Els made $2.9 million on course—and 14 million off. Ben Crane seems to be just about the only top 50 earning golfer making more money playing than through endorsements and sponsorships.


Forget the orders of magnitude issue for a moment, and just think about the ratios. Golf doesn’t have great TV ratings. It’s not a team sport (most of the time). It does have big prize money in its individual tournaments. But even so, its highest earning players make 70 to 90% of their income in nonprize money. And most of it comes from endorsements and sponsorships.

So if we assume the teaching pros are probably doing about as well as they can, and the chess superstars are doing just fine, how can we help the transitional group earn enough to play long enough to produce more superstars?

I suspect the answer is going to come from studying that ratio.



Thank you for sharing that article. It's been a while, but I have seen you at tournaments. Perhaps that one in Reno.

My wife has MS and Degenerative Spine Disease. The MS has affected her cognitive skills but not her physical capabilities; the DSD has limiting affect in that regard. I guess one could say a double whammy if you will. Her positive disposition about her conditions is remarkable and I love her all the more for that. Thanks again, Take care and God Bless.


i appreciate you taking the time to write such extensive, if confused, reply.

Comparing the average (and that's the key word in my previous posts, if you want to check) chessplayer's earnings with those of the average basketball or golf player will immediately make it obvious that your points are misleading at best.

As for golf pro's making more money off the court, it is quite simple: those guys are cashing in on their previous achievements and name recognition. Chess doesn't have that. Nobody outside chess even recognizes some of our world champions: Botvinnik, Petrosian, Karpov, Euwe...

Fischer had the fortune of being the "lonely Cowboy" fighting the "evil" Soviet Empire. Spassky benefited from that. Kasparov got all his (most deserved) money and fame because of his incredible domination of the chess world.

In all honesty, you engage in a lot of "common-sense sounding" marketing speak. But it is just that: fluff.

Have you ever implemented your ideas? No.

Has anyone ever taken them seriously? No.

You know why?

Because it is easier said than done. And a real professional (at least, the way most people understand the expression) can't survive on a dentist's $300/year "sponsorship", which is the best I have seen you come up with when presssed for some concrete plans to generate sponsorship money.


I apologize if that came across as unclear. I never did the “fluffy” side of marketing (branding, image awareness, etc). All my projects measured their results in hard dollars, with clear befores and afters. I am a great believer in starting small with pilot projects and plans in phases.

You're perfectly right to ask why I think this approach would work. To be honest, I don't think it will in the chess community. The culture just doesn't support it. But I'm absolutely sure that it can and does work in all kinds of other competition cultures in the US, from the very small, like orienteering, to the very large, like the PGA. But that’s why I include links, so people can see real life examples for themselves.

Ah, well. There are people who feel energized by the idea of even $300 a year, who can immediately think of a good purpose for it, and who just want to know how much time and effort it might take and how they can get more.

And there are people who think the whole thing can't possibly be worth bothering with. And if that's how you feel, you're undoubtedly right.


p.s. I forgot to say I agree you, of course, that $300 a year isn't enough. Perhaps you missed my other previous comment, that my personal measurement of success for "chess promotion" would be if, after 5 years, the top 1% of US players could earn $30,000 a year each in endorsements and sponsorships.

Maybe the real number is $20,000, or maybe it's too low to be worth the effort. But I think that would be a measurable goal. Of course, the work is in the details! I do have specific thoughts on that, but no point in flooding the board with them since the community as a whole seems far more interested in event sonsorship. And there are, after all, many different measures of success.

I do think that people in the transitional group play because on some level they have to--making the attempt is part of what defines their identity. I'd just like see them get some help to defray the costs of pursuing that dream. But after all, what do I know? :)


My congratulations Duif for your excellent presentation! I think you would do a great job in both FIDE and the USCF! Why don't you consider sending a CV? Really, think about it!

On another subject, the Israeli Gelfer has published an open letter with some very harsh words about the low level of the Kok campaign:


RE Duif's earlier comment that it may not be feasable to get sponsorship for individuals. This is why I have always thought it is important to attempt to mimic the German Bundesliga team championship system in the US. It would be far easier to gain sponsorship interest for teams, as opposed to individuals.


