Is Chess A Big Sport? – A Detailed Guide

In recent years chess has seen a boom in popularity. The competitive aspect of the game has grown, with the rise of professional players, tournaments, and even online competitions.

As the popularity and visibility of chess continues to grow, the question arises: is chess a big sport?


Chess is a widely recognized and respected game, but it is not a major sport in terms of viewership, popularity, and financial rewards.

While it is played competitively at various levels and has a dedicated player base, it does not have the same level of mainstream exposure or financial investment as sports such as soccer, basketball, and football.

How popular is chess as a sport?

The game of chess is universally recognized and played in every corner of the globe.

This was evident at the 44th edition of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Olympiad held in Chennai, India, where a record-breaking number of nations participated.

185 countries registered for the event, with 186 teams competing in the open session and 156 in the women’s competition.

Still, in short, everyone knows what chess is but it does not have the same level of widespread participation or fan following as other sports or games. The game has a very niche audience.

Is chess a major sport?

No chess is not a major sport. Unlike soccer, basketball and football, chess is not considered a major sport because it has a very niche audience.

Despite being widely played in over 185 countries, the number of players and audience for chess is relatively small.

Neither are financial rewards of top chess events that big. The average salary of a soccer player in European top 5 leagues is higher than that of a chess world champion.

The title of Grandmaster (GM) is the highest rank in chess, but most GMs do not earn a full-time income from the game.

Why Chess Is Not In Olympics?

Chess is currently not included in the Olympics because it does not meet the requirements set by the Olympics Charter for inclusion.

Specifically, the charter states that a sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on 4 continents, and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on 3 continents.

Though the game is played in this many countries and continents by men and women but it’s not widely played. Chess has a very limited audience and pool of players in most countries of the world.

While chess is popular in many countries, it does not currently meet these requirements for widespread participation across multiple continents.

Additionally, the decision on which sports to include in the Olympics is made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is composed of 99 members from various backgrounds in athletics from all over the world.

The current committee and the ones in past never even considered chess for inclusion in Olympics nor the Chess Federation (FIDE) ever tried to make a case of including chess in Olympics.

Can You Make A Career In Chess?

Yes, it is possible to make a career in chess, but it is generally considered a difficult and highly competitive field.

Professional chess players can earn money through tournament winnings, sponsorships, and coaching or teaching.

However, the pool of top-level professional players is relatively small, and the earning potential for most professional players is limited.

Additionally, the top players in the world earn much less than the top athletes in other sports.

While there are other career opportunities in the field of chess such as coaching, arbitrating, commentating, and training, they are also relatively scarce and limited in number.

Check out what Vidit Gujrathi (India’s #2 in chess) says about making a career in chess:

Future of Chess

The future of chess looks promising. It sounds awkward but currently, IM Levy Rozman, the top chess YouTuber, is the third highest earner in the chess world.

However, this is just the start. Despite the relatively low financial compensation in chess currently, the popularity of the game has increased significantly during the pandemic.

Currently, the majority of sponsorships for major chess events come from Eastern Europe.

However, as the game continues to gain popularity in countries such as the United States, China, and India, it is likely that we will see an increase in both financial investment and public interest in the sport.

If this trend continues, it is likely that there will be more financial opportunities for professional chess players in the future.

This will lead to more opportunities and growth in the chess world.

Before you go…

For those interested in purchasing a chess set, be sure to check out our next article on the best chess sets under $100.

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