Is Chess a Sport?

by Rune Vik-Hansen
10/10/2022 – It never fails; in time with Magnus’ chessploits, the debate in Norwegian newspapers’ commentary fields rages red hot over whether chess is a sport or athletics, with no surprising conclusions: one agrees to disagree, definitions do not diminish or lessen Magnus’ performances and ‘you can’t compare apples and oranges.’ Study by Rune Vik-Hansen.

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An Argument for Chess as a Sport

Before arguing chess is a sport and athletics, let’s first do away with the formalism:

According to Sigmund Loland1, Professor at Department of Sport and Social Sciences at the Norwegian School of Sports Sciences, ‘athletics’ (‘idrett’, from old Norse, ‘id’, work or activity and ‘drott’, power, strength or perseverance2), in addition to bodily or physical accomplishments, which govern contemporary understanding, originally referred to all forms or expressions of highly regarded skills like music, poetry and knowledge of runes.

While athletics emphasizes the athletes’ efforts and control of the body (skiing, skating, boxing, tennis, handball and football), sports, meaning ‘anything humans find amusing or entertaining3, just as well appreciate the use of facilities, equipment, tools, devices, means of transport or animal as a basic condition (sailing, equestrianism and motor racing4, and today the concepts are more often used interchangeably without a universal definition or agreement on what separates sport and idrett (athletics) from other leisure activities5, and at the same time raising the question if the distinction, or the concepts, are at all productive or expedient.

Initially, we might say that all sports or athletic sports as defined by Wikipedia amount to being ‘only’ ‘play’ or ‘a game’ since these are ruled based activities. Claiming chess ‘just a game’, because it is rule based, and therefore unworthy of undue attention, is a tautology (self-explanatory) and explains nothing. Mind you, the activity we call life may also be perceived to be a game with rules and recipes. When asking if chess is a sport or athletics, what we’re really asking is if chess players perform, and more so, in the physical sense of the word.

When former president of the Norwegian Athletic Federation (NIF) Børre Rognlien6, and Fossum7, former vice president of the Norwegian Chess Federation (NSF) state that chess is not athletics because NSF is not a member of the NIF, this is self-contradictory. NSF not being a member of the NIF merely goes to show that NSF is not a member of the NIF, not that chess in and of itself is not athletics.

Despite agreeing in newspapers’ commentary fields that games and activities like chess, bridge, archery, dart, shooting etc., involve performance of some kind, still, the physical aspect seems to saturate contemporary understanding of what is a sporting or athletic performance. In a country obsessed with countables and quantifiables, what cannot be measured does not exist, we may ask if not the accent on the physical excludes the possibility for a finer perception of what ‘performance’ or ‘achievement’ might be. Few doubt mental gladiators perform but what, where and how? Are ‘blood, sweat and tears’8 or ‘motion’9 the only criteria on a sporting or athletic performance or achievement?

The prevalent preference for the physical may be argued to be grounded in the still deeply rooted Cartesian (after Descartes) dualism matter (body)-mind (soul) representing two ontologically separate categories impossible to combine into a higher unity. Not until Merleau-Ponty, in his Phenomenology of Perception (1945/2012), suggested that we know, experience and are-in-the-world rather through our body, consciousness (cogito) was perceived as the primary source of knowledge and experience, the body a mere appendage.

While philosophy and religion emphasise the mind rather than the body, Merleau-Ponty reminds us that the brain (still) is part of the body [sic] and thus relaunches or reintroduces man as a homogenous unity consisting both of mind and matter, body and soul, mutually interdependent. Just like religion and philosophy ignore the corporeal significance for knowledge and experience, Rognlien and 1500-meter runner, Henrik Ingebrigtsen (note 9), in their emphasis of physical motion, go to the opposite extreme and accentuate the body at the expense of the brain, as if arms and legs move all by themselves.

However, today we know that any corporeal motion starts off with electric impulses subconsciously triggered in the oubliettes of the brain. The brain’s computational power (speed and calculations per second) of between 1013 and 1016 (or one exaFLOP, i.e., one billion billion operations per second10 and the speed of thought clocked in to somewhere between 0.5-100 m/s (between 550 and 750 milliseconds for the information or perception of something to reach the brain and to be comprehended and interpreted11, testify to motion. Because external corporeal motion, arms and legs, depends on internal cerebral motion, not yet clear is why external corporeal motion should weigh heavier concerning the definition of sports or athletics.

According to Nørretranders12, studies of cerebral energy metabolism are studies of the work the brain does. Therefore, even internal mental activity, such as recalling the furnishing of a room, is a genuine physical and physiological activity with clear connections to perfectly tangible factors. Thought is an objective (material) event in the body in every way reminiscent of corporeal activities such as movement and there is no reason to consider thought any different from the rest of what the body does. Just like tennis, or any other physical activity, thought requires calories.

