For the Love of Curling


Leave it to Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the wacky head of the international chess federation (who claims he was once spirited away in a yellow space ship and believes that chess came from outer space), is now advancing a novel argument for why chess should be an Olympic sport. “Isn’t it absurd that chess on ice is an Olympic sport,” Ilyumzhinov said, and ‘mere’ chess is not?” In fact, he said, he is thinking of suing the International Olympic Commission to get iceless chess into the Olympics.

Huh? Come again, please. It turns out that curling—a sport, played on ice with granite stones and brooms, of which most Americans have only the dimmest awareness—has long been known as “chess on ice,” just as chess itself has long been called “the royal game.” Here, for example, from The New York Times: “‘Curling is often called chess on ice,’ said Chris Moore, 50, a banker in Cleveland who has been curling for more than 35 years. ‘It’s intellectually challenging because all the strategy involved requires you to think four or five moves ahead. And it demands accuracy and finesse. Many times a game comes down to hitting a square inch from over 120 feet away.”

Aside from the linguistic argument, Ilyumzhinov makes an unspoken point: if something as weird and esoteric (in terms of lack of mass appeal) as grown men playing with brooms on ice qualifies as a sport, chess surely should too.

Naturally, the curling blogs are amused by Ilyumzhinov’s position: “Chess on ice. Bah.”

I, for one, think curling is cool, and I’m trying to find a place in New York where my Canadian friends and I can try out the sport.

5 Responses to “For the Love of Curling”

  1. Atomic Patzer Says:

    Curling reminds me more of bocce and NOT chess. It does look like fun. I feel chess should keep out of the Olympics. Doesn’t feel like a good fit to me. One is all about physical sport and the other is all about a cerebral competition. I see no benefit to chess by getting involved with the Olympics. The chess community should continue doing it’s own Olympics and drop that drug testing nonsense.

  2. Irvin Says:

    The fact that most chessplayers actually think of chess as something other than a beautiful, complex game is a good inidicator of how stupid and out of touch the average player is.

    Pretending that chess is a sport implies that Vladimir Epishin and Jay Bonin (who I greatly respect as both a person and a player) are athletes. We can easily see they are not.

    Pretending that chess is a sport means that so are dominoes, poker, parchisi and tic-tac-toe. We can see they are not.

    Besides, what’s to be gained from pretending that chess is a sport? Goverment funding? Even that doesn’t benefit the average chessplayer. It only benefits those who make money by telling people that chess makes kids smarter, that chess teaches discipline, that chess this and chess that… The truth is that chess benefits kids the exact same way that any other after-school activity benefits kids. No more, no less.

    People are happy to blame Kirsan for everything that is wrong with international chess, but it is probably the other way around: chess has Kirsan because of its own problems, the main one being that the so-called “professionals” feel entitled to an income not commesurate with the game’s fair market value.

    Hey, before anyone gets mad at me: I love chess. I play at a decent level. I like the game, but the reality is that it attracts a lot of weirdos…

  3. Chessaholic Says:

    How do you castle in Curling?

    Mr. Hoffman: just wanted to let you know that I thoroughly enjoyed “King’s Gambit”. It prompted me to order your other books too.

  4. HagstromCondor Says:

    re: “I’m trying to find a place in New York where my Canadian friends and I can try out the sport.

    If Westchester’s feasible, you might look into the Ardsley Curling Club.

  5. paulhoffman Says:

    Cool, HG! Westchester is not too far for curling; I’ll just skate on over. And thanks, Chessaholic, for the kind feedback. I agree AP, and now the world chess federation is stepping up random drug testing, despite the fact that the game has never had a drug problem. Yes, Irvin: sometime a game should be though of as, well, just a game.

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