Canberra Times, June 24
With election fever already in the air, the Australian Chess Federation is making a concerted attempt to have chess recognised as a sport.
Convincing the Australian Sports Commission that chess fulfils the definition of a sport is apparently the only route to government funding for an activity which suffers the misfortune of infringing on the territories of the departments of sport, the arts, science and education yet fails to be recognised as worthy of support by any government department.
The ACF is fully convinced that tournament chess must be considered a sport, but its choice of which department to lobby was virtually made for it when the world chess body FIDE announced the introduction of drug testing.
Only with the support of the Australian Sports Drug Agency can Australia fulfil its drug testing obligations yet the ASDA will not help chessplayers unless chess is a recognised sport.
The ACF's task, unenviable in an outdoor sport culture such as Australia, is made all the more difficult by the limited definition of a sport adopted by the ASC.
The ASC is a body supposed to provide an independent voice when funding decisions are made regarding sport but, with the ASC members coming from various 'sweaty sports', the body has a vested interest in sharing the government's sports funding with as few outsiders as possible.
According to the ASC an activity is a sport if it "requires elements involving physical exertion and/or physical skill, is competitive by nature and is generally accepted as being sport."
Any activity which is an Olympic medal sport will find the definition stretched to include it.
For a brief period in the mid 1980s, a supportive Sports Minister forced the ASC to accept chess.
However as soon as the pressure from the Sports Minister eased, the ASC took the opportunity to cut off any funding from chess.
The current Sports Minister, Jackie Kelly, has rebuffed all efforts to have her department support chess by passing the buck to the ASC: "The Commission, while recognising that chess is a worthwhile pastime, does not view chess as a sport. There are no plans to review the sport definition in the near future," was a typical reply to a chess parent attempting to lobby for chess.
The Shadow Sports Minister, Kate Lundy, has been more conciliatory, offering to "consider the matter", although nothing more. Lundy has visited a number of tournaments in the ACT, including the 1999 National Schools Final and has become aware that there are tens of thousands of children around the country who play chess at school level.
Kelly may not yet be awake to the potential of the 'chess vote' although she may soon be educated by her leader.
At a whistle-stop visit to a primary school tournament on the Gold Coast earlier this year, the Prime Minister was heard to comment, "I have never seen so many people playing chess in my life!"
Lowly seeded Roman Gowor last week upset the odds to tie for the Tuggeranong Championship with Andrew Greenwood.
Leading final scores: 1eq. R.Gowor, A.Greenwood 7/9; 3. H.Doel 6; 4.K.Galli 5.5; 5eq. C.Gowor, Nguyen Tran 5.