In other words, there is no principal difference between Magnus lifting his arm and sacking a kniggeth or Petter (Northug, now retired Norwegian cross-country skier) lifting his poles and stroking himself forward; both actions spring from subconsciously triggered impulses in the brain. Strokes and chess moves have the same source. And voila! We have compared apples with oranges!

We may therefore conclude that the definitions of sports and athletics are not based on what is really going on but on what we observe and stem from a time before organised tournament chess and insights into the brain. We see arms and legs but not neurons and synapses.

The classical concept of athletics (idrett) suffers from inherent tension between physical performance on the one hand and technique, skills and proficiency on the other. However, in the modern understanding the physical aspect weighs heavier but are those with the most ‘blood, sweat and tears’ the greatest athletes? Are cross-country skiers with shorter strokes and strides lesser athletes or perform lesser skiing than those with longer strokes and strides? High jump, with only a few seconds run before take-off, surely doesn’t qualify as athletics?

The point of technique/skills/proficiency is to reduce the physical effort, but are technically proficient athletes who makes less of a physical effort, but achieve better results greater athletes than less technically proficient athletes who makes more of a physical effort but with lesser results? High jumpers who make more of an effort but jumps lower? What about those who make the biggest effort and with the best results?

As long as different activities yield different reactions, even if lowest common multiples may be found, ‘corporeal or physical performance’ as a criterion on whether you do athletics or not, appears irrelevant because at times we do have ‘one of those days’ and definitions do not depend on our day to day condition. Are those with the most ‘blood, sweat and tears’ the greatest athletes? Do cross-country skiers with shorter strokes and strides perform less athletics or skiing than those with longer strokes and strides? What if you die on the playing field or during physical exertion? If not, we have to grade and define corporeal performance and where to draw the line?

Do physical or bodily performances or skills lend themselves to precise defining or grading? Since measuring or quantifying chess skills and chess knowledge is impossible, the rating system is our best shot. What, then, makes for a decent rating? Magnus’ latest peak? And how to decide which activities and disciplines that merit to be recognised as athletics (idrett)? In the days of yore, music, poetry and runes but today?

To play chess, professionally or not, may be compared to study for and take an exam and chess players are graduating all the time, before, under and after tournaments. Professionals work on their chess between 7-8 hours a day and perform theoretically, practically, mentally and physically. They practice different types of positions; openings, middlegames and endgames and work on their tactics (reflexes and intuition) and scrutinise positions to improve their positional feeling and ability to calculate variations, i.e., visualising sequences of moves.

During the game they worry about their preparations (do I remember them and are they good enough?), the result of the game, their opponent for the next round and the outcome of the tournament. They have to be red alert (‘Beware! The man on the other side, has bad intentions’, Bent Larsen) and keep their calm in attack as well as in defence. They worry if they can win good positions against stronger opposition and must take care not to underestimate lower rated opponents. They get headaches and sleep poorly while the mind grinds about today’s game.

All this mental tension and exertion manifests itself physically, and well known is Karpov’s purported 10 kilos weight loss during his World Championship match against Kasparov in 84-8513 and that the young replaces the old.

Inasmuch as cause and effect must be of the same type14—physical effect—physical cause—the physical effects of playing chess, therefore, likewise require physical causes, like a physical body. Just like our experience of headaches hinges on material prerequisites, chess players’ experience of physical fatigue depends on neural collaboration during strain and therefore makes it difficult with regard to the definition of sports or athletics to argue why more traditional physical exertion should weigh heavier than fatigue resulting from strong concentration over time (in studies as well as in tournament play).

Because the world basically is physical (where physicalism is concerned with how mental (non-physical) properties or states can exist in an otherwise physical universe and the metaphysical relation between mental and physical properties15, knowledge (chess knowledge in our case), if to initiate actions or behaviour (fingers lifting and letting go of pieces), which are physical effects and therefore require physical causes (a non-physical consciousness cannot initiate actions, i.e., cause arms and legs to move) be physically represented in the brain with the debate revolving around how knowledge is represented.

Kaggestad16 mentions the competitive aspect as essential to whether something qualifies as athletics and, we may add, the competitive aspect transforms (any) activity into sport, if not necessarily into athletics.

At the same time professionalisation of what formerly was perceived as leisure activities appears to challenge the leisure aspect of the concept of sport (if what we earlier did for leisure becomes our living, we must find something else to disperse ourselves) and emphasize the competitive aspect as more relevant as to if we are doing sports or not. However, skills or proficiency do not seem as embedded in the concept of sport (as in the concept of athletics) where we might compete without having the faintest idea of what we’re doing, or with the words of the Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss (1912-2009): ‘We can very well dabble at something without making anything of it.’

