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Should Chess be considered a sport?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/23/2019 Category: Games
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,129 times Debate No: 120975
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (10)
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Let's begin by defining the term "sport". The Oxford English dictionary provides the following definition.
"An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment. "

In summary I believe we can draw three key factors that define a sport
1. There must be physical effort involved
2. A degree of skill is required
3. Competition is required

I grant you that chess fits two out of three of the key factors. Chess is a widely respected game of skill, And there is no questioning the need for an opponent to play chess. What it lacks, However, Is the crucial element that sets aside sport from other games or activities; Physical exertion.

Now, There will always be those that claim "I must physically exert my hand when moving the chess pieces, Therefore chess requires physical exertion; ergo, It is a sport. I implore you, Dear opponent, To rise up above this stupidity, Because by that thinking even the act of blinking would be considered physical exertion, And the term "physical exertion" would lose all meaningful definition. I propose that "physical exertion", In the context of defining sport, Should be defined as "a high degree of physical exertion, Significantly greater than required for basic tasks such as walking, Standing or writing". Granted, It is not an officially supported definition, But I believe it suffices to differentiate between a sport and an activity.

I look forward to a meaningful argument from you, And an opportunity to respond as such.


My first argument is that chess is already considered a sport. Score one for me.

Since I have played competitive chess and I know for a fact that it is physically taxing.

The average local chess tournament last about 10 to 12 hours in one day which is more than a work day.

Chess is so nerve wrecking that people can get hurt from it. I actually had a friend who had to stop playing in chess tournaments because the anxiety was on the verge of killing him. This was what his doctor told him. Sounds a lot like a sport injury huh? It's also mentally taxing and the mind is made of physical matter so that counts.

Furthermore. High level tournaments last 3-5 days with 10-12 hours per day which can be the equivalent of a heavy work week.

Since I believe that I have demonstrated the physical element properly. I'll take my win now.

Your floor.
Debate Round No. 1


My good sir,

Your first argument is invalid, As the question we are debating is "SHOULD chess be considered a sport". You cannot refute a question that considers the nomenclature of a subject by simply stating the current nomenclature of the subject. Therefore, Score none for you.

In addition, Your entire argument is based on the idea that chess tournaments are long and mentally taxing, Which is a classic case of straw man fallacy because that was not what I was contending at all. Having physical symptoms manifest due to mentally stressful situations is not the same thing as physically exerting yourself. The "sports injury" that your "friend" experienced doesn't sound like a sports injury, It sounds like an anxiety attack or a mental breakdown, Because that's what it is. Just because you work hard and expend great mental effort doesn't qualify what you're doing as a sport.

Furthermore, I take issue with your claim "It's also mentally taxing and the mind is made of physical matter so that counts. " Firstly, Using your logic that "the mind is made of physical matter so that counts" would mean almost literally everything we do is a physical effort, Thereby rendering the term entirely useless, Especially in the context of this argument, Where I have already presented that a greater than normal degree of physical effort is required to classify an activity as a sport. Secondly, I suppose you would also support considering exam taking as a sport, As well as being interrogated, Seeing as both are activities that are competitive, Requires skill, And are extremely mentally taxing, Having both long hours and high risks of "sports injuries" due to anxiety.

To summarise, Chess is not a sport because of the long hours, Mental taxation does not equate to physical effort, And you may not take your win now.

Thank you


I was establishing a norm, Which is perfectly valid with respect to "should" statements. My point stands ;)

My argument was based of the criteria that you gave. You had already granted 2 and 3 and I showed logical connectivity to the physical. The brain is part of the body and that makes it physical. It is a scientific fact that overexerting the brain can cause injury. You are not allowed to rule out the brain as physical because it is part of the body and athletes injury their brains all the time.

It's not a useless claim. Everything is physical. That's what science tells us. You just don't want that to be the case because you want to make the term sport elite so you can snobbishly exclude sports that you think are too soft. Just because everything is physical does not mean that every physical activity is a sport. There still must be skill and competition involved. For instance, Coin flipping competitions probably would be a sport because anybody can flip a coin. But if you had to flip the coins onto objects with precision, That might be a sport. There is still physical effort involved. You don't get to decide how much effort is sufficient. Effort is effort. You're just moving the goal post around.

Your floor
Debate Round No. 2


If the topic was "Should the death penalty be legal", "establishing a norm" by using "the death penalty is already legal" as an argument would be a ridiculous tactic, And so in the same way your point does not stand because it does not add anything to the argument.

Now, You accuse me of wanting "to make the term sport elite so you can snobbishly exclude sports that you think are too soft", Which is a false claim unto my intentions. I'm not seeking to make the term sports an elite one, But rather I wish for the nomenclature of sports to retain substantial meaning. At no point did I ever claim that athletes were superior or worth more or better than chess players. Indeed comparing them is reminiscent of the old saying "comparing apples to oranges"; objectively one is not better than the other unless you are comparing a specific factor. "Sport" is not an elite name that can be snobbishly denied to activities that are "too soft". Ginger is not a fruit because it just doesn't fit the definition, Not because it isn't good enough to reach the elite echelon of "fruit". It's just nomenclature, Plain and simple.

Additionally, I never said it was a useless claim, But rather that it is a claim that would render the term physical useless in this context. Allow me to provide the definitions of physical(adjective), As stated by the OED
1 "Relating to the body as opposed to the mind. "
2 "Relating to things perceived through the senses as opposed to the mind; tangible or concrete. "
See, When you refer to the brain as physical, That is correct, According to second definition; although it is because brain matter is tangible that makes it physical, Not because it is part of the body. However, The term "physical" in the original definition logically refers to the first definition, "Relating to the body as opposed to the mind". It is made clear here that there is a distinction between the body and the mind, Even though there is no dispute that they are connected, And what affects one affects the other. Effort is effort, Correct. But mental effort is not physical effort, No matter how much you wish otherwise.

