If you were to tell me last week that chess isn’t really a sport, I would have been inclined to agree. Our daughter Lena is into the game, but I still didn’t think of it as a sport. I was wrong. Way wrong.
There’s no secret to the game, there’s no hitting, running, mudslinging (at least not during the game), and one doesn’t generally think that someone would walk out of a match exhausted. I mean truly exhausted. All is true but that last part. Even for the parents of child chess players.
I’m writing this on day two of the two day Virginia State Chess Tournament and I’ve watched these kids run a gauntlet of emotions. Our club has some ~25 people participating and there’s a few hundred or so playing in the same hall now. As I’ve watched the kids exit the room (from kindergartners to junior high schoolers) some look as they did when they went in. However, some look outright exhausted and nearing collapse. Others come out crying, some doing fist-pumps, but the worst are those walking out like they just ran three-miles for the first time. I’m talking sweating and overall a general mess compared to when the went in.
There are a few here with outright talent for the game too. Good on them and I wish them luck. But there’s probably only about 2% of the players here like that (such as the second-grader rated over 1800). For the rest, practice is the key. Just like any sport.
I know, I get it, chess can be an emotional ride for the uninitiated such as I (I don’t/can’t play well). But watching these kids, my daughter included, I’ll argue any day that chess, especially a tournament like this, is most definitely a sport and a physical one at that.
I sheepishly admit that I scoffed at the idea of kids carb and protein-loading for a chess tournament, but now that I’ve seen it, they need the carbs and proteins for the brain and body power. And they burn through it quick.
Here’s to more chess in the future. Maybe, as it’s kind of a rollercoaster for the parents too.