An excellent article by Lisa Suhay for The CS Monitor, including the quotes from Susan Polgar, a five-time Olympic chess champion with 10 medals.

Of all the unusual sports that should be included in the 2012 Olympics, chess actually has a legitimate claim: This year marks the 85th anniversary of chess being an officially recognized body of sport by the International Olympic Committee.

Any chess parent (me included) will talk your ear off about the benefits of exercising the mind and how curling, the Winter Olympics sport, is just chess on ice. With any sport, you need to have tactics, critical thinking, and quick mental reflexes in play.

The World Chess Olympiad is bigger than the Winter Olympics but smaller than the summer Games in terms of number of nations participating. About 160 nations are expected for the Chess Olympiad set to take place in Istanbul, Turkey, on August 27. The youngest competitor is 10 years old.

The first official Olympiad was held in London in 1927. It was intended for inclusion in the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, but was not due to difficulties distinguishing between amateur and professional players. So while chess is an IOC recognized sport, the Olympiads have been held separately for the past several decades. During the Bejing Olympics in 2008, there was a failed attempt to merge the games.

Personally, I think the only real obstacle to chess being part of the the Olympic Games is the ability of network TV to cope with coverage and sponsorship. Bob Costas would be learning how to banter about the Alekhine defense and how there’s only one woman on the board and she’s the most powerful piece. By the way, I would pay to watch this.


Chess players and athletes aren’t as separate as you may think. In fact, some of the biggest names in sport also have game in chess including NBA past and present stars such as Kobe Bryant, the late Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Danny Ainge, Latrell Sprewell, Steve Smith and Jason Williams. And don’t forget former and current tennis players Boris Becker, Anna Kournikova, John McEnroe, Roger Federer, Jennifer Capriati, and Ivan Lendl. There are also professional sports coaches who support or have supported chess: Rick Carlisle of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, former NBA head coach Flip Saunders, and the late Bill Walsh of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers.

Harkening back to chess parents, Queen Elizabeth II is an avid player. Perhaps Her Majesty will demonstrate the power of her position both on and off the board by decreeing that the Olympiads merge in future?

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