Why Is Chess A Sport

by Milica Knezevic on March 07, 2022
Chess sport

The motto of chess is "Gens una sumus", which is Latin for "We are one people".

The Big Q: Is Chess A Sport?

  • The International Olympic Committee considers chess to be a sport.
  • Chess requires physical exertion as mental exertion manifests itself physically.
  • Chess has rules and etiquette which are officially recognized internationally.
  • Chess is competitive as the participating players feel the drive to win.
  • Chess requires skill as a deep and serious chess training is necessary to become good at chess.
Chess Tournament
  • If you find yourself wondering as to why is this an important question allow us to clarify with a few points. 
  • As one choses the path of professional chess playing, raw talent can only take them a certain portion of the way, what is essential, like in all other areas of interest, is FUNDING
  • Many world or national foundations will provide funding only to those activities labeled as sport. In this sense it is essential for chess players to have their activity recognized as such. 
  • In addition it is motivating for chess players that the world recognizes their activity as something that requires so much more than just brain activity. 

Let's now go over arguments and their critiques as to Why Chess Is A Sport! 

1. Chess Is Competitive

  • Like sports, chess is competitive. The participating players feel the drive to win in a tough struggle against a motivated opponent. The thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat, as Jim McKay from ABC’s Wide World of Sports, put it. 
  • Unfortunately, this argument fails to hold water. Many activities can be competitive, including Monopoly, gin rummy and tiddly-winks. No-one is arguing that these are sports, just because they happen to be competitive.

2. Chess Requires Skill

  • Another thing chess has in common with sports is the fact that it requires skill. Just as the footballer must learn to master running, passing, tackling, and positional game sense, becoming adept at chess requires deep and serious study – memorizing openings, reading books, taking lessons, and becoming familiar with the finer points of endgame play.
  • Again though, further consideration reveals that while chess requires skill (in common with sports), this is also not enough. Many actions which are unquestionably not sports require skill – driving a tractor or painting a picture, for example.

3. Chess Has Rules And Etiquette

  • The official rules of chess are recognized internationally, in the same way, they are for sports like tennis and cricket. Protocol dictates that chess players ought to shake hands before the game, treat their opponent respectfully by not overtly distracting them, and the losing player shouldn’t tip the board upside down and storm off in disgust (however strong the urge).
  • But once more, a code of rules and etiquette is not the defining mark of a sport. Assembling furniture has a code of rules. Dining at a fine restaurant involves etiquette.
  • Being competitive, requiring skill, having rules and etiquette doesn’t make an activity a sport. So what is the litmus test?

4.Chess Requires Physical Exertion

  • Let us go to the Oxford English dictionary for help. It defines a “sport” as being: An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

  • This definition is regarded as the decisive blow by those who argue that chess is not a sport. Can sit in a chair, in silence, in front of a chess board for hours on end reasonably constitute “physical exertion”?
  • Actually, as any chess player knows, there is physical exertion involved and not just the basic motor skills of picking up a piece and moving it to another square. The trouble is, it is impossible for people to understand how physically taxing chess can be unless they have played it themselves.
  • Think back to your last intense game: when the outcome rested on a knife-edge when the complications made your mind burn when you had to concentrate every fiber of your being into making the correct move, and when you deeply cared about the result.
  • After hours of combat, you would have finished the game feeling drained in both mind and body. Mental exertion manifests itself physically – a tough game of chess can elevate the heart rate, heighten a player’s blood pressure and cause perspiration, even though chess hardly involves much kin-aesthetic movement beyond furrowed brows and nervous trips to the bathroom.
Fitness Chess

Final Conclusion

People’s opinions on the matter of physical exertion vary, so what we really need is an official arbiter.

Fortunately, we have exactly this: The International Olympic Committee is surely the authority whose opinion matters most on such matters. To them, chess is considered a sport.

Because of the physical exertion (which is unquestionably there, though not easily seen), and the International Olympic Committee’s word, we have our answer to our original question: Is chess a sport?

Yes! Chess is a sport!

Still, the image and status of chess varies strongly from country to country. In the former Soviet Union and today’s Russia, for example, chess has always had a high status.

Many former World Chess Champions like Botvinnik, Spassky, Karpov, Kasparov, and Kramnik came from the Soviet Union, respectively Russia.

China is another country in which chess enjoys a very high-status today. The government grants plenty of financial support for the country’s best chess players. Therefore, it’s no surprise that China won the penultimate Chess Olympiad in Tromso 2014.

Several Chinese chess players like Ding Liren, Wei Yi, Li Chao, and Yu Yangyi managed to join the 2700-club within the last few years. The current world’s best female chess player, Hou Yifan, also comes from China.

Although chess is recognized as a sport in almost all countries of the European Union, countries like Germany only spend very little money on the promotion of chess. For this reason, it is tough to compete with countries like Russia or China when it comes to training the country’s best chess players.

So in the end this debate is put to rest by a bigger authority, however everyone is allowed their point of view. Keep in mind that all of the amazing chess players we know of have all proven time after time that chess truly is a wonder to be explored. 

So regardless of whether you see it as a sport or not, it is without a doubt: a mind and body challenge like no other. 

Start your dive into sports with chess on Chess Universe today! 

by Lovely Jean on May 24, 2022

I’ve always heard that the definition of sport includes a physical component, so if Kasparov tells me what moves to make, I can play just as well as Kasparov, but if Peyton Manning tells me what plays to make in a football game, there’s no way I can play like Peyton Manning.

So it’s not a sport in that sense.

by Henry on May 24, 2022

Those who regard chess to be a sport (such as me) think of sports in terms of competitiveness. A sport, according to them, is a circumstance in which one person (or group of people) competes against another person (or number of people) in some environment, with a victor and loser determined. However, the setting must be complex or varied enough for the contestants to require some amount of preparation and talent in order to compete at a high level.
As an example, few people think of Tic-Tac-Toe as a sport. Why? A child can easily derive an optimal strategy for a variety of reasons. The competition isn’t large enough to have a “high level,” so you either get it or don’t.

by Greg Vince on May 24, 2022

Still some people against chess is a sport. They have a mentality where sport should be vigourous physical exertion. Chess requires a lot of pyschological to maintain the consistency while playing.


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