Limpag: Yes Simon, chess is a sport

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Friday, June 13, 2014


ONE of my major frustrations in life is failing to learn chess. That wonderful game where brains—and brawn in the higher levels—are needed.

I got a chess book when I was in third or fourth grade and tried to learn the game by myself. After mastering the notations, I replayed some of the games the book had and realized I couldn’t understand half of it. The symbol “!” is supposed to denote a good move, and I couldn’t even understand why some of the moves had that symbol.

Chess was something that was just beyond my ability.

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That’s why I admire chess players.

Chess is a sport. There’s no question about it. Those who question whether chess is a sport are deluded individuals who think sports is all about running, jumping or kicking.

And if you think chess is all mental—not physical---let’s listen to the expert. The former child wonder Susan Polgar wrote, “Try sitting in one place for seven hours concentrating on one thing and you will know how draining that can be.”

She added that to prepare for the 2013 world championship match, Viswanath Anand swam 1,000 meters, ran 10 kilometers per day and also biked, while Magnus Carlsen played tennis, volleyball and golf.

That was for a world championship match for chess. Go run a 10K and try to read one chapter of a book and see if that won’t drain you.

I hope Simon Greatwitch of the Philippine Azkals was kidding when he tweeted, “Philippine sports news kanina. Chess? Really! Chess? How is that even classified as a sport?”

Philippine football got hurt last year when folks in charge of the Philippine Sports Commission and Philippine Olympic Committee prevented the national team from playing in the SEA Games.

Why? In a nutshell, it was because of their bias and limited knowledge of football.

The same bias and limited knowledge Greatwich is showing regarding chess.

By the way, the circumstances regarding the tweet is really interesting. Philippine chess was in the news because our child wonder GM Wesley So, whose chances of becoming a world champion is infinitely greater than Simon Greatwich’s or the Azkals’ for that matter, is leaving the Philippines for the US for the lack of support.

Lack of support.

It’s something guys who played in the men’s football team pre-2010 understand.

Is chess a sport?

Well, I won’t dig into what defines a sport or not, but in the Philippine setting it is. It’s played in district, provincial, regional meets and in the Palarong Pambansa.

Go out of your comfort zone and you’d probably see more people playing chess in the neighborhood than football.

And for a member of a national team to say something like that? We have national teams
in chess—and if I may point out the obvious—they’d won more gold medals than someone like Simon would get red cards competing for the flag.

GIRLS 14 ROCK! The Philippine 14-Under Girls team, which has three Cebuana booters, set history in Vietnam after topping their group. The team beat Singapore, 6-0, Vietnam, 1-0, and Cambodia, 5-0, to set up a semifinal match against Myanmar today.

Whatever the result today, I think this is the best showing of a national youth team ever.
Way to go girls! And good luck today!

(mikelimpag@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 14, 2014.

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