When dealing with the marketing of chess, your reasoning is eerily reminiscent of the 1600 player who knows all the basic principles of chess, the middlegame plans, can replay the 100 best games ever and will dazzle the audience with his mental collection of 278 3-move mate compositions.

Yet, he can only play at the 1600 level.

You keep talking about the fact that chess has been used/presented in countless movies, commercials, etc. That's true.

You talk about the fact that most people think of chess masters as people with above-average intelligence. Yes, that's also true.

What is not true is your conclusion that chess can therefore be successfully marketed to a largely uninterested public. Think about this: Albert Einstein's image is that of the ultimate scientist, and, like chess, has been used in countless movies, commercials, etc. That doesn't mean that you can successfully market math competitions.

Another area where your reasoning/plan fails is in the "accounting" department: sure, if you start with $2.000/year sponsorship rate ( a modest amount, by all standards) for the top 1% of American players and you can double that number every year, after 5 years you will be bringing $32.000/year for every player in that 1%.

That's called "happy accounting". The numbers add up, but there is no reason to believe that the numbers will add up.

The real problem with chess is not its "culture" (whatever you mean by that). The real problem is that the general public (read: source of money) is NOT interested in chess as a spectator activity. Most people like the game, but no more than they like parchisi or checkers. Very few people are interested in these activities. That's where the problem exists.

Find a way to bring people to chess tournaments and you will have something going on. Until then, it's just wishful thinking and pseudo-logical strategies that work on paper, but leave your rating at 1600.

Thanks, tgg, for being unafraid to reveal (through your responses to Duif) the accuracy of my earlier comment about you: that everything you write is meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek, much like the person who posts as "Kirsan Fan."

You are indeed like the 1600 player who pretends to know everything about chess, and lords it over his betters (i.e. masters, IMs, etc) every chance he gets -- but when it's time to sit at the board and prove he really knows something, he's nowhere to be found.

In this thread, for example, you openly assert "errors in reasoning", "wishful thinking and pseudo-logical strategies," and a variety of other insults, against Duif, a career marketing pro (now retired due to disability). Yet, your own qualifications in that field are left entirely up to the readers' imagination -- most likely because they exist only in your imagination.

In fact I recall that you (or perhaps someone else posting under "tgg") used an eerily similar line of argument on an earlier thread, about an entirely different topic (whether computers "understand" chess as well as humans). There, you repeatedly and contemptuously disparaged the views of a number of chess authorities, at least one of whom was debating the issue with you on that thread. Not only were the bold assertions you made there unsupported by any evidence beyond your own willingness to repeatedly and shrilly assert them; you also belittled the chess knowledge and understanding of the person you argued with. His chess rating is a matter of public record; yet you declined to provide yours.

Naturally, all who read that thread concluded you were probably under-1600 strength yourself. Now we reach the same conclusion regarding your "rating" as a marketer.


My rating in promotions would be considerably higher than 1600--that was my career.

My clients included the NBA, the NHL, the PGA, the Olympics, and 12 of the top 20 webstores by sales, as listed by the National Retail Federation. Prior to my retirement due to illness, I was listed in both Who's Who in American Women and Who's Who in the World. My clients wanted results, my projects were structured to produce measurable results, and they always asked me back.

With regard to chess promotion, my company was paid to do the website at the US Chess Federation for a few years. (We were the ones who ended the contract, btw, because we had to focus on larger projects.) During that time, I implemented the following specific ideas, each of which was tested and measured.

a) Added the Players Gallery section of the site, which quickly became some of the most popular pages (measurable results)

b. Used focus groups, not just opinion, to evaluate navigational strategies.

c. Added 3 separate searches to the site, one for the News section only, one for the store only, and one for the entire site. Again, these were demonstrably popular based on usage statistics--and searches on individual players' names were intriguingly popular. (This functionality was lost in some of the moves after we were no longer doing the site.)

d. Added online membership renewal and the online store (they didn't have one before that). Added merchandise bundles which became not only best sellers in the online store, but were so successful that they were added to the print catalog as well. Again, successful in terms of actual sales, a measurable dollars result.

e. Added the catalog quick order form which made it easier for a customer who already had the print catalog to buy more things at once online, a win-win for everyone.

f. Provided the weekly online news column, Chess Life Online, which featured international news, US news, and scholastic news in a feature format. (This was before the Chessbase.com news site.)


