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Chess As A Sport Debate: 8 Reasons For & 8 Reasons Against

Last Updated on January 25, 2024 by Gamesver Team and JC Franco

There is an ongoing debate regarding whether or not chess should be considered a sport. Some people say it is indeed a sport; most call it a game, and others refer to it as a pastime. Whatever your opinion is on the matter, there are definitive reasons for both sides of the argument. Right now, you may be wondering to yourself, “in what ways is chess a sport, and in what ways isn’t it?”

To determine this, we need to look at how a sport is defined, played, and organized and then compare that criteria to chess. In the end, how you choose to classify it remains solely on your own experience, perspective, and understanding.

Now that you know chess can be considered a sport, let’s take a look at the various reasons to support this notion. We will also look at why it isn’t referred to as a sport but rather a game or pastime by some people. 

After reading this article, you should be able to come to your own conclusion as to whether or not chess is indeed a sport or not. So, if you’re ready to learn more about the sport/game/pastime known as chess, then let’s get started!

8 Reasons Why Chess is a Sport

There are at least 8 reasons why chess can be considered a sport. These are usually based on how a sport is defined, played, and perceived by the public and include the following:

1. Is Competition-Driven

Like any sport, the object of chess is to win over one’s opponents. An ‘activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another for entertainment’ is the very definition of sport. According to Magnus Carlsen, chess grandmaster, chess is “definitely a sport.”

2. Is Physically Challenging

Chess players need to be in top physical condition, similar to athletes, in order to attain peak mental stamina, which is necessary to win at chess. In fact, many contenders for the world championship chess title have nutritionists and fitness coaches, just like professional athletes. 

3. Has a Code of Conduct

Just like in any sport, rules must be followed. Players in chess can be penalized for bad sportsmanship, such as refusing to shake hands with their opponents. There is also an anti-doping policy, similar to that in other major sports.

4. Receives Olympic Recognition

Since 2000, the International Olympic Committee has recognized chess as a sport.

5. Is Globally Established 

Like most sports, chess is played globally. People all around the world play the game irrespective of race, age, gender, or language. And, like any great sport, chess is organized at every level, from beginner to advanced, recreational to professional. It is played in cities, schools, and communities worldwide.

6. Is Mentally Engaging

All sports consist of a mental component. Most competitive sports are designed around strategy and how to ‘outwit’ one’s opponent, just like chess. In fact, some sports are often referred to in terms of chess metaphors, for example, curling=chess on ice; snooker=chess with balls, etc.

7. Has a Player Rating System

Chess players are ranked based on their skill level, similar to other sports. The rating system is used by many sports organizations, like American football, tennis, baseball, basketball, hockey, and golf, among others.

8. Is Fun Above All Things

The main reason to play sports is for the fun and entertainment of it. Chess, like any sport, is fun to play, period. There is no better reason to engage in sports, no matter what type of activity it is.

8 Reason Why Chess is not a Sport

Just as there are reasons to classify chess as a sport, there are also reasons why it isn’t. These are based on how chess relates to a game or pastime rather than a sport and include the following:

1. Is Not Physical in Nature

Although chess is very competitive, it is not a ‘physical’ game like most sports. It is all about the mind and how to ‘outwit’ your opponents in order to win. Chess does not rely on physical skill or exertion but rather on intellect and mental strategy.

2. You Can Play Without Moving

Some might consider that chess involves “physical exertion” because you need to move the pieces with your hands. However, can that be really considered “physical exertion”? It is possible to play chess without moving at all; you could just call out your moves and have someone else move the pieces.

3. Is Not Often Played as a Team

Chess, for the most part, is a one-on-one activity. It is mainly an individual game, whereby each player seeks to win solely on their own. Though there are team chess matches at both amateur and professional levels, it is generally an independent event.

4. Is Not in the Olympics (Yet)

Regardless of the fact that the International Olympic Committee recognizes chess as a sport, it has yet to win a place in the event, even though the pursuit of this goal still remains.

5. Is Not Officially Recognize as a Sport By Many Countries

Many countries all over the world do not recognize chess as a sport.

6. Not All Competitive Activities are Sports

There are many games, such as Monopoly, Gin Rummy, and Dominoes, that are competitive. That alone does not qualify them as sports. This is the same reasoning by which many people choose to classify chess as a game rather than a sport. 

7. Rules Alone Don’t Define a Sport

A code of conduct or set of rules on their own do not define a sport. Assembling furniture correctly requires a set of rules. Dining at a fine restaurant involves etiquette or a code of conduct. Therefore, chess cannot be classified as a sport based solely on this criteria.

8. It is Definitely a Game

Though the jury is out on whether or not chess can be considered a sport, one thing for certain is that it is indeed a game, without a doubt. It fits the definition to a ‘T’ which is ‘a form of play, especially a competitive one done according to rules and decided by skill, strength and occasionally luck.’

Conclusion

To conclude, there is an ongoing debate regarding whether chess should be classified as a sport or not. Some people say it is indeed a sport, whereas others like to refer to it as a game or pastime instead. Whatever your opinion is on the matter, there are at least 8 definitive reasons for both sides of the argument, which we have reviewed individually and in detail above.

The determining factors are often related to how a sport is defined, played, and organized and then compared to the criteria surrounding the game of chess. Whether you choose to define it as a sport or not, one thing is for certain: it is a fun and entertaining activity, no matter what you call it. So get out that chessboard and engage in this ‘sport’, ‘game’, or ‘pastime’ today! 

And remember, “The beauty of chess is that it can be whatever you want it to be” – Simon Williams (chess grandmaster and champion).

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who enjoy sharing their knowledge about their favorite games with others!

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco serves as a New York-based editor for Gamesver. His interest for board games centers around chess, a pursuit he began in elementary school at the age of 9. Holding a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Mercyhurst University, JC brings a blend of business acumen and creative insight to his role. Beyond his editorial endeavors, he is a certified USPTA professional, imparting his knowledge in tennis to enthusiasts across the New York City Metropolitan area.