Is chess a sport?

Is chess a sport? The hotly debated topic

People have opinions and are entitled to their own opinions, about whether chess should be categorized as a sport or not. Casual chess fans, or certainly people who don't play chess, would not think of chess in the same realm of football, baseball, boxing, etc, and is “just a game”.

Although, chess enthusiasts and professionals can argue that their game requires lots of physical endurance, and are also like sports in that strategy is key, and every once in awhile, you get lucky!

The point of this article will not be to answer the question based on my opinion. The goal (no pun intended!) will be to show both sides of the argument to the reader. Because, just like in chess, you can't be zoned into only your plan, you have to look at the other side.

Why chess is not a sport: the dictionary definition of “sport”

Let's take this argument to the dictionary, after all, that's what the cool kids do to settle an argument!

According to, the definition of a sport is “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing“.

is chess a sport

There is a lot to unpack! While some of the definition clearly reflects the long grueling chess game (certainly “skill”, and if you don't believe you need physical prowess to endure a long game of chess, then you've never experienced professional chess!).

However, the word that might strike some people is “athletic”. We won't quite go into the dictionary definition, but everyone deems “athletics” to consist of a lot of running, maybe strength and conditioning, etc. To the naked eye, all a chess player does is sit there!

Is chess a sport? How do most people define a sport?

As well as the dictionary definition, it's also important to define what most people think is the stereotypical sport. That can also matter for the purpose of this argument.

What happens when you enter “sport” into google images? You get a lot of pictures of footballs, soccer balls, basketballs, etc. You also tend to see kids (or adults) running around with balls and dressed up in uniforms.

To most people, it's simply difficult to picture chess as a sport. To most people, chess is “just another board game“. However, as we tackle the other side of the argument, maybe chess is a little bit more than just a little board game!

Why chess is a sport: The chess player's perspective

Is chess a sport? What do other chess players think? As we discussed one side of the argument, which is that chess is not a sport because it does not require balls, uniforms, and running around, now it's time to look at the other side.

Chess players will claim that chess is indeed a sport because the skills listed below are also required from many sports:

  • Endurance
  • Skill
  • Memorization
  • Competitiveness

Those are all key aspects that are required in chess that is also required of many sports. Let's take some time and draw some parallels.

Chess endurance

We know from sports that endurance is extremely key. That is why coaches make their players do things like running and other exercises to improve endurance.

is chess a sport

Well, it may be hard to believe, but these very long chess games can require a lot of endurance. Picture the top grandmasters in their OTB tournaments of classical time control. They have to sit there for 4-6 hours sometimes. Do you not think that sitting there for hours straight looking at a chessboard is not going to require some form of endurance?

Even if chess is moving towards rapid games (say 15-30 minutes per side), those are not always short games, and as many people's attention spans are so short, it is still key to be attentive at the board even if the time control is quicker!

Skill and Memorization

Skill and memorization are imperative to being good at chess. If you didn't know that, then you are probably not a serious chess player at all! :) Though in all seriousness, chess requires knowing a lot of concepts and applying them to your game. This could be a critical point to answering “is chess a sport?”.

Sports are the same way. You need to be able to know what the defense is doing, remember what route you have to run on a given play. Sports is about smarts, it's not just going out there and playing. If you're outsmarted, both in sports and in chess, you might lose!

Is chess a sport? The debate is yours

We've analyzed both sides of the argument. We've discussed why many people deem chess not to be a sport, and why chess players think that their great game is a sport. However, as is with many debated topics, there should not really be a right or wrong answer. It comes about as a personal preference.

So if you believe that chess is a sport, then good for you, but if you don't believe so, you are entitled to your opinion, and enjoy your day!

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