Hikaru Nakamura: A Top Earner Of The Chess World And Potential Future Yacht Owner
$51.9 million. This is what sets the bar for the top earners in the NBA, with Stephen Curry potentially making this whopping sum, while not too far behind, Kevin Durant nets an impressive $47.6 million in the forthcoming season.
In stark contrast, the champions of chess, Ding Liren, and Magnus Carlsen secured $1.31 million (2023) and $1.2 million (2021) respectively for their strategic supremacy. Evidently, while the NBA showers its stars with riches, the chess world, despite its great accomplishments, has historically doled out relatively minuscule rewards.
While money in chess is typically scarce, one super grandmaster has managed to amass a staggering amount of wealth just by being a top-rated chess player. Hikaru Nakamura, the reigning world Fischer Random Chess champion, proudly asserts his primary identity as a "streamer" and stands as one of the most financially successful figures in the chess world.
In the year 2022, an analysis penned by Leontxo García attempted to estimate his wealth, pegging it at a formidable $50 million. Yet, Hikaru himself stated that this was ridiculous in his counterargument in the form of a YouTube video. There he confirmed to his viewers that he has made over $1 million as a professional player and prior to streaming, he made $200K to $300K a year.
The depth of his wealth remains a mystery, mainly attributed to the confidential nature of his financial activities. Nevertheless, his ardent supporters are well aware of his involvement in Bitcoin, investments in the stock market, and real estate, all of which he brings up during his streaming sessions often.
Despite certain challenges, in this article, we intend to estimate his earnings from the previous year with a measurable degree of accuracy.
Hikaru generally participates in streamer-friendly online tournaments but after the COVID pandemic, he has gradually increased his participation in over-the-board (OTB) tournaments in the last year. The Sinquefield Cup, FIDE Grand Prix, and Fischer Random World Championship are some of such OTB events.
According to the article1 from Chess.com, Hikaru Nakumara is currently earning $515,796, from 10 events, in the year 2022.
The table provided below offers a brief overview of the tournaments in which he secured first place, although it's important to note that he achieved prize-winning positions in numerous other tournaments as well. $100,000 he claimed by securing second place in the chess.com global championships is a great example. It's noteworthy to highlight that he has emerged victorious in more than 50 chess.com Titled Tuesday tournaments over the years, each earning him $1000.
Half a million dollars might sound like a hefty sum, but in Nakamura's financial pie, tournament winnings are merely the cute little cherry on top!
CHESS CONTENT CREATION AND STREAMING
Through his content creation, Hikaru not only promotes the game of chess but also offers a glimpse into the strategic depth and intricacies that make the sport so captivating. His ability to blend high-level gameplay with educational commentary has not only expanded the chess community but has also added a dynamic layer to his multifaceted presence in the world of chess.
Most believe that Hikaru’s success as a chess content creator propelled him to be one of the top earners in the chess world and established him as the benchmark for others to follow.
Hikaru’s social media empire as of 10/9/2023. (social media platform against the subscriber count)
Presently, Hikaru's YouTube channel commands an impressive subscriber base of 2.09 million, firmly making it one of the most influential chess channels out there. According to SocialBlade2, Hikaru has also achieved a whopping 13 million views in the last 30 days, or 156 Million views over the past year.
A reasonable projection for Hikaru's annual income from YouTube advertisements falls within a spectrum of $39.7K to $635.9K. For the sake of prudence, we will adopt a conservative estimate of $338.7K as his accrued earnings from YouTube activities last year.
KICK & TWITCH
Although Hikaru initially launched his streaming journey on Twitch several years ago, a significant turning point occurred in March 2023 when he transitioned to Kick. The allure of Kick's 95/5 revenue split in comparison to Twitch's 50/50 division prompted this move.
According to the well-known Twitch leak, Hikaru's earnings between August 2019 and October 2021 reached an impressive $773,831. As no other reliable source provides insight into Hikaru's Kick revenue, we'll utilize this figure as our foundational estimate.
Kindly be aware that this estimate might be slightly outdated, as Hikaru's channel has experienced substantial growth since 2021, boasting significantly larger concurrent viewership, often peaking at around 30,000 viewers.
Let's delve into the numbers: Across a span of 28 months, he averaged $27,637 monthly. Given Twitch's 50% cut and Kick's 95/5 split, this implies that $27,637 represents 50% of the revenue. Consequently, 95% amounts to $52,510. Essentially, Hikaru currently generates $52,510 per month, translating to an approximate annual streaming income of $630,000.
OTHER INCOMING SOURCES
Hikaru is currently sponsored by Misfits Gaming. The exact number is unknown, however, we know it’s in six figures. Estimations range from between 200k to 700k, so we can assume it’s 450,000, as an average.
Furthermore, it is known that Hikaru also has other revenue streams, such as sponsorships, the Chess.com partnership program, other Social Media (Twitter, IG, TikTok) income, and his poker winnings. However, these can not be estimated.
He also has significant investments in Crypto, Stocks, and real estate. Sadly, once again, no estimation of any kind has been gathered on these income sources, therefore, we have to leave them out.
HIKARU’S TOTAL EARNINGS
Therefore, summing up all the components, Hikaru's current earnings encompass $516,000 from tournaments, $330,000 from his representation of the USA, $338,000 from YouTube, $630,000 from streaming activities, and an additional $450,000 from his sponsorships and collaborations. In aggregate, this amounts to a remarkable annual total of $2,264,000*.
GM Hikaru Nakamura's staggering earnings and diversified sources of income are a testament to his exceptional talent and savvy business acumen, a level of financial success that, unfortunately, will remain an unattainable dream for the majority of chess players, and indeed, for most people in general. With an estimated annual income of $2,264,000, Nakamura is in a position to enjoy the finer things in life.
At this rate, it won't be long before Hikaru Nakamura is browsing yacht and private jet brochures like they're chess openings. The "King's Gambit" might just become the name of his future yacht!
Jokes aside, let's extend our hearty congratulations to him for his remarkable achievements in the chess world and we wish Hikaru and his family enduring good health, ongoing success, and countless years of prosperity ahead.
About the Author
Andy Nguyen (aka Andy Green) is a chess copywriter who also enjoys writing lessons for other chess players to read. You can reach him on Twitter (@AndyGreenChess).
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* It's important to underline that this provided figure is a conservative estimation and the actual income might vary. Additionally, as mentioned many other sources of income have not been accounted for due to their confidential nature.
FOOTNOTES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS