The short answer to this question is no. There are 40 different sports that are contested as a part of the Summer and Winter Olympic Games every four years. These major events bring competitors from across the globe together to test their skills against the best in the world.
The sports that feature in the Olympics are some of the most challenging in the world from a competitive standpoint. Given this fact, many people often wonder whether or not the game of chess is played competitively in the Olympics.
Chess is certainly one of the most challenging competitive games played across the world and would seem to meet that part of the criteria for inclusion in the Olympics. This raises a key question. Is chess an Olympic sport? The following information will work toward answering this question as well as addressing several other key topics that are related to this primary question.
Chess is not a sport that is featured in the Olympic games. There has been a consistent push to have the renowned game of strategy included as one of the many Olympic competitions.
Though many efforts have been made, including failed efforts to get chess into the 2020 Olympics, it currently is not recognized as an official Olympic sport. This is despite the fact that the International Olympic Committee does recognize chess as a sport in the general sense.
The main reason cited is the fact that chess does not involve actual athleticism. This has caused there to be much debate as to whether or not chess is a sport or simply a game.
Has Chess Ever Been in the Olympics?
Although Chess is not currently in the olympics, Chess has been included in the Olympics in the past. This seems to fly in the face of the previous claim that chess is not currently included in the Olympics and has never been included.
This claim is true from a standpoint of competing for Olympic medals. Chess continues to be excluded from the Olympics in this manner. Chess was however played in exhibition form at the Summer Olympics of 2000 in Sydney, Australia.
The summer Olympics in 2000 features a two-game exhibition match that was played between a pair of Chess Grandmasters of the great Vishy Anand and Alexey Shirov. This is a notable example of the game of chess being put on display at the Olympics.
As previously noted, it was purely for exhibition purposes and the competitors were not playing for the possibility of Olympic gold. The Indian and Latvian Chess Grandmasters were simply playing for pride in this notable Olympic exhibition match.
Why Is Chess Not in the Olympics?
The range of events at the Olympics is broader than ever these days. It feels like we’re getting back to the days of celebrating skill and achievement beyond traditional sports. This raises an interesting question about globally-popular competitive games: why is chess not in the Olympics?
The primary argument that seemingly continues to win out in terms of excluding chess from the Olympic games is the fact that many opponents of its inclusion claim that it is not true athletic competition. At face value, this might seem to be an accurate statement. At the same time, chess’s leading organization has a different opinion on the matter.
The International Chess Federation has lobbied to get chess into the Olympics but the prevalent attitude that mind sports are not a part of the Olympics has continued to win out. With this said, it is important to note that chess does have its own Olympic games that are known as the Chess Olympiad.
The biennial international tournament known as the Chess Olympiad brings together teams of chess players representing the various nations of the world. It truly is the Olympic games of the chess community and has been held since 1924.
The Chess Olympiad was interrupted in its live format in 2020 and 2021 due to the health crisis but online events were held in place of the live ones. The Chess Olympiad presents the opportunity for the world’s top players to claim the chess community’s equivalent of Olympic Bronze, Silver, and Gold.
2024 have been scheduled for the Chess Olympiad’s future. The events will take place in Moscow, Russia, and Budapest, Hungary, respectively.
The simple reason we don’t see chess at the Olympic games is that it was only recently regarded as a sport. Games of skill don’t make the cut, while sports with greater physical demands and clear goals do. However, reason adaptations to the program could mean we see Olympic chess in the future.
Why Wasn’t Chess An Olympic Event?
The biggest issue faced when recognizing chess as an Olympic event is the definition of sport. Olympic events tend to be sports rather than games, where athletes test their physical abilities in individual pursuits or team games. Take track and field events, for instance. These athletes train their bodies to beat extraordinary world records for the fastest sprint, highest jump, longest throw, and more. Race walking is one of those weird anomalies that still makes it in.
The argument against chess as a sport is that there is no physical skill involved in chess, just a lot of careful strategizing and mental agility. There is no denying that world-class chess players are incredible at what they do, but they aren’t physical athletes. This is why many people, including keen players, argue that chess isn’t a sport.
Others insist it is a mind sport and just as eligible. Competitors point out the physical and mental stress they endure in championship games, and insist they need to be in peak physical condition to cope. Also, there was a time when mind sports and intellectual skills were rewarded at the Olympic games. The ancient Olympics had medals for music and poetry, and art was a demonstration sport in 1936.
