It seems almost like an oxymoron to combine the words mind and sport especially when the “sport” under consideration is chess. It is difficult to picture the game as a sport when the most physical activity it seems to require is moving the pieces across the board. Recently, though, the Olympic committee voted chess legal for competition in “The Games.” This acknowledgment of chess as a sport by such a high council requires us to rethink our view of chess and athletics.
Although chess does not appear to require as much activity as most recognizable sports, it does require as much, if not more, preparation and time. A study done at Temple University found that chess drains energy at a rate that compares to football. Some of the best chess players in history regarded athletic training as an essential part of success in the game. Both Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov lifted weights. They used other physical conditioning techniques as well, not necessarily for their health, but because of the amount of stamina the game requires at high levels of competition. It is not uncommon for a professional player to lose 10 to 15 pounds during the course of a match. Matches can last as long as a month, with one game every day, eight hours each.
Over 120 countries officially consider chess a sport. The Unites States is not one of them. That may be because we seem to have a very narrow-minded view of what exactly a sport is. Ask any random person if chess should be considered a sport, and the most likely response will be hysterical laughter, yet more people play chess competitively than any other game in the world, and more books have been published on chess than any other subject. Most of those players and authors firmly believe that chess is harder to be good at than any other game or sport. The thought of chess as a sport probably just never occurred to most people.
Playing in a chess tournament is akin to taking a test that has not been studied for but that will decide something important, except that chess also has the added problem of time. Imagine taking that test with a time limit, like the SATs for example, but that the clock that is keeping the time gives off a faint ticking sound. In a large room that is completely silent the only thing audible will be that noise, it is extremely nerve-racking for any inexperienced tournament player. It has also been known to drive some professionals to the brink of madness.
Most people who do not consider chess a sport either dont play, or are just unaware of the facts. It is not easy to understand just how difficult the game really is if tournament play has never been experienced. To many people chess will never be considered a sport, but even if they did, it would most likely not change the commonly held view of chess players, that of nerds and outcasts with nothing better to do.