Sometimes (e.g. at some schools) chess is considered to be a sport. Is chess a sport? I view sport as a physical activity.

For instance, if a doctor asks you "Are you doing any sports?" would your answer "Yes, I play chess twice a week!"? It sounds a bit strange in my ears.

Is chess a sport?`

If yes, then why and to what extent?


  • 3
    chess.about.com/od/chesshistory/a/Is-Chess-A-Sport.htm call it whatever you want, it requires much more effort than shooting which is an Olympic or golf
    – Lynob
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 16:58
  • Who recognizes chess as a sport? Probably you should ask them. :)
    – JiK
    Commented Mar 4, 2014 at 18:26
  • Well, if Show Jumping(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Show_jumping) is a competition that makes part of the Olympics(with the equestrian sport title, and the Horse does all the effort to beat the obstacles) I see no harm on Chess being a sport :) - Maybe, we should create the "Board Sports" and put Chess and Checkers into this group... :)
    – user13443
    Commented Jun 2, 2017 at 20:48

12 Answers 12


The question of whether chess is a sport depends entirely on the context of the question. In certain situations, it may be useful to classify chess as a sport. For example, as you mention, in some schools chess is considered a sport because it matches the requirements of a sport in that context - an activity that pupils can engage in outside of academic learning that essentially keeps them out of trouble. Yet in other contexts, as when sport means to exercise some muscle group or improve fitness or some physical ability, chess would not typically be considered a sport.

On a deeper, philosophical level, the question is meaningless. "Sport" has no objective, unambiguous definition, it is a cultural concept that changes in meaning depending on time, culture, fashion and many other factors.


Early on, chess is clearly just a game, but as you advance competitively, its character changes. For me, that change happened when I was about 1800-2000.

I was a ranked (state, not nationally) junior tennis player in the early 1970's, so I know what a sport feels like, and master-level chess takes just as much out of me as tennis did when I was a kid. Part of that is because I cannot sit still, and thus, I walk around a lot between moves, but most of it is just the tension.

In addition, the competitive day in chess is longer than most other sports. It is not uncommon for round one to start at 9 a.m., and sometimes I finish the second game at 10 p.m. at night.

Just because you do not run a 100-yard dash during the game, that does not mean that your body is not working harder physically, even though you cannot see it overtly. During the first Karpov vs Kasparov match during 1984-1985, Karpov, not a big man to begin with, lost 22 pounds during the course of the 5-month match due to the stress and other factors. They said he looked like "death" at the end of the match.

In a recent ESPN article on Fabiano Caruana, they noted "In October 2018, Polar, a U.S.-based company that tracks heart rates, monitored chess players during a tournament and found that 21-year-old Russian grandmaster Mikhail Antipov had burned 560 calories in two hours of sitting and playing chess -- or roughly what Roger Federer would burn in an hour of singles tennis."

They also said this, which is phenomenal: "a chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories a day while playing in a tournament."

So, while the tennis burned more calories, the chess certainly was no slouch in that regard, and we play a lot longer. If chess is not a physical sport, even if it is not obvious, why is fitness so important? It would not be if it were not a sport. Mental exertion, clearly, also manifests itself physically.

  • 1
    Fischer trained harder physically than many athletes. Chess Life in the 50s had an article done by a psychologist who measured what chess players encountered physically during a match. It was not tiddly winks easy on them.
    – yobamamama
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 0:04
  • 1
    Interesting that they talked about that way back then too. Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 0:06
  • I met the psychologist at the Chess Divan in DC. He was in the army then. But still played chess. Remember the article from reading Chess Life or was it Chess Life and Review back then?
    – yobamamama
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 0:58
  • 1
    an IM told me he loosed 5kg on a tournament.
    – user18196
    Commented Jan 1, 2020 at 10:27

According to Wikipedia, sport is defined as follows

Sport (or sports) is all forms of usually competitive physical activity which, through casual or organised participation, aim to use, maintain or improve physical ability and skills while providing entertainment to participants, and in some cases, spectators.[2] Hundreds of sports exist, from those requiring only two participants, through to those with hundreds of simultaneous participants, either in teams or competing as individuals.

According to Google definition

Sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.