And don't think I've forgotten about your coin flipping example. "For instance, Coin flipping competitions probably would be a sport because anybody can flip a coin. " I'll give you the benefit of doubt here and assume you meant "probably would not be", Rather than take the sentence as it is because that would make even less sense. As it were, You're attempting to redefine sport by the number of people who are able to do it, Which I would argue is even more elitist than what I am trying to prove. So if you are acknowledging that there must has to be a certain degree of skill to fit the criteria, Why do you disagree that there must be a certain recognised degree of physical effort? You hypocritically declare that I don't get to decide how much effort is required in the same paragraph that you decide how much skill is required for something to be a sport.

Finally, I'm intrigued why you never responded to my suggestion that exam taking can be considered a sport. After all, It fits every argument that you had made that chess should be a sport.

To close my argument, I'd like to first apologise for not providing a definition for "physical" sooner, As it would have saved us much time and confusion. Chess is a magnificent game that requires great skill and mental endurance, And I have nothing but respect for their grand masters. However, Regarding chess as a sport is an act that only serves to muddy the term "sport", And disregards current definitions and understandings of what sports and games are for no good reason. I believe that chess should only be considered a sport when the term "sport" itself is redefined to not include a physical element, As it has been demonstrated that the game of chess does not meet this requirement.

Thank you


nomenclature isn't an exact science. Linguistics is one of the few things that is true by ad populum. The rock means rock because everybody calls it a rock. So the very fact that it is considered a sport makes it a sport. That's how identity works. There is no intrinsic word for Sports.

Then you say that you want sports to retain substantial meaning, You're just making an appeal to tradition. You're just saying this is how we've always done it, So we should keep doing it that way. But words change and so do sports so there really isn't a problem here. It's also a no true scottsman fallacy because you're saying that a "true sport" would have X amount of effort. That's just an opinion. Sport isn't a scientific term, So there is no X amount of effort to speak of. The word is defined ad populum like every other word. Even scientific terms are just ad populum terms that are agreed upon within the scientific community for the purpose of convenience.

It doesn't matter if it renders the term physical useless. Facts are facts. The brain is the mind and is part of the body. All that means is that your point is a non sequitur. You're creating an arbitrary category called "the mind" and subjectively segregating it from the others for no good reason.

How would you define something as being skillful without establishing norm? The only to establish the difficulty of a task is by how much people struggle performing it. Without a norm, You can't claim anything to be skillful. I never said I get to decide how much skill is required. I think the numbers decide. You don't. You think we can just define it into truth. Your way is arbitrary. Numbers are not.

Exam taking could be considered a sport if competition is involved and the results are not arbitrary. Lets compare it to a tic tac toe tournament. In a tick tack toe tournament, All of the top competitors would get a tie because that is the best achievable result. So lets look at exam taking. If the exam was something very easy that anybody could do equally well, Then I would say it can't be a sport. However, If the exam had extremely difficult puzzles or time restraints and rewards for people finishing faster than others, We have no added enough difficulty to get outliers within the stats. So now it's a sport. I would also like to remind you that exam taking is a kind of sport already. It's called quiz bowl. :)

In closing. While you might think that what you're doing is preserving the integrity of the term sport, What you're really doing is robbing skillful competitors of their integrity as competitors. The term sport has historically been used to refer to many activities that may not seem physically taxing. When we take a hard look at it, The real thing that all sports have in common is the fact that there is competition and outliers. That's it. People who play physically taxing sports already have a term. (athletes) They also have a category for themselves as well (athletics) which is a subset of sports. In the end, Society defines these things anyway. So to fight it is pointless.
Debate Round No. 3
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
Seems like there is a lot of chess players on this website.
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
@EverlastingMoment. I'm not saying that chess was the sole factor with his issues. But as a person who has played in tournaments. I know firsthand that it is physically taxing. Definitely not as much as athletic sports.
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
I only have USCF rating it's super outdated. My Chess. Com rating is probably the most accurate which I believe sits in the 1700 area for standard time and slightly higher for blitz. I know FIDE ratings don't necessarily always match with USCF
Posted by EverlastingMoment 3 years ago
As a person who's been playing FIDE chess for a while both in local level and in 2000+ rating level I have never seen anyone suffer from anxiety breakdowns during a chess match. Sure it can be stressful at times but if you go so far as to suffer a nervous breakdown I think the person had some problems he clearly should've been checked for. Oof.
Posted by Ku4nt3m 3 years ago
Sitting in a chair looking at the same thing for hours and hours is physical effort, If you ask me. . .
Posted by Country-of-dummies 3 years ago
Maybe you exert yourself when you get up to go to the bathroom, Or when you reach up to get the chess piece and move it? Er, Maybe. . . Sitting can be exerting? I know, Because I am a college student. At the end of the day, I am tired boy. Have I physically exerted myself. . . Yes, Laughingly, My fingers are tired from typing 200 miles an hour. . .
Posted by Christfollower 3 years ago
I play competitive chess as well.
Posted by WrickItRalph 3 years ago
Posted by omar2345 3 years ago
Debate over
Posted by backwardseden 3 years ago
Interesting. Chess and bridge are both part of the Olympics. They are considered "mind sports". Physical effort? Yeah, Depends on how you look at that depending on how taxing it is to the mind in both games? Sure, Why not add poker to the discussion?
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