Stuck between a rook and a hard place, is chess a sport?

How do we define sport? Does it need a physical element or are doping scandals enough?

The question of definition is the most important for Woman international master, Salomėja Zaksaitė, when asked if she thinks the mind-strategy game is a sport.

She says: “If we imagine sport as purely physical activity then probably no.”

She thinks chess could be considered a sport because “Chess players in modern times badly need physical preparation to help their stamina. A game can be around, 4 and a half sometimes 5 hours.”

Without this, finding the right moves at the most important times is difficult.

Chess as an Olympic event

Chess has been a recognised Olympic sport by the IOC since 2000, but lost a bid for inclusion in the 2020 games.

“If we speak about the commercial aspects of sport, then the Olympics would be good for chess. We would have more sponsors and attention. These things which aren’t actually related to sport would be beneficial.” Says Zaksaitė.

Scholastic chess activist and journalist, Stefan Löffler, doesn’t think it’s a realistic dream for chess to be an Olympic event, but sympathises with the benefits this would bring:

“If it were in the Olympics, chess might receive more public subsidies, but I doubt that the commercial value of chess would rise and that sponsors would get involved in it.”

The scandals

Löffler pokes fun at the discussion of definition by aligning chess with the same scandals that face sports like football and cycling:

“What are the benchmarks of a sport nowadays? Is there doping in chess? Absolutely. Are the players heard in the federations? Do they have voting rights? Absolutely not, just like in a lot of sports.

“Is there corruption in elections to the federations? Absolutely, so it’s just like other sports.”

The chess Olympiad has been running since 1924, drug-testing has been compulsory since 2002.

He continues: “It doesn’t need to be Olympic event because our championship already receives high attention all over the world.”

Feature Image: (Pixabay// Angela Bedürftig)

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