Thus, it seems to boil down to whether chess is a physical activity and skill. To begin with, as far as I know, the majority of the world's population does not regard chess as a sport but rather as a board game. Yet, when focusing on the skill set required to be great at chess, the physical factors are significant. Perhaps not as much the actual motion of moving the pieces and pressing the chess clock. Although there is a certain skill in executing your moves quickly and flawlessly. Yet more in terms of physical endurance. The ability to stay focused and sharp for a long period of time (e.g. 6 hours). The ability to make 40 or more good decisions during that time span. The mind set to win the game. There is also an undeniable amount of entertainment in top level chess!

My answer is that chess can be defined as a sport. But it is not considered to be a sport, because it is a board game, and board games are not associated to sports.

  • 2
    +1 but I don't think the fact that you need to be moderately physically fit to be able to stay sharp for a long time really counts as making chess a physical activity. For example, sitting school exams is competitive and also requires a high degree of concentration for extended periods of time but I doubt anyone would call that a sport. Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 16:01

I would argue that chess is not a sport, since it doesn't require anything more than the absolute minimum of physical co-ordination. In fact, it doesn't even require that – one can perfectly well play by announcing one's moves and having somebody else move the physical pieces.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov is annoyed that curling, often referred to as "chess on ice", is included in the Olympics but chess isn't. I'd argue that the fundamental difference is that, in curling, somebody who has never played before wouldn't be able to figure out what "move" to play and wouldn't be able to execute that "move" even if told exactly where to put the stone; in chess, a novice has no idea what move to make but, if Magnus Carlsen tells them "Put the queen on that square", they could do that without any difficulty.

On the other hand, administratively, it often makes sense to classify chess as a sport. For example, the International Olympic Committee includes FIDE on its list of recognized sporting federations. And it would probably make sense for an organization that funds sports for children to fund chess too, since playing chess has many of the benefits of any individual sport on a child's development, with the obvious exception of physical exercise.


The answer is also totally dependent on your definition of a sport. My definition is: A competition between two or more opponents that requires physical, mental, and emotional strain on those participating.

Sports like Baseball requires a large amount of mental strategy and planning. For example; sacrifice bunts, intentional walks, stealing bases, and field positioning based on the batters batting record.

In Chess people dont think that sitting at a board takes a toll on as person, but try sitting there for hours on end and sometimes for multiple day in a row.

Rauan Sagit is right in saying that by standard definitions chess is not a sport because it is classified a a board game. I refer back to my original statement in saying that it all depends on your definition.

To give another prevalent world example: the world of eSports (i.e. Video games) can playing video games be a sport?

I hope this helps :D

  • I'd argue that playing video games is closer to being a sport than chess is: video games require physical co-ordination, whereas chess doesn't. Commented Dec 13, 2014 at 16:20
  • coordination of your chess pieces ;) Commented Dec 15, 2014 at 18:25

In terms of societal perception, I would imagine that for the vast majority of chess players (90%) chess is more of a hobby than an actual sport.

For the other 10% which are essentially professionals, chess can be defined and perceived as a sport.

Though as someone else mentioned, the idea of a "sport" is ultimately subjective.


Chess is one of the few human endeavors that formally falls into all three categories of 'Art', 'Sport' and 'Science'. (I cannot actually think of another)

"Sport" from the French desport meaning "leisure", is generally understood to be defined as a skillful competitive leisure activity whose rules and norms are either regulated/adjudicated by an objective governing body or understood by agreement or convention.

NOTE The requirement for sport to display skill is frequently misunderstood to be restricted to displays of physical skills only. However this false definition of 'skill' ignores the great spectrum of human endeavor and focus's only one a single facet. Displays of mental skill or general skills such as horseback riding are included as human capabilities (or skill).

Consider motorsport:

  1. Does motorsport exhibit competition?
  2. Does motorsport require skill?
  3. Is motorsport a leisure activity? (Is motorsport essential to human survival?)
  4. Is motorsport regulated by an objective governing body?

If 'YES" was answered to the above questions, motorsport is a sport. Now apply the same questions to chess:

  1. Does chess exhibit competition?
  2. Does chess require skill?
  3. Is chess a leisure activity? (Is chess essential for human survival?)
  4. Is chess regulated by an objective governing body?

If 'YES" was answered to the above questions, chess is a entirely a sport. (Now ask why is Chess a science, or an art!)

