I NEARLY fell off the chair when I read a link posted by Sun.Star Cebu Sports editor Mike Limpag on Facebook. It was an online report about Azkals midfielder Simon Greatwich’s tweet that dissed the game of chess.

The tweet from @SimonGreatwich reportedly read: “Philippine Sports News kanina - Chess! Really? Chess?! How is that even classed as a sport! Snakes & ladders should be a sport too then.”

When I checked, the tweet was already deleted, but did the 25-year-old footballer draw flak for his comments.

Well for the benefit of those who carry the same mindset as Greatwich, chess has been regarded as a sport for the longest time. And at some point before its decline in popularity, wood-pushing made more buzz in the country than football.

Of course it doesn’t take much muscle to push a pawn from one square to another. Chess players, some studies say, burn roughly 130 calories per hour while playing. Compare this to walking at 200 calories per hour and football at 600 calories per hour.

But what makes chess a sport is its competitive nature, preparation and training regimens involved, much like most sports. Top chess players need to be fit in mind and body. The game on the chessboard is a mere representation of the competition that’s taking place in the opposing players’ heads. And just like any athlete, if a player is not at his best, or blinks, or chokes, the game is lost.

As for football enthusiasts, those who can appreciate the beautiful game at an intellectual level look beyond football pitch in figuring out how a game is won.

Often, attention is directed toward the opposing coaches – how one’s tactics or system differs from the other.

As games of strategy, football and chess share basic concepts and principles: positioning, controlling the middle, winning the exchanges (or ball), offense and defense, among many others. Top chess players who study their opponents can anticipate their opponent’s strategy – same thing with football coaches.

How many times have we read analysts refer to a football game as a “chess match,” a battle of brains between coaches? The ongoing World Cup matches won’t be an exception.

The games won’t be won by skill, speed and fitness alone, so expect plenty of “chess” in the matches in Brazil. Just hope that the team you’re rooting for won’t be at the receiving end of a well-executed checkmate.

(nsvillaflor@gmail.com)