According to Wikipedia, chess may therefore be a sport and athletics due to physical exertion (more so during tournaments than casual games), possible use of some device, tool or equipment and scoring points; 1 for a win, ½ for a draw and 0 for a loss. Thus, the definition also covers blindfold chess where players exchange only the coordinates when playing.

The expression ‘to become a sport’, precisely ties the competitive aspect to the concept of sports since we do not say ‘to become athletics’, suggesting you may exercise athletics without competing or scoring points. Since use of equipment, tools or devices is possible but not imperative, the competitive aspect appears more relevant as to if chess qualifies as a sport. By scoring points, one exerts oneself more, because more ‘is at stake’, in the words of Gadamer (1900-2002).17

The perceptive reader may have gleaned that the variety in activities in principle renders impossible to standardise requirements to physical performance and proficiency (embedded in the classical concept of idrett (athletics) and because any exertion (no matter how small) results in a physical effect, that any activity require a minimum of knowledge or competence and because anything can ‘become a sport’ (the competitive aspect), we risk an open or boundless concept of idrett or athletics, i.e., which comprises everything and nothing. However, if we limit ourselves to proficiency, reflected in ratings, and the competitive aspect, chess (and high jump!) fulfils this requirement or perhaps NIF don’t suppose chess players compete in the right way?

The debate over whether chess is a sport and/or athletics (idrett) or ‘just a game’, may be more significant than what first meets the eye and as so many other contexts, it’s all about the money. Doing sports or athletics is considered desirable with athletes serving as examples and role models. Sports and athletics are thought to develop a host of qualities, attributes and characteristics, e.g. team spirit, perseverance, ability to plan/analyse and carry out, not to mention the noble art of defeat, i.e., it’s not the winning that counts but the taking part etc. If chess, as we have seen, lends itself to be defined as sports and athletics, chess may attract commercial attention (read: sponsorships).

Conclusion

The world being basically physical18, seems to challenge our understanding and perception of our activities as sport or athletics where chess can be defined as a sport because points are at stake, players are amused and entertained (the definition of sport) and equipment not being necessary, and athletics, not because we get in better physical shape by playing chess but because playing (tournament) chess involves physical performance and ‘know-how’, i.e., competence, skills and proficiency.

In a wider context and a broader perspective, recent discoveries on brain and consciousness suggest that the conceptual distinction between sport and athletics (‘idrett’) is less clear and/or meaningful than perhaps hitherto assumed.

Notes

  1. Loland as quoted in Skjervum, 2016; see also Bryhn, 2021; Falk & Torp, 1991, pp. 325-326.
  2. Bryhn, 2021; Falk & Torp, 1991, p. 325-326.
  3. ‘Sport’, n.d.-a, n.d.-b.
  4. ‘Sport’, n.d.-a.
  5. ‘Sport’, n.d.-b.
  6. Rognlien (as cited in Vesteng, 2012) appears to be under the impression that ‘athlete’ and ‘chess player’ are mutually exclusive.
  7. Fossum, 2013.
  8. Johan Kaggestad, (Norwegian athletics coach and TV commentator) as quoted in Holden & Hoff, 2012.
  9. Henrik Ingebrigtsen, 1500-meter runner, as quoted in Holden & Hoff, 2012.
  10. Merkle, n.d.; Staughton, 2022.
  11. ‘Clocking the Speed of Thought’, 1998; Tovée, 1994, pp. 1125-1127.
  12. Nørretranders, 1999, p. 119.
  13. ‘Karpov vs. Kasparov, 1984-85’, n.d.
  14. Analogous to David Hume’s thoughts on determinism; ‘same cause—same effect’ (Hoefer, 2016).
  15. Galaaen, 2001.
  16. Kaggestead as quoted in Holden & Hoff, 2012.
  17. Gadamer’s philosophical hermeneutics or theory of interpretation, formulated in his magnum opus, Truth and Method, (2013, pp. 106-178), deals with how we, through our prejudices, expectations and presuppositions, ‘encounter’ a work of art, say a painting or a text, and where this encounter jeopardises our understanding or interpretative framework, even if the painting is merely hanging on the wall. Think of a painting or a text that annoyed you or ticked you off. Congratulations, you’ve been played. A more convoluted point of bringing Gadamer into the discussion is that something may be at stake for both those who claim chess is a sport and those who claim chess is ‘just a game.’
  18. Neutral monism notwithstanding is a position from the philosophy of mind, claiming that mind as well as corporeal entities are two aspects of a singular substance, neither mental nor physical and, therefore, ‘neutral’ (Stubenberg, 2018).

Bibliography:

Bryhn, R. (19 January 2021). Idrett [Athletics]. In Store norske leksikon. https://snl.no/idrett 

Clocking the speed of thought. (28 May 1998). SCIENCEAGOGO.
http://www.scienceagogo.com/news/1998042803290data_trune_sys.html 

Falk. H. & Torp, A. (1991). Etymologisk ordbog over det norske og det danske sprog. [Ethymological dictionary on the Norwegian and Danish language]. Bjørn Ringstrøms antikvariat.

