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The Meeple Guild: Is chess a sport?

If so; what does that mean for other games?
Chess set
Chess is a board game with aspirations of one day being in the Olympics. (File Photo)

YORKTON - Recently a story in Yorkton This Week noted the top players in a chess tournament at St. Paul’s School in the city.

As avid gamers we like seeing young people involved in board games in an era we realize the lure of video games is huge – one amongst us actually wiles away hours with a game controller in hand too.

There is nothing wrong with video games per say. They can be challenging, requiring a certain skill set, and often through online play can have a social aspect too.

But, there is something about board games, played across a table with friends, which offer something different as well.

For the senior players in our Meeple Guild it is perhaps simply what we know best, growing up as we did before even the first ‘pong’ tables hit the market, and before we could drop quarters into game slots to play Pacman or Centipede or Galaxian when the first video arcades opened in our home towns.

Personally, I cut my board game teeth on checkers with my grandfather, and crokinole and rod hockey with dad, followed by cribbage.

Like the students at St. Paul’s School, I learned chess in my middle school years, games filling many noon hours at Centennial Junior High School.

That is probably where my deep love of abstract strategy games grew out of.

Chess of course holds something of a special place among board games in terms of stature, with national championships, world events, and event efforts for it to become an Olympic sport.

The latter idea has always been an intriguing one. Is chess a sport?

If you were to ask fans of sports such as hockey, football or lacrosse, I suspect the answer to the question would generally be no.

Ask board gamers and the reply might skew to the affirmative.

Certainly what is generally accepted as sport has broadened over the years – rhythmic gymnastics, trampolining, ballroom and break dancing and even skateboarding seen as legitimate sports by far more today than a couple of decades ago.

Does chess require skill?

Most certainly, with the best in the world – such as grandmaster and world champion Magnue Carlsen – devoting lifes to the game/sport.

Of course, if we accept chess is a sport – and to be truthful I am undecided on whether it is or not – then we would open something of a Pandora’s Box for a governing body such as the Olympic Committee.

If chess – the western version we typically know best – were declared a sport, then it stands to reason Shogi (Japanese chess) and Xiangqi (Chinese chess), would likewise be sports.

And if chess variants are sports, then Go, seen by many as the greatest of abstract strategy games, would assuredly be a sport too.

Suddenly the gates could open to dozens, if not hundreds of abstract strategy games – those game not relying on lucky card draws or dice rolls to influence victory – becoming ‘sports’.

For example, Hive – a modern gem to my mind -- is in many ways just a modern take on chess ideas.

And then why not Bao, International checkers, Abalone, Camelot, Tak, Tzaar, etc?

It will be because of the probable flood of other games following chess that the game will never be an Olympic sport – and while most are not likely to see it as a sport because where to draw the line is so uncertain.

Still, chess is a phenomenon of sorts not just surviving but remaining vibrant for hundreds of years, and as board gamers The Meeple Guild congratulates any young person learning and enjoying chess through school clubs.

Hopefully, they’ll try some of the other great abstract strategy games, and locally we would always be up to demo a few (contact dulok44@hotmail.com).

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