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Tuesday, March 16, 1999 Published at 07:35 GMT


Giving chess a sporting chance

Tough decision: Chess flexes its muscles in the world of sport

Chess, a game that exercises the brain more than the body, is set to become a sport.

Sports Minister Tony Banks put the cheque into checkmate by announcing in the House of Commons that chess will be allowed to apply for funding as a sport for the first time.

Liberal Democrat Dr Evan Harris - a keen player - made the first move by asking him in the House of Commons what the government could do to promote the game.

Unfazed by this sharp opening manoeuvre, Mr Banks made a dazzling response.

Currently the game does not fall into the definition of a sport under the 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act.

But Mr Banks said Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Chris Smith had considered the issue and had decided to broaden the scope of the 1937 Act to enable chess and mind games to be funded by the Sports Council.

'I'm delighted'

And then, in the decisive move, Mr Banks added the government would be looking at adapting legislation to allow chess to benefit from National Lottery funding.

Won over by Mr Banks's sportsmanship, a jubilant and surprised Dr Harris said afterwards: "I'm delighted that the minister has shown a way forward on this campaign.

"It's been a long campaign - I have been aware of it since I started playing chess 27 years ago.

"The chess world has been antagonised and frustrated by its inability to have fair treatment for many years.

"The announcement that the government will legislate to make progress will complement the success we have had at world level.

"It is not 'check mate' but quite literally we are at the end game."

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