Fossum, W. (6 April 2013). –Sjakk er ikke idrett [Chess is not a sport]. Aftenposten..
http://www.aftenposten.no/meninger/debatt/i/5VxAm/--sjakk-er-ikke-idrett 

Gadamer, H. G. (2013). Truth and method. Bloomsbury Academic.

Galaaen, Ø.S. (2001). Emergens og autonomi: det mentales status i minimal fysikalisme [Emergentism and autonomy: the status of the mental in minimal physicalism] (Post-graduate thesis). University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.

Hoefer, C. (2016). Causal determinism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2016 ed.). Stanford University. https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/determinism-causal/

Holden, L. & Hoff, J. B. (21 December  2012). Kaggestad: -Sjakk er i høyeste grad idrett [Chess is a sport to the greatest extent].VG.
http://www.vg.no/sport/sjakk/kaggestad-sjakk-er-i-aller-hoyeste-grad-idrett/a/10048981/ 

Karpov vs Kasparov, 1984-85: The aborted match. (n.d.). Chessgames.com.
http://www.chessgames.com/perl/chess.pl?tid=55015

Merkle, R. C. (n.d.). Energy limits to the computational power of the human brain. Merkle.com. http://www.merkle.com/brainLimits.html

Merleau-Ponty, M. (2012). Phenomenology of perception. [D. A. Landes, Trans.]. Routledge. (Original work published 1945)

Nørretranders, T. (1999). The user illusion (J. Sydenham, Trans.). Penguin.

Skjervum, E (14 November 2016), Er sjakk idrett? [Is Chess Sport?]. Dagbladet.
https://www.dagbladet.no/sport/er-sjakk-idrett/65143421

Sport. (n.d.-a). In Wikipedia. Retrieved 26 September 2022, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport 

Sport. (n.d.-b). In Wikipedia. Retrieved 26 September 2022, from http://no.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sport  

Staughton, J. (17 January 2022.). The human brain vs. supercomputers… which one wins? Science ABC. Retrieved 26 September 2022 from https://www.scienceabc.com/humans/the-human-brain-vs-supercomputers-which-one-wins.html

Stubenberg, L. (2018). Neutral monism. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2018 ed.), https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2018/entries/neutral-monism/

Tovée, M. J. (1994). How fast is the speed of thought? Current Biology, 4(12), 
http://www.science.smith.edu/departments/neurosci/courses/bio330/pdf/94CurrBiolTovee.pdf

Vesteng, C. (21 December 2012). Idrettspresidenten: - Carlsen er ingen idrettsutøver [President of the Norwegian Athletic Association (NIF): - Carlsen is no athlete]. VG.
https://www.vg.no/sport/i/E7dyl/idrettspresidenten-carlsen-er-ingen-idrettsutoever


Rune Vik-Hansen

Born in 1968, Rune Vik-Hansen graduated from the University of Tromsø in 1999 with a thesis on Heidegger's concept of Dasein. Other fields of interests are metaphysics, ontology, theory of science, political ethics, and the philosophy of mind and free will.

Besides having worked as a teacher on different levels, Vik-Hansen also writes philosophical texts, chronicles, papers and essays as well as children’s literature. Periodically he takes part in public debates.

Photo: Anniken Vestby

 

 


Born in 1968, Rune Vik-Hansen graduated from the University of Tromsø in 1999 with a thesis on Heidegger's concept of Dasein. Other fields of interests are metaphysics, ontology, theory of science and political ethics. Besides having worked as a teacher on different levels, Vik-Hansen also writes philosophical texts, chronicles, papers and essays as well as children’s literature.
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Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/22/2022 11:04
@Arzi & tauno

We forgot but may we poin you to more of our chess philosophical work?

For example: https://en.chessbase.com/post/pattern-recognition-fact-or-fiction

The article discusses the concept of patterns, pattern recognition and questions if chess is as readily accessible and easily mastered as the concepts of patterns and pattern recogntion may suggest.

@tauno:

Regarding aikido as a sport, we would love to see their argument. According to our definition and understanding, aikido may more seem closer athletics:)
tauno tauno 10/22/2022 09:46
(edited)

@Vik-Hansen, @arzi and others. Many interesting perspectives on this topic. We raised many issues. It was a pleasure to participate.

P.S. Aikido is officially recognized as a sport (no points at stake).
https://www.aikido-international.org/about/
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/21/2022 01:46
(Edited)

@arzi, tauno and the rest of the gang.

