Chess: game or sport? – Cherwell


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Reading about the teenagers who triumphed in the world of chess got me thinking about the game’s relationship to sports and whether it is fair to categorize it that way. The International Olympic Committee has recognized it as a sport since 2000 and it is considered as such in 24 of the 28 EU members.

After the Prague Masters speedblocks on February 22, it was interesting to see 16-year-old Iranian Alireza Firouzja beat 25-year-old Vidit Gujrathi of India with a 2-0 victory. The news that preceded the news that American Carissa Yip, of the same age as Firouzja, had beaten reigning world champion Chinese grandmaster Ju Wenjun, 29, in the Cairns Cup was also exciting. . Even more so when you consider her weak start as the lowest ranked and youngest player. These rising young stars made me curious about the status of chess as a sport due to this apparent correlation between youth and success.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “sport” as “a game, competition or activity requiring physical exertion and skill which is played or practiced according to rules, for fun and / or for work”. According to this definition, chess does not equate to the term “sport” because physical effort is not something that the game requires. Chess is played on a chess board in a seated position, and in order to perform a movement one must lift a one ounce chess piece on the chess board after 15 minutes of strategic thinking: therefore, athletic ability is not required.

To contextualize, chess is not recognized as a sport in the UK and does not receive any public funding. Despite this, as I mentioned, the International Olympic Committee and over 100 countries recognize the game as a sport. There are several reasons why this could be. First, the game is competitive, two people are engaged in a competitive struggle for an extended period of time. This way every game is exciting, with an unknown outcome until the very end.

Despite the obvious lack of physical exertion, many argue that the maximum mental state required means that one must be in good physical condition. Players need to concentrate for up to seven hours and with the stress building up, blood pressure, pulse and respiratory rates all increase. The contenders for the World Championships have nutritionists and physical trainers, which is a testament to that need for physical well-being so often associated with professional athletes.

The code of behavior, another key characteristic of the sport, is also an important component of chess; players are penalized for poor sportsmanship such as refusing to shake hands with their opponent and cheating is taken seriously. There is also an anti-doping policy.

It goes without saying that there is a mental component to chess, and competitive sports could also be seen as strategy games, the only difference being in their physical manifestation.

It is also true that the player ranking system, developed for chess in 1960, has been adopted by many other sports, including American football, baseball, basketball, hockey, rugby, and golf. This again puts him in the same area, no pun intended, as other sports. So, with all of these reasons in mind, why do I still struggle to classify it as a sport? The bottom line is that sport, for me at least, is characterized by physical effort that is absent in chess.

The subject is controversial for several reasons. Aside from physical ability, other games played on a board also require strategy: however, we don’t hear about Monopoly in this category. Granted, chess is more sophisticated and requires intelligence and focus, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sport when it obviously lacks what many would consider the cornerstone. sport, his physical expression.

Chess is certainly a unique game. Even though the International Olympic Committee considers it a sport, it is not played in the Olympic games. Instead, it has its own international league held twice a year called the International Chess Federation (FIDE). This in itself demonstrates the foreign character of the game in the world of sport. Chess overlaps with sports in many ways and therefore deserves funding and respect, because so much preparation and skill is required. However, this preparation is above all mental, because the power of the brain is required more than anything else. Therefore, for me it has to be seen in its own way.


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