Chess

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IT WAS no contest: squares, or rather unsquares, against squirrels. And I would have been astounded had any representative group in this country, let alone, with due respect, the audience of The Big Breakfast, failed to vote for the latter. But I still admire Daily Telegraph chess columnist Malcolm Pein for going on the show on Thursday morning for his 30-second pitch "Chess - it's not about squares": and it was sheer bad luck that his - that is our - cause was opposed by a lady from Cumbria espousing the red squirrel, which is in danger of extinction. Indeed, as Malcolm said when I spoke to him later in the day: "I was grateful for the opportunity to fight the good fight, even if it was only for 30 seconds. But when we considered the three most daunting opponents, animals were well up there, along with 24-hour licencing and relief funds for serious `Acts of God'."

The "good fight" is the campaign to get chess recognised as a sport in this country, as it is in 98 nations worldwide, including 37 European countries, of which eight are members of the EU (Greece is petitioning to have chess in their 2004 Olympic games).

Of course, chess doesn't (generally) involve running, jumping, kicking (a ball or opponent) or otherwise thumping other people. But I've banged on before about the great physical demands it makes at a high level: among them, people - specifically Nigel Short when he played me in 1991 - losing a stone in a week; and the need to withstand a very high pulse for many hours, not to mention the excellent reflexes that chess players demonstrate under time pressure.

In any case, the change of status would require parliamentary legislation and the new session of parliament begins on 17 October, with the Queen's Speech a month later. Charlotte Atkins' (Labour, Staffordshire Moorlands) Early Day Motion (EDM) 507 has now been signed by 99 back-benchers, and if you support the move then you could help by contacting your MP to ask whether they've signed - or in the case of Ministers (who can't sign EDMs) whether they approve. Those with a web connection can get further information by going to www.turowski.com/chess where there are links to the EDM and also a petition and other campaign material.

Those who wish to deny that chess is a sport can at least be assured that it's not a business - or at least not a perfectly run one, a view reinforced, if reinforcement were needed, by the news this week that Romanian Liviu-Dieter Nispeanu's $138,000 cheque for reaching the semi- final of the recent Fide world championship in Las Vegas has bounced (Fide's executive director Emmanuel Omuku has said "he should re-present it"). I sincerely hope (ignoring the dreadful pun which follows) that he doesn't have to do so a third time or more before he can draw on it.

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