Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chess is a Sport

Is chess is a sport or not? Many view chess simply as a game without any physical effort other moving chess pieces on a two-colored board – hence, chess is not a sport. In other words, for those who believe that chess is not a sport considers the presence of “physical activity” as an essential element in order for anything to be considered a sport.

Traditionally, a “sport” involves the exertion of muscles and it requires movement - other than just merely pushing pieces.  In this respect, it is easy to think that basketball is a sport with its fast paced runs, jumps, and breathtaking slam-dunks. When it comes to chess however, most asked if it is a sport has to think deeper and walk around the hall before coming up with an answer.

Those who insist that chess is a sport argues that chess involves the exertion of  muscles in the form of “brain muscles” working each time that a chess piece is moved. Thus, chess should be considered as a sport similar to basketball, football and swimming.

Somehow that “raging debate” whether chess is a sport or not has to end. I think the gauge of “exertion of muscles” or the need for “physical activity” in order for  a particular event to qualify as a “sport” is archaic and limiting. Foremost, sport is not only about muscles – it is also about brains. All forms of sport require the use of the brain. 

Strategy and tactics are essential in basketball, football, tennis, golf and other sports. In chess, all these elements - strategy and tactics – are necessary elements to subdue an opponent or win a game similar to all other sports. In chess, the chessboard is a macrocosm of a football field, basketball court and the golf course. 

While the players in a chess game appear to be in a placid state, the struggle on the chessboard is in no way calm. The battle on the chessboard is intense and both players are passionate to win. The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat are felt in chess similar to other physical sports.

Maybe it is about time to revisit and modify the true meaning of “sport”.  Its should not be limited to those activities requiring physical exertion.  Perhaps, the correct definition for "sport" -  is any activity that requires skill as differentiated from games purely dependent on luck or chance. In one article, it is said that the International Olympic Committee recognized chess as a bona fide sport.

While there are no muscular movements in chess except in moving the pieces, the game itself has all the elements of a sport - skills are tested, challenged and summoned to vanquish an opponent. Just like in any other known sport -  training and discipline are necessary to win and attain perfection.  In chess, as it other sport, the athlete has to be humble during victories but strong in defeats.

There is really no need to dignify any comment or rant that vilifies or relegates chess into a mere “board game”. Chess is a sport. In fact, any competitor in a high rated tournament can attest that chess is not just a simple sport – it is a gruesome one. As a form of a psychological fight, chess can inflict pain just like in a physical combat.

Chess has been played for centuries.  High officials, noted politicians, aristocrats, screen icons and the common man have played chess as equals perhaps earlier than other known sports. Chess luminaries have played the game into perfection by embracing Spartan like training and discipline.

Thus, in all respects chess is definitely a sport... the moves speak for themselves!

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