When you think of sports, a few different types might come to mind.
Football, basketball, and soccer are all popular sports.
Some people, however, might also include chess in that category.
Considering that chess isn’t a physical game, you may wonder if it qualifies as a sport or not.
From having rules to even having doping controls, here are a few reasons chess qualifies as a sport.
Is Chess A Sport?
Yes, chess is a sport.
It’s often classified as a mental or intellectual sport rather than a physical sport.
That said, there is an element of physical endurance required to play the game.
When engaging in mental sports, there’s a lot of strain put on your body.
Someone who is fitter than someone else might have an advantage because they have greater stamina.
That can then impact their performance in the game.
To understand why chess is a sport, we need to break down what makes a sport in the first place.
8 Reasons Chess Is A Sport
You may not consider chess a sport at first glance.
After all, no one is tackling each other across the chessboard.
Neither are there any points collected or goals scored.
Instead, two opponents sit on either side of the chessboard and try to outmaneuver one another to victory.
That said, there are elements of chess that match other, more physical, sports.
Here are a few reasons why chess is a sport.
1. Has Rules
All sports have rules.
Chess is no exception.
Football has rules that govern what players can and can’t do with the ball.
For example, they can’t just take it from the huddle and attempt to score a touchdown.
The ball needs to be in play first.
They also can’t just rip the ball from a player’s hands.
They need to tackle them down or try to intercept the ball.
Chess has similar rules.
All the chess pieces have certain roles and rules that they follow.
Chess players can’t use the pieces however they want.
They need to follow the rules or else there wouldn’t be much of a game.
There’s also an arbiter of the rules in chess.
In football, for example, they’re called referees.
They follow the gameplay and then make decisions when a play is in question.
They’ll review the play and determine if the player was breaking a rule or not.
In chess, this role belongs to someone called an arbiter or the tournament director.
They keep an eye on the board to ensure all moves made are legal moves.
Most chess players also record the moves they made to keep a written record.
This further ensures that no one is cheating and all moves are legal.
Clearly, chess is a sport because it has rules just like football and other sports.
2. Requires Skills
Not everyone can exceed at chess.
While it is a game that most can play, it requires a few skills to be able to exceed at it.
This also makes it similar to other sports.
In football, for example, you need to have skills related to toughness, endurance, speed, and accuracy.
It all comes down to the position that you play.
A quarterback, for example, needs to be light on their feet and able to think quickly.
They have to handle stress well and be able to adapt at a given moment.
Receivers, on the other hand, need a great deal of speed.
They need to be able to race ahead, catch the ball, then keep on racing ahead to score a touchdown.
Even linebackers need skills.
They need a certain level of awareness and strength to hold other players back.
In chess, players also need skills.
Their skills tend to be more mental than physical, but they’re skills nonetheless.
In particular, chess players need to be able to memorize and recognize chess moves.
By recognizing certain moves that the opponent is making, they can create a successful defensive and counter-offensive move.
They also need to be able to adapt at a given moment.
Their opponent might pull something that they hadn’t expected.
As such, they need to be able to change their strategy immediately and adapt to the situation.
That takes certain cognitive skills.
Like football, chess is something that people can learn.
It doesn’t take a high IQ to play chess.
More than anything, you just need to learn the skills that chess players utilize in a game.
You can then focus on honing those skills until they’re perfect.
Chess is a sport because it requires certain skills to play well.
3. Luck Factor
There’s also an element of luck in the game of chess.
This is true of all sports as well.
It’s why some people believe in certain superstitions.
They’ll wear the same jersey to every game to ensure their team wins.
They’ll drink the same drink or eat the same food to not break with tradition.
They believe that by doing so, they can add some luck in their favor to the game.
That goes for chess as well.
While chess is certainly a game of skill and strategy, there’s a little bit of luck involved.
Primarily, luck comes in the shape of your opponent making a mistake.
They might have meant to make one move, but their mind is two steps ahead and they made the wrong move initially.
If you know what you’re doing, you can take advantage of the situation.
Luck can also manifest in simply knowing your opponent’s strategies well.
It just might be that your opponent sticks to strategies that you know how to defend well against.
Luck is on your side.
While having luck may not necessarily qualify something as a sport, it does link the two together.
Luck is in games like football, basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer.
It’s also in chess.
As such, chess is a sport because it has an element of luck to it.
