This winter, in addition to basketball players, swimmers, and hockey players, a new breed of intramural competitor may be coming to Yale — the intramural chess player.
In terms of sheer athleticism, chess ranks even lower than billiards or table tennis, both of which are already intramural sports. But while the debate about whether or not chess qualifies as a sport continues, the Yale College Chess Club (YCCC) has begun the process of establishing an intramural chess league.
“The International Olympic Committee does recognize chess as a sport,” said Scott Caplan ’06, who is the president of the YCCC Executive Board. “And if its good enough for the International Olympic Committee, it’s good enough for Yale.”
Many students simply accept chess as an alternative to athletic activity and feel that intramurals are not about athletics, but fun competition in which all undergraduates can partake.
“The purpose of intramurals is to foster friendly competition among residential colleges, ” club member Bobby Garcia ’06 said. “Not everyone considers sports or any derivative thereof their cup of tea. Chess offers those who are less interested in athletics the chance to represent their college and meet new people.”
Caplan stresses that intramural chess would give students who do not normally participate in intramurals a chance to have fun and represent their residential college.
“IM chess opens IMs to all undergraduates who want to contribute their skills to their colleges,” he said. “As many people who want to can play. We want to make it very explicit that nobody will be turned down from a team.”
The idea to start up an intramural chess league began within the Yale College Chess Club sometime within the past year. It has since then become the club’s biggest project.
“We managed to get more than 70 fill-ins on our form,” Caplan said. “All 12 colleges were represented, demonstrating that there is substantial support for IM chess.
Chess as an intramural sport would not be unique to Yale.
Harvard’s freshman intramurals include chess as an activity, and other schools such as University of Texas at Dallas, and University of Maryland at Baltimore County also have intramural chess leagues. Smaller liberal arts schools, such as Houghton College, also have intramural chess teams.
But despite these precedents, the road to to intramural status is a long and winding one for the YCCC.
First, the sport must obtain approval from the Intramural Secretaries’ Committee for one year. During that year, the activity does not count toward Tyng Cup standings. After a year, the masters and deans of all the residential colleges vote to decide whether or not the sport will continue being a part of Yale intramurals. Caplan’s proposal to make chess an intramural sport will be heard before the Intramural Secretaries’ Committee on Oct. 6.
If the plan goes through, the board’s current and tentative proposal is to have all participants play one game of chess with a randomly chosen opponent from an opposing college twice a week for three weeks. At the end of the three weeks, teams pick one person to represent their entire team, who will then play a game of speed chess with the other team’s elected representative. The official proposal will be posted on the Yale College Chess Club Web site today.