It had become routine for him. Going home after school, he would review tactics used in recent tournaments, as well as the moves performed by top players, trying to understand their strategy and hoping to use their techniques in his own games.
For sophomore Manas Manu, playing chess and practicing for competitions are an integral part of his daily routine, from attending scheduled lessons with a coach to strengthening his skills through online simulations. He suggests that most people might not consider chess a sport due to the lack of physical exertion, but he believes otherwise.
“I feel like a sport is anything that requires intense physical or mental activity,” Manu said. “I consider chess a sport because it requires intense mental activity [like] a lot of thinking and there are [also] competitions.”
In today’s world, the definition of what does and doesn’t make a sport is constantly evolving. The Oxford Dictionary states that a sport is a physical activity that involves both competition and an entertainment aspect to it. Chess and esports fall into a gray area.
Traditional sports are typically ones involving a ball and a team, like soccer and basketball. However, a fringe sport is an activity that some consider to be a sport, but isn’t fully recognized as one. For example, chess is recognized as a sport by the Olympic Committee, but like Manu said, many people do not consider it a sport.
One of the primary characteristics of chess is how players affect their opponents. In a chess game, the actions of one player demand the other to think of a counter action. Like Manu, fellow chess player and senior Samyak Karnavat defines a sport as something that requires forced interactions with other players and a set of clear rules players have to follow.
“A lot of what makes a sport is what people think about it,” Karnavat said. “There should be competitions, there should be a way to see whether there’s a win or loss and it should have well-defined rules.”
The fast-paced advancement of technology has brought a new fringe sport to the spotlight: esports. Popular video games like Fortnite and PUBG have brought about a new wave of enthusiastic gamers who can now train and compete.
From gaming championships held in stadiums that can seat thousands of people to millions of dollars worth of prize money offered to winners of these competitions, this relatively new sport parallels traditional ones like basketball or football, with professional players earning up to 1.9 million dollars, according to Business Insider.
This particular fringe sport has extended its reach to the MVHS campus with the opening of the MV Esports and Gaming Association. According to competitive esports player, senior and vice president Andrew Tedijanto, competitions are the most important aspect of what makes a sport.
“I think the definition of a sport has really changed over the years,” Tedijanto said. “Sports usually have competition, so I think that esports are technically sports. Some may say that ‘Oh you need a ball,’ but I still consider esports to be a sport because of the competitive aspect.”
After a switch from soccer to chess due to injuries, Manu outlines the main differences between playing a traditional sport and a fringe sport, and suggests that the likeliness of getting hurt was one of the main factors for him.
“[Soccer and chess] are equally difficult, one on the physical side and one on the mental side,” Manu said. “You can’t really compare them because they are two different things. Soccer gets you physically tired [and] chess gets you mentally tired; both are exhausting.”
When it comes to practice, training and techniques, these vary from player to player. Manu and Karnavat, for example, have scheduled practices after school, similar to that of a traditional school sport. Swimmer and junior Audrey Luo trains regularly before and after school, during school and club season. Tedijanto, on the other hand, regularly watches Youtube videos to improve his performance and does not believe in routine practices.
“School interferes of course, but maybe next semester I can make something more of a routine,” Tedijanto said. “The problem with making a routine is you don’t get the enjoyability factor, so maybe I’m a little wishy-washy, but I do want to play more next semester.”
Luo also considers entertainment to be a primary aspect of what makes up a sport. Televisionized entertainment, such as American Ninja Warrior and the Olympics, are a huge part of sports culture, especially in the U.S. According to ESPN, the 2018 Super Bowl drew 103.4 million viewers from all over the world.
“[In] swimming, we don’t really get that much television presence until its the Olympics and people suddenly pay attention to swimming,” Luo said. “If [the sport has] more publicity and if the public refers to it as a sport, I think it’s considered a sport.”
From chess to esports, the definition of a sport in today’s world is constantly evolving. At the end of the day, Luo says there are varying opinions, but it should ultimately be left up to those competing to decide.
“I think that if you don’t play the sport, you can’t exactly say if it’s a sport or not,” Luo said. “It’s up to the people who play the sport. If the [players] are exerting energy and it’s competitive to a certain extent, it’s classified as a sport.”
Additional reporting by Roshan Fernandez.