Many of us are familiar with chess, but would it be considered a game or a sport?

As an avid chess player myself, I’ve definitely heard the question multiple times before: “Is chess even a sport?” And to be honest, I really wasn’t sure how to answer. While chess can be played competitively, it is also commonly found in households. So I decided to find out once and for all the answer to this confusing question!



Chess is known as a tabletop game that is played all over the world. No one knows it’s true origin, though some say it might have evolved from a game called Chaturanga, which had a lot of the basic components of chess today. Over time, chess has become popular, being found in most large retail stores. Chess is also a very competitive game, with tournaments being held all the time. Probably even as you read this article. Some of the grand chess players known today are people like Magnus Carlsen, who was given the title of grandmaster by the International Chess Federation in 2004.

Chess is a fairly simple game to learn. Two players play on opposite sides of the board and each have the same number of pieces, ordered the same way, but the pieces are colored black for one player and white for the other. Different pieces have different types of power (things they can do, places they can go, etc.), which the player uses to try and attack/capture the opposing king. Once the king cannot escape from the opposing player’s attack (and none of the pieces can save the king in any way), the game ends. The game ends by checkmate, stalemate (when the king isn’t directly under attack but cannot move anywhere), resignation by one player,  if the player runs out of time, or other ways based on the chess tournament or game. If you want a beginner’s explanation of chess, this article is really helpful.


What is a sport? 

Although some dictionary entries might vary, defines a sport as “an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature, as racing, baseball, tennis, golf, bowling, wrestling, boxing, hunting, fishing, etc.” I asked iUP students how they defined sports, and their answers were split between the physical and the mental challenges of a sport.

Makenna Horne said that she defines a sport as a “physical activity that involves competition.” Natalie McLaren agrees with this statement, saying that a sport “has to be something where you can actively and physically train.” Similar to her response, Danny Hall said that sports are about “physicality because the movement and exercise is what makes it fun and challenging.”

Other students have a different view on what a sport is. K.M. says that a sport has to have “Skills and both mental + physical ability.” Yahia Osman also says that a sport is “Any activity that pushes you mentally or physically.”

I also asked some members of the Chess Club here at iUP, and they all agreed that chess is a sport. Tony Sandoval defines a sport as “An activity that requires skill of some kind that can be played competitively and/or with a team.” Ethan Lanier also had a great take on what a sport is, saying that, “To me, a sport is a game where two or more people are competing against each other, and their choices change the outcome of the game.” Ritvik Nellutla said that a sport must use “completive ability.” Rushil Raval says that a sport is “something that’s physical[,] or you have a team[,] or you use your mind to win.” And Abbie Tsai says that a sport to her involves “Moving around, thinking, [and] plans”. So overall the main things that define a sport according to these chess club members, are the mental challenges, skill, and competition.


The Officials Rule It As . . . 

The International Olympic Committee released a list of Recognized Federations, in other words, “Sports governed by International Federations recognized by the International Olympic Committee.” In the list they name many different types of competitive games that are recognized as sports. According to the International Olympic Committee, chess is counted as a sport! To go along with this, the International Chess Federation (also known as FIDE) says that chess is a sport as well.


What Do iUP Students Think? 

I wanted to know whether iUP students think chess is a sport, and surprisingly, more than two thirds of iUP students counted chess as a sport. Those who did not think chess was a sport supported their statement on the physical part of a sport. Danny Hall said that “Sports to me is about the movement and action, and chess is the literal opposite of that because it doesn’t work any real muscles.”

Many other students relied on the mental challenges of chess to say that chess is a sport. Amirah Santos Figuera also proves a great point, saying “I think it’s a sport because its an activity that a lot of people like and enjoy and it puts their brain to work, I’ve learned the basics and it’s pretty fun but at the same time you have to think very hard, which I think applies to a lot of things in life. Some people might say it’s the most realistic and fun sport!” Tony Sandoval says that he believes chess is a sport because “it requires skill and is widely used in tournaments, and can be very competitive. It is even combined with another sport: boxing, to make Chess Boxing.” And Jaxon Radcliffe had a very interesting take on why chess is a sport, saying that he thinks chess is a sport because “chess can be played professionally and be won for money.”


Is Chess Also a Board Game? 

Almost all iUP students said that chess is also a board game. Amirah Santos Figueroa says that she would still count chess as a board game “because of the way that it’s played (it’s quite literally played on a BOARD), so honestly for me it’s both a sport and a board game.” And Ethan Lanier also said that “I believe that chess is a sport, but I also think that it can be considered a board game, since it uses a board and pieces during play.” All of the students who didn’t think chess was a sport agree that it is a board game.


The Victory Goes to . . . 

In the end, chess is a sport, even through the controversy and debate over this topic. Although chess has no big physical component, it does include a mental challenge and a high degree of skill. One thing’s for sure: this centuries-old sport isn’t ready to leave yet, so maybe it’s time to take out that chess board that’s hiding in your closet and see what wonders lie inside of the game.



Soltis, Andrew E.. “chess”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11 Jun. 2021, Accessed 15 February 2022.

International Chess Federation. “FIDE” International Chess Federation, 2022, Accessed 15 February 2022.

Jarvis, Matt. “How to Play Chess for Beginners: Setup, Moves and Basic Rules Explained.” Dicebreaker, Dicebreaker, 9 Nov. 2021,, “sport”., 2022.