First off: We find it very nice, not to mention refreshing, to discuss our work with you guys, first, because we are not at all accustomed to this and, second, in Norway, at all levels, what could have been a most stimulating discussion is usually cut short and concluded even before it has begun by, 'Chess it not a sport. Period.' So, thank you for being so forthcoming and open-minded.

@arzi: Agreed. Based on physical performance alone, tournament chess, indeed, qualifies as a sport. Playing a tournament game is easily comparable to taking an 8 hour exam.
arzi arzi 10/21/2022 01:13
Agreed, it was an interesting topic.
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/21/2022 12:11
@tauno

(Edited)

Allocate points and yoga and aikido will turn into sport. With no points at stake, the activities are just leisure activities.

Defining sport appears easier to define than defining art, since there already are historical/traditional critieria; the ethymology of the term/word/concept and the ascription of physical effort or exertion. The challenge is just to sort out how all these criteria relate to each other and to see if any activity may fit the definition.

Then, if the activity does not qualify as a sport, is it a problem? If so, then what?
arzi arzi 10/21/2022 07:47
To tauno and Vik-Hansen, when I had played chess in some tournament, a game which lasted 6 hours, my heart beat between 60 and 150, I felt quite exhausted after the game. If somebody had said it was as easy as children´s game, no sport, I would have started to pity children and taken the new hobby, to run marathon. That is why I think chess is definitely sports, for me at least, no matter what other people says.
tauno tauno 10/21/2022 12:58
@Vik-Hansen

Power Yoga and Aikido can be physically very demanding and challenging, but there are no points at stake…

I think the problem of defining sports is similar to defining art. No one can define art, but one can define isms. In sports there are no isms, but there are different types of sports. And in the same way as in sports, it is discussed in the arts which isms can be called art. Is derivative art art and if not what is it? And what about the paintings made by idiots, monkeys or elephants? The question may sound trivial, but it is important for culture and sports policy. And what can be shown in galleries and seen in sports arenas.
tauno tauno 10/20/2022 11:04
@arzi

An interesting question. Is it necessary to have a body to be able to do sports? And can a sport where you lack a body be recognized as a real sport. Perhaps we should send this question to the International Paralympic Committee.

We could place two brains (on life support) in an aquarium where they would play blind chess. The moves would be sent between players using Elon Musk's neuralink. And by using the same technology they would be sent out (note out, nothing goes in) to a large screen with a chessboard in the same room, where the audience is watching.

A major advantage of this form of chess is that the audience and commentators can speculate out loud about the next move, and different variations can be shown on the screen in a live broadcast, since the players cannot see or hear anything (they have no eyes and ears, after all).

Cheating would be largely eliminated, as no radiation or electrical impulses can be sent in to the aquarium from outside. (Someone might wonder about some type of vibration devices, but you forgot that the players can't sense them anyway since they are missing both body and sense organs.) However, there is a risk of the brains switching places, or that someone may pick up a wrong brain from the storehouse, but it is considered very small.

The only downside is that rewarding the players with money is rather pointless, as it cannot be used in this environment. Instead, players are rewarded in the form of extra nutrition, while the winners also receive mind-expanding chemicals.
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/20/2022 10:34
@tauno

Indeed. Lillebjørn Nilsen, a Norwegian troubadour, said, and this is many years ago, that being a perfomer, on stage, during concert, can easily be comparted to being an athlete on the track, regarding the physical performance. Opera, I think, is mostly a competition in all these talent contest around.

Breakdance becoming an Olympc sport is new to me. Really? As we say in Norwegian: Jøss!
And, of course, we agree wholeheartedly to your last paragraph. Doing sports can be character building and forming. Sports teach us a lot of different qualities that will benefit us in other areas and walks of life.

Many competitions not being recognised as sport may be due to not being familiar with possible conceptual issues associated with the concept or it may not be all that important to these competitions and participants that their activites are recognised as a sport. And, don't forget, this is a particular Norwegian discussion:) I am not aware of this debate raging anywhere else as it does in Norway,

The problem is to formalise every aspect of every activity all into one single definition while at the same time being measurable to distinguish sports from other activitives that do not help develop the same kind of qualities. And because of possible conceptual and formalisation issues, we may ask if the concept of sports is as clear cut as hitherto assumed.

There is also a financial side to this: If we can turn any activity into sports by competing about points, and doing sports is desirable and something we should encourage, we would, eventually, run out money:)
tauno tauno 10/20/2022 08:56
@Vik-Hansen

I don't know if there are any opera competitions, I'm not that familiar with it, but you know there are cooking, singing, dancing and many other types of competitions that are not traditionally considered sports and it's not clear why.

Perhaps it is still better to use intuition, common sense and consensus in these borderline cases when the definitions are either too narrow or too broad. As in the case of chess.

Otherwise almost everything will soon be called sport because in this modern society there are points at stake in almost everything.