  • So professional sport isn't sport because it's somebody's job, rather than leisure? And do you have a citation for the properties of sport that you're claiming are "generally understood"? For example, if you ask Google to define sport, it says "an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment," which mentions nothing about leisure or governing bodies and includes a requirement for physical exertion. Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 23:11
  • How does that follow from what was written above? You realize professional sport is entertainment right? Therefore it's a leisure activity.
    – user34445
    Commented Apr 8, 2017 at 23:32
  • Watching professional sport is a leisure activity. Playing professional sport is a job. Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 0:06
  • What does professional sport accomplish? It entertains. There may be professional athletes engaged in the activity but the purpose of the activity itself it leisure. Don't mistake those engaged in the activity from the activity itself.
    – user34445
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 0:14
  • And you understand I'm NOT saying professional sport is not a sport? Precisely because professional sport entertains, it is a leisure activity and so is very much a sport according to the definition.
    – user34445
    Commented Apr 9, 2017 at 0:20

Chess is a Sport or not depends upon the Person's perspective . I second to all the above view points and agree to everyone . Truly it does not go by the blind definition of Sport as

" an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. "

Because Chess is mainly played inside a room which only needs your Eyes and Brain it cannot be coined as a Sport entirely . Some say that it is a gymnasium of the mind others may agree it is an Art .

Now my Perspective of Chess .

" Chess is exactly a Mathematical Exercise where we solve the Board one move after another . It is more of a kind of Study where we learn from Basic Principles to Advanced level . It reminds me of School Mathematics where we used to solve all problems after an adequate knowledge of the Lesson or after some experience,for an example any chapter of Integration or Permutation/Combination . When we encounter a lower rated opponent it is equivalent to the first problems of the Exercise which were easy to solve . The higher rated opponents were the toughest Questions or the Entrance Exams which after a lot of hard work , dedication and practice were the best accomplishments . "

I have derived the above from Bobby Fischer's Quote " Play the Board & not the Man " .

  • But that definition is also flawed, when I go out cycling or running by myself it's definitely sport, but it's not competing with anybody. Commented Apr 7, 2017 at 21:46
  • My complete def might be a bit long but you can play Chess as like solving a Complex Mathematical puzzle where Pieces , Squares and many other tactical motifs are combined . Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 14:58

Nobody argues that the main sports organization is the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC organizes the Olympiad every 4 years. The FIDE was recognized by the IOC in June 1999: https://olympics.com/ioc/recognised-international-federations/world-chess-federation In 2005 the FIDE became a full member of the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF): https://gaisf.sport/members/international-chess-federation/

Moreover, the IOC organizes Olympic Continental Championships in every continent. Chess was part of the Asian Olympics Games in 2022: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2022_Asian_Games Chess is also part of the African Olympics Games: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Games

In many countries of the world, chess is part and vote in the national olympic elections. However, it is not the case in the Anglosphere: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

If shooting is part of the Summer Olympic Games, chess could be part as well. In my perspective, the only reason that we do not see chess in the Olympiad is that in the time of The Cold War, the Soviet Union and the socialist countries had an incredible advantage in chess, and the West did not want to lose those medals in the Olympic Games because it was extremely competitive.


Chess has been variously described as a game, an art, a science and a sport. If you're playing for fun, it's a game. If the aesthetic considerations predominate, it could be considered art. But if winning is the primarily objective, for example in a match or tournament, you could consider it a sport in spite of the fact that little physical exertion is involved such as would be found in an athletic contest. But this latter interpretation is not universally accepted, and purists tend to denigrate it. Chess is not in the Olympics for that reason but instead has its own Olympiad.


I agree, many people will not regard it as a sport, but the exertion of the mind can in fact, under several definitions of sport, count. Ultimately, however, the meaning of sport is really subjective.

  • Welcome to Chess SE! As it is your answer looks highly subjective, could you please expand it and add references? Commented Nov 30, 2017 at 6:21

This question reminds me of the age old questions "is this art" and "is this literature"?

The answer is that it really doesn't matter. Words are just words, and their exact meanings depend on context (how, when, and where) and opinion.

Many people seem to love to argue about these things, but I say enjoy yourself. Enjoy chess. Enjoy running. Enjoy painting. Enjoy pictures. Enjoy writing. Enjoy reading. Call it all whatever you like.

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