by R.C. McClure
Essay arguing whether or not chess is a sport.
|Can chess be considered a sport?|
Though many sports involve much physical exertion, there are also those that require less action and far more mental energy; chess being the latter. Chess is an abstract strategy board game between two players that involves no hidden information. It is played on a chessboard with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. At the start, each player controls sixteen pieces: one king, one queen, two rooks, two bishops, two knights, and eight pawns. The player controlling the white pieces moves first, followed by the player controlling the black pieces. The object of the game is to checkmate your opponent's king, whereby the king is under immediate attack (in "check") and there is no way for it to escape. There are also several ways for a game to end in a draw.
Everyone agrees that chess is a game but there is much debate as to whether or not it is a sport.
Oxford English Dictionary defines sport as being "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment".
Though at a glance this definition may not appear to include chess as a sport, a look at the technicalities may prove otherwise. I will break that definition into two parts and begin by addressing the first half ("an activity involving physical exertion and skill").
Many professional chess players speak of the mental and physical drain they experience whilst undergoing a chess game and even days after the game. The energy required of the brain is far more than people may think. Players will be on high alert for an extended period of time and will be wary of every moment. There is rarely a time when a player can afford to be lazy in calculation; they have to stay focused every second to avoid making a blunder. Is it not obvious then that maintaining that level of attentiveness for hours on end and in some cases day after day would be physically wearying? A chess player has to exert as much energy as a soccer player, they are simply channelling it in a different direction - their brain.
Perhaps not everyone sees and appreciates the skill of chess but it is there for all to observe. We marvel at a talented musician or artist and often comment on their skill. A great chess player is incredibly talented also; the foresight, memory, and strategy involved, particularly at a high level of playing, is intense. We should actually take a moment to wonder at the complexities of the brain our God has given us all as individuals.
Now having ascertained that physical exertion and much skill are involved, let us move on to the second part of the definition.
Two opponents verse each other competing for entertainment's sake - not only does it match the latter half of the definition previously detailed but it also paints the picture of chess quite well.
Chess competitions are very popular in many parts of the world; in Australia specifically we have state and national competitions. The first recognised world chess championship was the 1886 match between the two leading players in the world, Wilhelm Steinitz and Johannes Zukertort; the World Chess Championships have been held annually ever since. It is accepted globally as not only a game but also a competition.
Both the International Chess Federation and the International Chess Committee recognise chess as a sport. While this acknowledgement falls shy of recognition as an "Olympic Sport" which would merit inclusion in the Olympic Games, it is recognition of the sport-like properties inherent in chess.
Having thus broken down the definition of sport and laid open what chess is in its most basic form, it is left to you, the reader, to form your own opinion.