In addition, when I personally wanted to create a memorial project for IM Bortis Kogan, I decided that, in line with my own philosophy and skills, I would assist chess teachers and coaches to reach more students, earning more money for themselves and providing instruction to more people.

I started the International Directory of Chess Teachers in 1994, which provided all information free to both teachers and students. Almost all of the teachers have said it was helpful to them, and most have remained with it for years.

It may not have been a big project, but I think it was a real contribution, for over 10 years, to exactly the community we're talking about.

I was also personally a scholastic chess coach, and did implement some of the individual sponsorship ideas for that group, on a small level.


I'm sure many of these things just seem like "common sense." Of course, as H. L. Mencken once said, "It's a pity common sense ins't more common."

More importantly, there's a design aspect. Which of the many good sound projects do you try first. What are all the tiny details? How do you test and measure success? How do you structure building the project so that it doesn't cost too much?

I never ask anyone to "believe" what I'm saying. But if they find the ideas interesting, then I do think small pilot projects can be constructured to see if they have value. And you learn from those, change the details, and improve the results.


When I say chess is already used in advertising, that's a fact, based on surveys done of real ads. Surveys done for other purposes, but that kept turning up chess as one of the most common visual metaphors.

Pick a print publication, local or national. Log every ad for 45 days and note what positive imagery is used to represent competition and strategic thinking. Let us know what you find.

And then remember that for every chess image, someone got paid. A photographer. An ad writer. (But probably no players.) Chess has commercial value in that sense. See how that value compares to other games, like golf, backgammon, tennis, even poker.

(Just so you know, I have myself done this survey 5 times over my career, with a team looking at national business and news magazines and local newspapers in strategic markets. Try FORTUNE, BUSINESS WEEK, NEWSWEEK, and TIME for 6 issues. I don't know what you'll find--it would be interesting to hear. I base my conclusions on real people spending real money, not guesses. Maybe it's changed a lot in the last few years. You could tell us.)


Other people like to argue politics or personalities. I don't. But when the conversation turns to promotion, I get engaged. I think about this stuff, and talk about this stuff, because it fascinates me, in all its tiniest detail. But then, I also read articles on how changing the font size in a sidebar in two test mailings generated 1/20th of a percent higher response rate. That's leisure reading for me. :)

The chess community has been very helpful and supportive to me during my illness. 3 of my 5 best friends are chessplayers. I can't contribute much these days, but if something I know could help benefit the community, that would make me happy. So I'm more than willing to throw some ideas out there.

I have no hidden "hire me" agenda here. I am retired due to illness.

However, experience shows that most chess people are going to have the reaction that, say, Goletiani had in an interview with Golombeck--they don't want to do sponsorship work. They don't like the idea of it. Which I respect.

So if you want to say it can't be done because the chess community doesn't have the temperment to do it, I respect that, too.

As to my own credentials, I'm comfortable being judged on measurable results, and I think my past results give me some credibility here.


Duif, you've got better things to do with your time than respond to this clown tgg. Still I'm glad to see your accomplishments listed in one place, since it helps me place your statements in perspective.

Sigh. "Boris." not "Bortis."

And to be clear, nothing I've suggested is likely to increase the number of spectators at chess tournaments--that's not the measure of success I've been considering.

If sponsors were only interested in the number of spectators, it would be "all Nascar, all the time." Oh, and some football, too, of course. ;)

But the LPGA and US Cycling would be out of luck. The fact that they continue to draw sponsors is what shows us that the ability of pros to earn a living (which is where we started all this!) isn't just dependent on the number of people who come see them actually compete. Thank goodness!

p.s. Flyonthewall, Jon, and those who have written me privately, thank you.

Oh, I also want to be clear that, given the scope of these organizations, some of these projects were really, really tiny, just a few weeks or months. But real, paid for, and with real results.



Your post doesn't contribute anything to the debate. It only lists what you consider the highlights of your marketing endeavours.

The fact remains: you write a blurb, uncluding a few buzzwords and it gets some people excited. Those who know better ask:

Where's the beef, Duif?


In any case, I appreciate you taking the time to express your point of view. I expressed mine and that's where it will end. Thanks!

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on May 16, 2006 4:38 AM.

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