CHESS shot to global prominence when Bobby Fischer took on Boris Spassky in a world championship encounter back in 1972.

The match, which took place in Reykjavík, Iceland, was dubbed the match of the 20th century, as the American Fischer defeated the defending champion, Spassky, of the Soviet Union.

The televised match had significance for political reasons in the midst of the Cold War.

But it created a ripple of excitement and introduced a new generation to chess, and led to the formation of chess clubs in schools, village halls, and pubs.

The chess buzz was rekindled in Tynedale earlier this month, when Chinese wonderkid Yichen Han visited Hexham.

The 11-year-old took on 17 players from the district, all at the same time, in a simultaneous display at the Queen’s Hall.

Tynedale Chess Club teamed up with Forest Hall Chess Club, in North Tyneside, where Yichen is a member, to organise the event which proved popular with players and spectators alike.

It also sparked a long-standing debate about whether or not the strategy board game is a sport.

It is not registered as a sport in the UK, and receives no public funding. However, it is recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, and in 100 countries across the world.

There are various definitions of sport, with the chief one being that sport is an activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another.

However, another definition is that sport is an activity played in a lively, energetic way.

Peter Crichton, of Tynedale Chess Club, said: “Whether or not chess is a sport depends upon how sport is defined. It is a matter of linguistics.

“Competition is at the heart of sport, and to that extent you could argue that chess is indeed a sport because it has a very competitive element.

“It does not include the physical attributes that other sports tend to have, but another key factor is concentration, which is vital in chess, and in sport generally.

“It doesn’t bother me too greatly how people see it, although perhaps if chess was classified as a sport in this country it might lead to funding and other opportunities.”

While the cost of a chess set and clock is relatively cheap, compared to costs associated with other many sports, reaching the top of the game does cost money with many tournaments taking place overseas.

Therefore, access to sports funding would be beneficial to chess, and other pastimes, such as the card game, bridge.

Advocate General Maciej Szpunar, a top adviser to the European Court of Justice, declared in 2017 that bridge was a sport.

He said: “To be a sport, it is not necessary that the activity has a certain physical element. It is sufficient that the activity has a significant mental element which is material to its outcome.”

His ruling represented a victory for the English Bridge Union (EBU) in its long-running bid to see the game gain official recognition as a sport.

The EBU successfully argued that it should receive the tax relief available to other sporting bodies, as bridge players were being charged VAT on entry fees to tournaments. The English Chess Federation followed the case closely.

There has been talk of chess and bridge being included in the Olympics. It hasn’t happened yet, but Tynedale Chess Club is more interested in raising the profile locally.