By the way, did you know that breakdancing has become an official Olympic sport? Hard to say why, but it may be for the same reason as some of the new winter sports: There was so much drug abuse among the young "athletes" that the Olympic Committee decided to recognize those hobbies as sports. And now, several years later, drug abuse has decreased significantly and a large number of these athletes are now clean. And not only that; several of them have become rich and very popular thanks to their new status.

All respect for definitions and intuitive feelings, but also morale-boosting, pragmatic and economic aspects can be reasons to have some forms of competitions recognized as sports.
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/20/2022 06:59
@arzi

As long as points are being contested, it would seem to qualify as sports, irrespective of the 'physical manifestation' of the activity, if that makes sense.

Take shooting, for instance? People lying on the ground, using one finger. Physical exertion? Sports?

The discussion now seems to move in circles: If physical effort were the basic, or principled, criterion qualifying an activity as a sport, we would seem to get one definitio per activity, since the the physical effort varies between activities. What does not vary, however, is the allocation or contesting of points.
arzi arzi 10/20/2022 01:57
Wikipedia: sports"Sport pertains to any form of competitive physical activity or game that aims to use, maintain, or improve physical ability and skills while providing enjoyment to participants and, in some cases, entertainment to spectators."

All physical movements are movements controlled by the brain. If the brain is removed from this equation, the movements continue with external control (computer), so is it still a sport? What if the body is removed from the control of the brain and the brain is given a virtual body that does what the brain tells it to do in virtual world, then is it still a sport?

A paralyzed person does the same in the virtual world as a healthy person in the real world. Don't they both play sports?
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/20/2022 01:57
@tauno

Regarding singing, how about opera?:)

As long as points are at stake, anyhing, , in principle, irrespective of amusement/entertainment (which is the original or ethymological meaning of the word 'sport') or physical effort seems possible to turn into a sport. The problem is that allocating points in activities not usually associated with sports, like baking bread or making coffee, runs counter to our intuition as to what should count as sport.

So, again, points at stake seems, appears the main criterion?
tauno tauno 10/19/2022 09:08
@Vik-Hansen

Of course, there are also problems with consensus too. In some authoritarian states, a small elite decides what the consensus is.

Amusement and entertainment seem a bit strange criteria for sports, at first glance, but they have an important function: they can cause sports that are not popular enough to be automatically disqualified, so I accept it.

Tradition is unfortunately one reason why some sports stubbornly stick around. Let's take discus throw, for example. An old and ridiculous sport, and not particularly entertaining either.

Physical or mental effort are not necessarily the only factors in sport required to be successful. Many times other skills can be much more important. In some sports, precision and perfection are decisive - no muscles or brains needed. And sometimes even artistry, style and beauty are required to score points.

There are also organized competitions in singing, cooking and dancing, for example. Well, some forms of dance can probably count as sports, but singing and cooking? They don't feel like sports. I don't know if they should be included as well, or should we add something to the definition to avoid such borderline cases?

Then you can also have competitions in politics, the votes can probably be counted as points. It's very popular and can be rather entertaining at times. But maybe not a sport because it's almost never the best man who wins, and most of the participants are just lucky amateurs even at national level.
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/19/2022 05:55
@tauno

Indeed. However, as pointed out in a different post, consensus may differ, more so than defintions, so if we leave it to consensus we risk a different definition every other day, and tradition has never been an argument, now has it?:)

However, a surprising point now occurred to us: Analogue to the question of how much physical effort is sufficient or required for something to qualify as sport, we seem to get the same problem regarding how to decide how amused or entertained we be by an activity for the activity to qualify as a sport. The problem, in principle, seems to be about measurment, irrespective of it being physical effort or being amused or entertained.

The main purpose of the article is simply to show that the physical requirement for something to qualify a sport may not be as clear cut or justified as perhaps hitherto assumed.
tauno tauno 10/18/2022 09:40
@Vik-Hansen. That makes sense. But I think what counts as a sport depends more on consensus than definition. And consensus is not the same in all countries. Today, chess is recognized as a sport in most countries, but not in England, for example. But there are petitions going on. When they are noticed in the major newspapers, it is only a matter of time before opinion changes, and I believe that chess will soon be recognized as a sport in that country as well.
arzi arzi 10/18/2022 01:23
Is Chess a Sport? Of course it is. If your heart beats over 150 times per min. for few hours time in a game, I would think that a sport. If you lie on the bed with virtual glasses on your eyes and play a game in the imaginary world, does that mean that you are not doing sports, because you are not doing the same thing as when you are outside in the real world?
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/18/2022 01:17
@tauno:

"By the way, are goggles in nude swimming competitions enough to be considered a sport? Or are goggles prohibited equipment in that kind of… sport?"

