30 July 2009

More than Footware

The most wonderful thing about the sport is it's the only sport that every member of the family, young and old, can play competitively.
Jeff Saunders
He is not talking about chess. No, Jeff Saunders is the past president of the Spokane Horseshoe Pitching Association. He is quoted in this morning's Spokesman-Review touting the unique appeal of horseshoes. The article, "Keeping an Eye on the Prize," exposes the popularity of horseshoe pitching among a small but enthusiastic group here in River City.

Chess is not a sport. If it were, we would be forced to contest Saunders assertion. Like horseshoes, chess can be played competitively by young and old. In the recent Washington State Elementary Chess Championship, which I organized, competitors were as young as five. In the I Love Chess 2 side event in the same place at the same time, the oldest competitor turned eighty the week after the event. I'm pushing fifty, and I've played hard-fought games against both the five year old and the eighty.
Chess unites as equals young and old, male and female, and competitors from all cultures. Through chess, young people gain self-esteem. They improve men­tal skills of concentration, memory, and analysis. Chess develops sportsmanship, responsibility, and respect for oth­ers. The game is relatively simple to learn, but never ceases to challenge players of all skill levels.
James Stripes, as quoted in "Checkmate"
Now, the co-host/principal sponsor of the Washington State Elementary Chess Championship was the Spokane Regional Sports Commission. They told me that for their purposes, chess is a sport. It might not make your arm as tired as horseshoes, but it is a grueling activity that requires focus, stamina, and competitive spirit from all ages, male and female.

Chess is more inclusive than horseshoes, and it is certainly a family sport.


  1. Yes chess is a global game for all.
    In some countries chess is taught in schools as an educational tool.

  2. Horseshoe is a folklore, sport out the very far past, here in belgium, i doubt we have still championships and such nowadays.

    Chess on the other hand is slowly but certainly on the rise in Belgium, especially since our youth players got some good results in national and international competitions.

  3. CT,

    I haven't looked into the history of horseshoes, and probably assumed without thinking that it was an American game. Now, I rather suspect it has developed everywhere there have been horses shod with iron, steel, on other materials strong and heavy. It may be that a few old timers play it in many countries.

    There should be no doubt that chess has far broader appeal internationally.


    I teach chess in American classrooms. Many teachers of our young recognize the benefits of chess to their students, but most elementary teachers in the United States lack confidence in their abilities to learn chess well enough to impart its benefits to their pupils, or they believe it would take more effort learning new skills than they have the time and inclination to pursue. However, they are quite happy when a chess enthusiast is willing to come into their classes for a few hours.