By Josh Coppenbarger and Haley Luke
Susan Polgar said she first became interested in chess at the age of 4. She said the shapes of the pieces intrigued her.
“I was very fortunate that my father was an excellent teacher and he explained the game as a fairy tale and as a fun thing even for a young girl to do,” Polgar said.
Polgar is now a chess grandmaster and the director of the Susan Polgar Institute for Chess Excellence (SPICE) and chess coach at Webster University. Polgar believes chess is a sport. Tony Rich, the executive director of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis, sits on committee’s of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) and is working to make chess part of the Olympics.
“When you see players competing in top level events, they are true athletes in every sense of the word,” Rich said.
Currently, the International Olympic committee recognizes chess as a sport, which Rich said is a huge step forward in making chess part of the Olympic games. The committee reviewed it in 1999 and finalized it in 2008.
Chess Olympiads have been played since 1927, but are held separately from the true Olympics. Chess is lumped together with other “mind sports,” like checkers and bridge, Rich said.
What makes chess stand out as a sport are three aspects: competition, skill and athleticism. Chess is a sport with clearly defined rules and regulations and there can only be one winner in the end. It takes a lot of training, practices and discipline to become a high level competitor. It’s not only a mentally draining sport, but physically as well. A chess game can go on for hours. Polgar said she’s played a game of chess for 14 hours straight.