Is Chess a Sport? Or is it not? Let’s Find Out

why is chess a sport

Playing games has been the go-to solution for people sitting idle and needing some leisure activities to pass the time.

But ever so often, some leisure games turn very competitive very quickly, and chess happens to be one of these games.

If you study the history of chess, you will discover how chess was invented to build tactical and strategic skills. It was a mandatory game for rulers and nobles. Later in the 19th century, chess went to a full championship scale.

However, there are many who debate its standing as a sport. While some think it is a sport, and some consider otherwise.

We’ll go through both sides of the argument to find the answer to why is chess a sport and if not, why not.

What is a Sport?

According to the Oxford dictionary sport is an “activity that you do for pleasure and that needs physical effort or skill, usually done in a special area and according to fixed rules.”

Many argue the chess is not a sport because it doesn’t include any “physical effort” as mentioned in the above definition.

However, we should also take a look at the part after “or”. It clearly says “physical effort or skill.” It doesn’t say that the skills should be physical only, which means both mental and physical skills are implied.

Talking about skills, there is no sport in the world that needs as sharp skills as chess.

Considering the later part of the definition that is “in a special area and according to rules.” If one studies these words properly, it seems like the definition is directly speaking about chess.

Because chess is played in a special area, which is the chessboard, and the rules are the set of rules fixed by FIDE.

Therefore, even when judging word-to-word in the definition, it seems chess is a sport. However, we’ll look at both arguments and try to find the reasons behind them.

Yes! Chess is a Sport – Here are 11 reasons Why

1. Chess is a Competitive Sport

If one thing that truly defines sports, it’s competition. If not for competition, then Wimbledon or FIFA wouldn’t be that great events as they’re today.

So, competition is indeed one of the true nature of sports.

On that note, if you think about chess, it’s one of the most competitive game out there. From Bobby Fischer to Magnus Carlsen; competitive chess players have time and again proved the true spirit of chess.

Chess players feel the drive to win against an equal or better strategist. You will see players are locking their horns against each other over a long period.

One false move and a bad position can turn an excellent winnable situation into a nightmare. Every game is a grand setting, much like a drama where the outcome isn’t fixed.

While many other board games can be competitive, games like Monopoly, chess stands out of the crowd. It’s competitions are regulated by strict governing bodies implementing standard rules.

2. Chess is an Ancient Sport

Chess has been acclaimed as a “sport” since always. If you learn how long chess has been around, you’ll understand chess was a well-known sport long before.

When there was nothing called cricket, baseball, or even soccer, chess was a popular sport. From the Romans, the 10th century Persians, to the European royals of the Middle ages; chess was a prioritized sport.

As a matter of fact, chess was called as the game of royals. In 12th century AD, Petrus Alfonsi wrote a book called “Disciplina Clericalis” (Training School for the Clergy), which discussed the seven accomplishments necessary to become a knight.

Back then chess was such an important sport that it was one of the seven accomplishments mentioned by Alfonsi. The other requirements are riding, boxing, hawking, swimming, archery, etc.

So, if chess was equivalent to boxing and swimming even in 12th century, why are we questioning it’s legacy as a sport today?

3. Chess is a Well-established Industry

The first official championship was held in 1886, between Steinitz V.S. Zukertort and continued tradition.

And ever since then, chess players have been making a decent amount for themselves.

What started out as just a game of strategy established itself as an industry.

The chess industry got legitimized in 1948 by establishing the FIDE World Chess Championship.

Chess championships are held every year and academic stage, from schools to universities.

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4. Players must Maintain a Behavior Code

Like any physically taxing sport, chess players are also expected to have sportsman-like conduct.

All tournament players must follow a set of rules: refusing to shake hands with their opponents, cheating during the game, using mobile phones, etc.

So clearly, etiquette is very important for the game of chess.

It shows deep respect for the opponent, his strategies, and his ideas to prove that both the players have played a brilliant game

5. Chess has Olympic Recognition

Chess has been recognized as an Olympic sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) since 1999.

Though it has not had many events in the Winter Olympic Games and Asian games, chess games were held in 2006, 2010, and 2020 summer Olympics.

6. It is A Global Game

Chess is now a worldwide phenomenon. No matter race, age, gender, language, or disability, chess can be played by anyone.

Even if you have a severe loss of motor functions, you can still play chess.

Even renowned professor Mr. Stephen Hawking played chess with his children.

There isn’t any real restriction to chess.

