Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Sport of Chess

The title of this article may seem contradictory or even absurd to some people but over 100 countries officially recognize chess as a sport, as does the International Olympic Committee. John Foley recently offered an eloquent explanation of why chess is a sport. Foley cited 10 reasons that chess is a sport and he urged his home country England to join the 24 out of 28 European countries that classify chess as a sport. Here are some quotes from Foley about each of those 10 reasons:

1) Competitive: ...Chess involves a relentless struggle against one's opponent. There is probably no sporting activity in which two people are locked in a competitive struggle of such intensity for such a sustained period of time. One lapse of concentration and suddenly a good position is transformed into a losing one...

2) Well established: The world championship has been organised since 1886 and our national federation was founded in 1904. Chess competitions are organised at every level: schools, universities, counties, cities, leagues, junior, senior, European, World, etc...

3) Physical fitness: Peak mental condition requires being in good physical condition. Players need to concentrate totally for up to seven hours. As the stress and tension builds up, blood pressure, pulse and respiration rates all increase. Contenders for the world championships have nutritionists and fitness coaches.

4) Behaviour code: Players are penalised for poor sportsmanship e.g. for refusing to shake hands with their opponent. Potential cheating is taken seriously...There is an anti-doping policy.

5) Olympic Recognition: Chess has been recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee since 2000. It was an event at the Asian Games in 2006 in Doha and again in Guangzhou in 2010. It is also being considered for inclusion in the Pan-American Games...

6) European Recognition: Chess is recognised as a sport in 24 out of 28 member states of the European Union...

7) Global game: Chess is played around the world irrespective of age, race, gender, income or language...

8) Mental component: All sports have a mental component. Ultimately competitive sports may be construed as strategy games differing only in their physical manifestation. Commentators are prone to similes such as: curling = chess on ice; bowls = chess on grass; snooker = chess with balls, and so on.

9) National accolade: World chess champions have won their national Sportsman of the Year competition including Magnus Carlsen (Norway), Vishy Anand (India) and Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria).

10) Player ranking system. The player ranking system was developed for chess in 1960 and has been adopted by many other sports including American football, baseball, basketball, hockey, korfball, rugby and golf. Football and cricket use a related formula.

Foley concludes, "Chess has health benefits. There is an emerging awareness of the effectiveness of chess in delaying the onset of Alzheimers. Chess promotes social integration as players travel to a venue and interacting socially. Chess presents a welcome social activity to many children who are on the autistic spectrum. Many Aspergers children find chess opens up for them a whole new world which conventional sport does not. For many adults, chess provides them with meaning in their lives."

Further Reading:

Chess as Art, Chess as Violent Sport

Chess as Art, Chess as Violent Sport, Part II

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