4. Has Athleticism
Most people wouldn’t consider chess an athletic sport.
When you think of sports, you usually think of football players running up and down the field and tackling each other.
You think of soccer players chasing the ball and kicking it far across the field.
Basketball players pass the ball between each other and score hoops.
Even golfers hit the golf ball across several meters to land it in a hole.
Each game has some sort of physical element to it.
Since chess doesn’t involve those specific things, it’s easy to think that chess isn’t a sport.
However, chess is a bit more physical than some people realize.
For one, it’s a game of focus and endurance.
Chess players have to use a lot of cognitive ability at the table.
They’re looking at all the possible strategies their opponent is using while also determining their own.
They have to do this quickly, too.
Not all chess games use clocks, but some of them do.
You have a limited amount of time in which to analyze the situation and make your move.
That takes a toll on you mentally which also affects you physically.
When your mind is under strain, the rest of your body is also under strain.
Your heart rate quickens.
Whenever your heart is beating faster, you’re burning energy to keep up with your heart rate.
Studies also showed that chess players who had better fitness tended to perform better in chess.
They suggested that it was because obesity can sometimes slow certain cognitive functions.
As a result, the study encouraged chess players to maintain a certain level of fitness.
Some chess players might lightly work out to ensure their bodies are fit.
When their bodies are fit, their minds are also sharp.
That results in better performances.
Chess is a sport because it also involves physical exertion and fitness.
5. It’s Competitive
For something to be a sport, it must be competitive.
You don’t have much of a sport if both sides aren’t competing with one another.
The only exception is if the two teams are working together to beat something else like a timer.
In football, you have two teams pitted against each other on the field.
Both are trying to score points to win the game.
In tennis, you have one player against another.
Both are trying to score points to knock the other out of the game.
Even in fighting sports, the goal is to wear down the other person until they surrender or become knocked out.
In chess, there’s also competition.
It’s one chess player against another.
Both parties are trying to challenge and capture the other player’s king piece.
The method they use to achieve that task is the game of chess.
Chess rivalries are as dramatic and potent as rivalries found in other sports.
Because chess involves one player against another, each player has their share of fans.
Those fans root hard for their favorite player and end up engaging in rivalries, too.
A rivalry may form when a chess player loses to another and feels as though the other player cheated.
It may form because of the nations from which both players hail.
However the rivalry forms, they can make the competition fierce between the two players.
Chess is a sport because there is competition in the game.
6. Recognition As A Sport
If you’re someone that prefers a governing body to recognize something as something, then you’ll be happy to know that the International Olympic Committee recognized chess as a sport in 1999.
The International Olympic Committee is essential when it comes to determining what is a sport and what’s merely a game.
It’s often the first step to including the game in the Olympics.
Chess, itself, isn’t an Olympic sport yet.
However, that might change with time.
Even if it isn’t something played at the Olympics, the committee still recognizes the game as an official sport.
As such, chess is a sport.
7. Has Fans
Another reason that chess is a sport is that it has fans.
It wouldn’t be much of a sport, or even a game, if it didn’t attract viewers.
In football, you can find fans everywhere.
They’re in the stadiums rooting for their teams.
They’re at home and yelling at the TV.
They’re in sports bars and celebrating with friends and strangers.
Chess fans tend to be a bit more reserved in their fanfare.
They’ll attend a game and cheer the player when the game is over, but like tennis and golf, they usually remain quiet while the game is occurring.
That’s because the players need to focus.
Chess has its passionate following, however.
Some people buy t-shirts depicting the sport.
Some even buy merchandise from their favorite chess players.
They show up at tournaments and watch games from home.
Chess is a sport because it has fans.
8. Has Strict Doping Controls
A final reason chess is a sport is that it has strict doping controls.
You might not think that chess players can dope themselves to give an edge in a game, but they can.
Studies have shown that certain drugs can give them an edge.
As such, chess tournaments often require their players to undergo a urine test to ensure they didn’t take any performance-enhancing drugs.
This also makes chess similar to other sports.
Football and other athletic sports have their share of dopers.
Players will take steroids and other drugs to improve their strength and performance.
It’s a form of cheating.
Because chess has strict doping controls, it’s similar to those sports, too.
Chess is a popular game involving strategy, memorization, and adaptability.
It’s also recognized as a sport for the reasons listed above, which make it similar to other sports.