7. Chess Requires a lot of Mental Exertion

This is a no-brainer but deserves mentioning. In fact, one can argue that chess is primarily a game of mental exertion.

Chess players spend their entire lives sharpening their skills and craft.

They practice opening strategies, middle game strategies, endgame strategies, solving problems, and more.

8. It has Recognizable National Accolades

Chess players like Magnus Carlsen, Vishwanathan Anand, and Veselin Topalov have earned a national Sportsman of the year award given to them by their own countries.

This award is the same one that is given to players from any other physically demanding sport like football, hockey, or basketball.

9. It has an International Player Ranking System

With the establishment of FIDE in 1960, a ranking system for players was set up, giving them a global status.

This Chess rating system puts players into different categories based on their ranking.

For example, if players have a rating between 1800 and 2000, they are considered Class A category 1, there is Class B where player ratings lie between 1600 and 1799, and so on.

10. Chess inspires National Enthusiasm

Yeah, sure, chess has had many championship matches and international cups.

But there have also been instances that sparked rivalries between two countries.

Like when Bobby Fischer challenged Boris Spassky for the world championship in 1972.

Even at the height of the cold war, American players and Soviet Union players often challenged each other to get one up on the other.

11. Chess Players need to be in Good Physical Condition


You wouldn’t think of chess needing physical fitness, but if you have to sit through a game that lasts about 9 hours, you need excellent physical health.

As elite players sit for long hours, many internal activities happen simultaneously with the rise of stress and built-up tension.

The risk of ever-changing blood pressure and your respiration rate increases.

So to deal with all these rapid changes and sit through a game and focus on strategizing, you must focus on your physical health.

No!! Chess Isn’t a Sport – 3 Reasons Why?

Let’s look at why people dismiss the idea of chess being a sport; we’ll look at those facts that present the question of it being a sport.

We’ll start with the absolute basic question: what makes a sport. 

Why is Chess Not a Sport?

People get into the most common argument that “since chess isn’t a physical activity, it’s not a sport.”
However, that doesn’t mean chess players don’t need to be in peak physical condition.

Chess grandmasters often improve their physical condition because professional players know how tiring and long stretched the matches can get.

However, this is only valid when it comes to physical exertion. Even though chess lies on the lower end of the scale, exertion does exist.

But, if we talk about the other aspect, then a simple argument like “you are just sitting at the board” holds some merit.

Because the only real movement is done on the chessboard by chess pieces, chess simply doesn’t require any physical skill.

Why do Chess Players Want to Make Chess a Sport?

Chess players, in general, do consider the game to be a sport, while most non-players don’t.

Consider any local or national chess tournament held anywhere across the globe.

Even though the events have a good reward like a medal or a trophy, the people never get the same level of acknowledgment as on-field sportsmen.

Many chess players go through this, thinking that their accomplishments are underappreciated.

It also doesn’t help that chess is a demanding and lonely occupation; it’s natural to yearn for some recognition.

This is why, for any reason, may it be professional, political, or subjective, many chess players support the idea of chess being a sport.

Since we have learned why people want to support the idea of chess as a sport, now is the perfect time to prove to you why it is a sport.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the coin.


What countries have produced some of the best chess players ever?

The countries that have produced the best chess players include India, Germany, Russia, America, and Ukraine.

Who are the most famous chess players of all time?

If we were to answer this question on the criteria of who had the most fame, we would be doing an injustice to their skills. So instead, we will talk about 5 of the best players who made a mark on chess history.

  1. Garry Kasparov
  2. Bobby Fischer
  3. Anatoly Karpov
  4. Emanuel Lasker
  5. Magnus Carlsen

Is chess a measure of intelligence?

This isn’t entirely true. Chess can be used to measure someone’s intelligence, but it can also improve the IQ of someone learning to play it.

The rules of chess are designed so that the learner has to use fluid reasoning, fast processing, and good memory.

These rules help the player to develop their minds. But if you already play the game, you will exhibit significantly more developed cognitive abilities.

Should it Matter if Chess is a sport or not?

Since we have explored both sides of the argument, what do you think?

We think it shouldn’t matter whether the game is a sport. It is a challenging strategy game and has tons of benefits if you play it.

You should try it if you haven’t; you can learn it on your own or join online chess classes.

But no matter what conclusion you may have reached on its standing as a sport.

It doesn’t change that chess is more than just a game; you can learn a lot about life from this game on an 8×8 chess board.

So with that, we end here, until the next time.


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