No, just wearing different garments, devices, gears, or gadget, does not qualify or turn an activity into a sport. Some kind of context appears to be required, and this is where competition/contest and points come in: Regardless of attire or accessories, with no points at stake, the activity does not seem to qualify as a sport. Does this make sense?
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/14/2022 06:07
“... it is of the utmost importance that chess is recognized as a sport ...”

There are plusses and there are minuses.

Personally, I would not qualify an activity that may he carried out by proxy.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/14/2022 06:03
Re.:
https://web.archive.org/web/20111028112912......

“The sport proposed should in no way be harmful to any living creatures.”

Excludes sports fishing, bull fighting, and any horse racing involving a whip, but not eating hot wings competition.
tauno tauno 10/14/2022 05:46
@mc1483. I agree that your definition of sport may be correct at the Olympic or elite level covering the most of the widely recognized sports. Except that many of the best sportsmen and -women cannot make a living out of it even at that level. (There are also natural talents who can compete at the highest level without much training, although this is rare.)

But there are many sports at the local and amateur level, and even at the national and international level, where none of your suggestions are necessarily correct.

However, from our point of view, it is of the utmost importance that chess is recognized as a sport, so we must make an effort to find a definition that covers chess as well, but without it covering all possible crap sports. - Otherwise we have to settle for continuing to call it sport for purely pragmatic reasons and say that there is no rule without exception.
mc1483 mc1483 10/14/2022 01:24
Here there is a good definition of sport:
https://web.archive.org/web/20111028112912/http://www.sportaccord.com/en/members/index.php?idIndex=32&idContent=14881
I myself consider it sport if:
- there are a lot of competitions with important prizes (not necessarily money)
- there are rankings, derived from competitions' results
- to compete at high level a lot of training is needed
- participants can make a living out of it (professionism)
tauno tauno 10/13/2022 08:36
When I was a kid, we used to compete in our family who is the first one to spot a new commercial on TV. One point to whoever screamed first. (I should add that at the time there were only two TV channels and new commercials were not that common.)

If someone thinks this little family activity of ours meets all the criteria required to be called a sport, I have no problem with that.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/13/2022 05:26
@thanks to both - brilliant!

Agree with Hübner, to the surprise of nobody.
tauno tauno 10/13/2022 04:30
Der Spiegel, 11.12.2008
https://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/outrage-over-ivanchuk-the-great-chess-doping-scandal-a-595819.html

“But when a chess player nears the end of a match and comes under mounting pressure, he can hyperventilate, and his pulse can shoot up to 160 and his arterial blood pressure to 200. In that situation, beta-blockers could help a player keep his head clear.

German grandmaster Helmut Pfleger, an internist and psychotherapist from Munich, says that because a player cannot know in advance exactly when these symptoms will begin, "a performance-enhancing dose is hardly possible."

Pfleger tested the effects of beta-blockers on himself in 1979, in a match against Russian player Boris Spasski. "My blood pressure and pulse plunged, and my game fell apart completely."”

Spassky, Boris V – Pfleger, Helmut, 1979
https://www.chessbox.in/chessgame/spassky-boris-v-pfleger-helmut-2/

Chessmaniac, May27, 2013
http://www.chessmaniac.com/chess-and-drug-testing/

“Chess and Drug Testing

[…] Several years ago, GM Robert Huebner stopped playing for the German national chess team in protest against doping tests. He considers doping tests for chess players to be a bureaucratic show of power, and that the tests are degrading.”

NEPO and CARLSEN comment on DOPING in chess:
https://youtu.be/R78rQCH89Tc
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/13/2022 10:25
As Maroczy proved against Korchnoi. No, I can't confirm it was Pfleger.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/13/2022 01:22
Of course, you need to be alive. But then again - there could be a workaround.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/13/2022 01:19
“ The physical training aspect is obviously missing.“

I played once vs. a person suffering from multiple sclerosis. Bound to a wheelchair, able to speak but that was it. So, I had to execute his moves as well as my own.

I got trounched. An odd experience, being forced to beat yourself.. A lesson as well, never underestimate.

So much for the physical aspect.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/13/2022 01:10
@fritz

You can confirm it was Pleger? I only recall “german GM” for certain, but Frederic’s mentioning the name rang a bell, In the Canyons of my Mind.
Eine-Welt-Staat Eine-Welt-Staat 10/12/2022 11:45
Chess isn't sport. The physical training aspect is obviously missing.
But the definitions of terms have become arbitrary these days, so go ahead ...
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 10/12/2022 09:09
Jacob,
About your Pfleger story, there is also one about Euwe, doing badly in the 1948 world championship because of starting it exhausted. So desperately he resorted to amphetamines in a game against Smyslov. In a dead lost adjourned position, he said to his second, Constant Orbaan: "Okay, let's find the win".
If the use of doping is a proof that chess is a sport, these stories nail it. However, if doping should be beneficial, maybe not...
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/12/2022 07:27
“It is a sport because there are competitions all over the world, rankings, national/world championships, complex selections of players, high prize money and so on.”

