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Does chess count as a sport?

Chess is one of the oldest games in the world. It has captivated millions of people over the centuries – and is considered an indication of ones intelligence, mental fortitude and personal discipline. References to it exist everywhere in our world – with even the great wars of history being compared to chess games. However, its infamy is a double edged sword and its definition has been debated for years for as Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte described it, “Chess is too difficult to be a game but not serious enough to be science or an art”. Chess is the perfect case study to discuss the question of: what defines one thing as a game and another as a sport?

We will be discussing this question – and exploring both sides of this debate to hopefully find an answer to this contested question!

No way is chess a sport…

Let us start with the anti-sport arguments which we often hear when discussing chess. When talking to the naysayers – a common idiom emerges: while all sports are games- not all games are sports. Patrons of this argument believe that chess lacks a necessary physical aspect to be considered a sport. While other sports require certain standards around age, weight, and overall health – chess does not subscribe to any of these standards. For example, Jānis Klovāns of Latvia received his Grand Master status at the age of 62.

While chess demands incredible mental strength of its players for they must memorize and prepare for thousands of possible moves and countermoves – the players are typically sedentary for the entire tournament. The lack of physicality is the main counter point against chess being considered a traditional sport.

It is understandable why people say that it is a game – not a sport when you learn that the average soccer player runs six to eight miles in the average professional game or that the average vertical jump is 28 inches (71cm) in the NBA. These feats of human ability are nonexistent in chess and if one believes that these feats are necessary for something to be defined as sport – chess is not a sport.

Chess is definitely a sport!

However, those who believe that chess is a sport negate this “lack of physicality” argument. They argue that in order to maintain the necessary level of concentration for a full tournament – you must be healthy and physically strong, in other words – that the mental and physical strength are interdependent on each other. To become one of the foremost players in the world – you must practice for hours every day and retain strategy and plays in your head for hours at a time. Chess is not a game of chance, and the development of skill is a full time occupation for those who decide to pursue the status of Grandmaster.

Additionally, proponents argue that most other elements associated with “traditional” sports are present in chess. There are established rules that the participants must follow and recognized strategies. There are also regulated competitions where opponents face off to garner points to achieve rankings. Chess is famously competitive with some Grandmaster rivalries lasting for decades.

Finally, chess is like other sports in that is has many levels of competition – from amateurs who play online on gaming sites such as to those who participate in international competitions. For those who chose to play online, internet chess is very similar to other games available on casino websites. As chess is a game of skill, those who play would gravitate toward card games which necessitate skill – like video poker or blackjack. For those who log onto gaming websites for distraction and escape – the concentration which chess dictates would easily translate to slot games and long card games. Moral of the story – if you enjoy playing chess, the world of online casinos offers a lot of options which translate to chess and vice versa!

Finally, the final feather in the pro-arguments cap is the fact that the International Olympic Committee considers chess to be a sport. As an internationally recognized body, this declaration holds a lot of weight. Like traditional sports - nations use chess as a form of diplomatic sparring because as it was considered a measure of a domestic population’s brilliance. Throughout history, nationalism has run through the veins of tournaments – such as during the Cold War, where the Soviet Union and the United States sent their best players to compete against one another in the biggest international tournaments. There are also many countries that are incredibly proud of their chess tradition – including Russia, Indonesia and China.

While there will never be total consensus on this issue, it seems like the tide is shifting toward the pro-sport argument. Luckily, there is enough space in the world for chess to assert itself on the world stage – while allowing all other games and sports to simultaneously exist.