Sporting chance for chess

7th May 1999 at 01:00
EDUCATION ministers have given their support to a campaign to recognise chess as a sport, so making the game eligible for lottery cash, writes Frances Rafferty.

Charlotte Atkins, Labour MP for Staffordshire Moorlands and a member of the education select committee, said Estelle Morris and Charles Clarke, as well as Tony Banks, the sports minister are supporting her cause.

She said: "Chess is a sport in which the United Kingdom excels and is the second strongest chess nation after Russia. The Government spends pound;49,000 compared to Greece which spends pound;337,000 per year.

"Four million people play in this country, and numerous research has shown the high educational and social impact of chess when available at school.

"Chess teaches children co-ordination, concentration, social and interactive skills, to plan ahead, and most importantly to take responsibility for their decisions."

Britain's champions include 11-year-old Jessie Gilbert, who became the youngest winner of an adult world title when she won a gold medal at the world amateur chess championships in January.

The 1937 Physical Training and Recreation Act allows activities involving physical effort and physical skill to be funded by sports councils. And despite Nigel Short's losing a stone in weight during a match that lasted a week and a half, the game falls short of this definition.

Ms Atkins is looking at ways to change the legislation. However, it seems unlikely that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will have a Bill in the next Parliamentary session.

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