So, it’s not the game, but the frame into which it is put. Could have been checkers, just as well. Chinese checkers. Then that would have been a sport.

I thought all along the discussion pertained to chess as such. It appears it doesn’t. Take away rating and prizes, or just high prizes - and we’re back to Bonaparte vs. Josephine. Not a sport anymore.

The en passant rule, however, would not change.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/12/2022 06:55
A german master (Pfleger? I am not sure) suspected his level of excitement was detrimental to his game of chess. So he experimented with tranquilizers, self-medicated.

It worked. When he resigned, his pulse did not exceed 45.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/12/2022 03:00
In the biosphere, you have flora and fauna. And then you have funghi, which are neither.

In this context, you have sport and non-sport.

Being both, chess is neither - if it excludes being the other.

In short, "chess is chess". Quote B. Larsen, I think, when posed a question along the same lines.

Something unique. As this short story, of which I don't know the provenance, is a reminder (from memory):

"I'm bored" says the Devil to God, in the garden of Eden.
"How can you be? Eden is perfect" says God
"When you are omniscient, there are no surprises. You know what is going to happen."
"Is that a problem?"
"Not as such, but wouldn't be fun NOT knowing what's going to happen? If you could turn a corner, and not know what's on the other side. If you ..." the Devil carries on.
"Wait a minute" says God, interrupting, for that is his right. "Wait a minute, while I invent the game of chess"
....
"It's of no use" objects the Devil. "You will still know everything, including every next move. The outcome is given."
"For this game" says God, "I will limit my omniscience"
pfitschigogerl pfitschigogerl 10/12/2022 02:27
@tauno :))) Well put.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/12/2022 02:20
Not every contest is a sport.
tauno tauno 10/12/2022 01:31
@Vik-Hansen. Many children's games also fulfill the 3 conditions you mentioned. But since I'm a little older, my favorite sports are the American Song Contest and the Miss Universe beauty pageant.

By the way, are goggles in nude swimming competitions enough to be considered a sport? Or are goggles prohibited equipment in that kind of… sport?
Vik-Hansen Vik-Hansen 10/12/2022 11:42
@Everyone

Of all 3 requirements, or stipulations, for something to be a sport ((1) points at stake, (2) people are amused or entertained and (3) the use of equipment), the first requirement (points at stake) seems more essential than the others. How so?

Overemphasising the physical aspect derails the discussion, whereas the article, on the contrary, argues that the physical aspect, which traditionally, has dominated the discussion, may not be all that essential or relevant.

Some compare chess to baking bread, preparing a fancy dinner, making a cup of coffee, engaging in a conversation using a white board and so on, since all make use of equipment and people may be amused or entertained. However, as long as no points are at stake, these activities do not meaningfully qualify to be called a sport.

Precisely when points are at stake, the expression 'to become a sport' comes into effect, and traditionally, again, very few would refer to such activities as a sport, so the counter-examples do not appear too relevant.

Chess, however, appears to fullfil all three requirements; points are at stake, players are amused/ entertained and equipment is used. Even blindfold chess qualifies as a sport, because points are at stake, people being amused/entertained and the use of coordinates may qualify as equipment but has, indeed, a peculiar ring to it.

To those claiming ‘In the end it comes down to whatever definition one comes up with’, we may object that too easy is to define sport in such a way that nothing qualifies as a sport: ‘Any activity involving combined harvesters, blue unicorns and penguins, is a sport’, and since no activity complies with this definition, no activity qualifies as a sport.

Therefore, for the sake of clarity, easier seems to stick to the traditional lines of argument and see how the different, usual, stipulations relate to each other and the issue at hand.
tauno tauno 10/12/2022 09:16
@Frederic. Shoplifting can also raise blood pressure, heart rate, and increase adrenaline and dopamine levels as well as activate the fight, bite, scratch or flight response.

Sure, stress and overexertion can sometimes be a problem for the full-timers, but if you work out a couple of times a week and don't compete too often with rival gangs, the health effects should be positive.

The same probably applies to chess as well, so at least for that reason it should be seen as a sport.
Jacob woge Jacob woge 10/12/2022 08:36
“Why is the fact that somebody is suffering from stress at all relevant to the question if an activity can be called a sport?”

I don’t see the relevance either. At all.

If you don’t like stressful situations, play without a clock. Use a calendar. It’s still chess.

The birth of the French defence/opening took place in a telegraph game between London and Paris. 1. e5 e3 (black moved first). Questions of stress and sport absent.

As stated below, the chess/sport issue has to do with money. Nothing else. The possible access to funds is the one and only reason.

Unfortunately, it has brought about ridiculousness, like doping control. Taking away the focus from the true problem chess is facing, namely playing with assistance.