The Chess Olympiad
This mind sport may not be an official Olympic event right now, but there is an alternative. The Chess Olympiad gives players from around the world the chance to compete at a high level. Spectators can even come and watch or view games online. Since 1924, players have battled for gold, silver, and bronze medals. The next chance is at the Budapest games in 2024.
How Are Sports Chosen For The Olympics?
There are set criteria that all sports must meet to become Olympic events. First, they must have an international nongovernmental organization overseeing activities, such as the International Chess Federation. They also have to abide by the Olympic Movement Anti-Doping Code. You may have also read about players getting drugs tested for substances on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) banned list.
Eventually, the IOC will determine if it is a sport or not. If so, it can become an Olympic event in the future. The International Federation of that sport much then petition for admittance to get promoted. This could mean admitting a whole new sport or adding a discipline to an existing one. For example, federations can petition for women’s events in previously male-dominated sports.
Was Chess Ever Recognized By The IOC?
Yes. This is why many chess players are keen to see the game added to an Olympic program in the future. Not only did the IOC recently change its opinion on the status of the game, but it was featured at an event.
In 1999, the IOC decided to recognize chess as a sport. This paved the way for potential future events. One of the great things about the Olympic games is that we get the chance to see competitors strive for gold in all kinds of disciplines. There are also exhibition sports that could become regular events in the future.
The 2000 Sydney Olympics held a two-game exhibition match between the Grandmasters Vishy Anand and Alexey Shirov. There were no medals up for grabs. But, it was a great way to showcase the game to a wider audience. There were hopes that this would lead to future events contested for medals, but everything went quiet for nearly 20 years.
Chess And The Paris 2024 Olympics.
Eventually, there was a bid to get chess back into the Olympics. In 2019, International Chess Federation placed a bid for rapid and blitz chess to be included in the 2024 program. They argued that now that chess was officially recognized as a sport, there was room for these skilled, fast-paced games. They also cited the global appeal due to the 189 national federations.
Paris 2024 has since finalized its list of 28 sports. Chess may not be there, but you can medal in archery and artistic swimming. Keen chess players may question if these are true sports either. In fact, the “artistic” side of swimming and gymnastics takes us back to the days of celebrating intellectual qualities. So, why not chess?
The four exhibition sports are breaking, sport climbing, skateboarding, and surfing. This represents a desire to try activities related to youth sports to bring in younger demographics. A shift like this towards culture over traditional sport could work in the favor of chess.
Could We See Chess In The Olympics In The Future?
Never say never. The future of chess as an Olympic sport depends on two key factors. There is the ongoing desire of the IOC to broaden the range of disciplines and the way we adapt Chess to suit the games. There has to be a suitable compromise.
The recent trend toward youth culture and alternative sports shows that the IOC is willing to try new things. 20 years ago, nobody would have expected BMX to be an Olympic sport, but here we are. Chess can still feel old-fashioned and dull by comparison. But, those blitz games could change all that. If a younger crowd turns blitz chess into a big trend, maybe there is hope for an exhibition game at Los Angeles 2028.
Is Chess a Sport?
All of these previous topics bring up a simple question. Is chess a sport? The simple answer to this one is yes. Since the 1920s, the International Olympic Committee has classified chess as a sport. This is despite the fact that it is not classified as an Olympic sport.
The International Chess Federation, the world’s preeminent governing body for chess, also classifies the game as a sport. In its own official documentation, the International Chess Federation classifies itself as the sport of chess’s sanctioning body on the international level.
The prominent claim used to discredit chess from being considered a sport is the fact that it does not require the use of athleticism. There is a fairly straightforward counterargument to this claim. Though chess does not require what is traditionally thought of as athletic ability, players are put under exertion both mental and physical when they are in the heat of a competitive chess event.
There are many top chess pros who credit staying in good physical condition to being a key part of their ability to compete at the highest levels. They claim that it helps them to maintain endurance during long chess tournaments and it helps them to keep their minds sharp as well.
Final Thoughts About Chess in the Olympics and Its Status as a Sport
The reality is that chess is a competitive game that requires tremendous skill and can be physically exerting. There are endless arguments out there as to what constitutes a true sport, but chess certainly seems to possess many of the key markers.
This has led to it being classified as a sport by many prominent organizations such as the International Olympic Committee and the International Chess Federation. As for the future, the lobbying to get chess included in the Olympic games will continue. Given this fact, it is still possible that one day, the game of chess will legitimately be classified as an official Olympic sport.