Skip to main content
ChessChess FAQs

Is Chess a Board Game or a Sport?

By October 6, 2022October 9th, 2022No Comments

Questions have been raised about whether chess can be classified as a sport or merely a board game. In this article, we will strive to clear your doubts regarding this age-old dilemma.

What Is a sport?

The prestigious Oxford English Dictionary states that an activity is deemed a sport when a person engages in any physically challenging exercise. This engagement may or may not be to reach a particular objective, mainly a rewarding experience.

A sport is played by an individual or group with the will to win a competition. This spirit of competitiveness aims to bring glory to a specific entity and give wholesome entertainment to the population witnessing the same.

Is Chess a Sport?

Since sport is generally considered to have a physical aspect, chess has never been seriously considered a sport. Chess is regarded as a ‘game’ rather than a ‘sport’.

On the other hand, it is widely accepted that chess does have elements that are integral to any sport. When two chess players face off against each other, one gets to see a level of competitiveness, skill, application of mind and strategy in popular sports such as football, cricket, basketball, and badminton.

Is Chess an Olympic Sport?

Even though the more significant chunk of popular opinion supports the view that chess is more of a game than a sport, the International Olympic Association (IOC) has taken the step to declare chess a sport. Along with the IOC, over a hundred countries worldwide have recognised chess as a sport.

After giving recognition to chess for its sportlike qualities in 2000, the IOC showed signs that it would be part of future Olympic meets. Taking a cue from the IOC’s historical step, organisers of the Asian Games 2006 at Doha included chess as a separate event. It won’t be long before chess becomes a regular at all the world’s major sporting events.

The stance taken by the IOC has naturally given rise to many movements which call for the dissolution of chess’s status as a sport.

Why Is Chess Not a Sport?

Seeing as we have dealt with the question, “Is chess a sport?’, it is time now to consider the other side of the debate. The following are 3 reasons why chess is not a sport:

  1. The principal point put forward to argue that chess cannot be notified as a sport is that it lacks the physical ingredient inherent to a sport.
  2. Many believe that chess should not be named a sport because it does not require players to get physically fit in a gym.
  3. Like other indoor games like carrom, monopoly, Pictionary, and scrabble, chess can be played without going out of one’s house.

What Type of Sport is Chess?

From handling the question, ‘Is chess a sport?’, we now have to look carefully at chess’s inherent attributes. Despite the more decisive view that chess cannot be put under the same category as other traditional sports such as rugby and baseball, it still commands sufficient respect to stand its own ground in the sporting arena.

Even if chess players need to not move out of their seating position for the entirety of a match, the game has several qualities similar to any other mainstream sport.

Both players must shake hands during a chess game as a mark of mutual respect and camaraderie. The game rules are strict enough to find any professional who fails to follow these guidelines.

Top chess players find it easier to produce better results if they stay in shape. This is akin to any other sport, where individuals stick to diets and exercise regimens to keep their performance levels high.

One of the greatest chess players of all time, Bobby Fischer, commented on how he kept himself physically fit to better perform at tournaments. One of the advantages of being in shape is that it promotes better blood circulation to the brain. And chess being supremely dependent on a player’s mental prowess, a charge-up brain will result in sharper decision-making and concentration.

To take the case of reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen, the young Norwegian travels overseas to participate in chess tournaments with a team that consists of fitness coaches and dieticians. 

Are Chess Players Athletes?

We have discussed both sides of the argument on the question – ‘Is chess a sport?’ It is time now to discuss the athleticism of chess players. Not all chess players are athletes.

But most of the current batch of chess professionals are openly advocating the importance of physical fitness in competitive chess. One of the foremost chess players on the present roster, Levon Aronian, regularly plays football to stay in shape.

The mental exertion that is part and parcel of all competitive chess bouts makes it necessary for all severe contenders to follow a healthy diet and exercise plan. It may seem that competing in a chess game does not take much. But it is the total opposite.

Forcing one’s brain to work at peak level for a long time takes a toll on the human body. This may result in heightened palpitation, increased blood pressure, sweating, etc. The only way to counter the ill effects of these physical outcomes of stress and tension is to take care of one’s health religiously.

Is Chess an Individual Sport?

Chess is more famous for being an individual sport than a team-based one. The answer is that the game’s superstars have become larger-than-life figures over the years. Garry Kasparov, Vishwanathan Anand, and most recently Magnus Carlsen have all entered households where chess is played with love and enthusiasm worldwide.

On the contrary, the recently-concluded World Chess Olympiad, held in Chennai, India, demonstrated the popularity of chess as a team sport. Despite being more of an individualistic game, chess also reserves the versatility of being pitted as a team sport.

Now that we have tackled the question, ‘Is chess a sport?’, it is time for you to raise your awareness about chess’s origins and its fundamental rules. Check out our blog,’ Learn the Rich History and Origin of Chess’.