Summer Olympics have been brutal for chess players this year. Many have sustained incapacitating injuries that are raising serious concerns about the safety of this sport.
Sergey Tomov, the Russian three-time Olympic champion suffered a brain cramp only fifteen moves into his second game. He had to be carried out on a stretcher, his left eye twitching. He withdrew from the competition shortly after.
Elena Gomez, the Bolivian rookie who has been captivating the hearts of international audiences and was predicted to win at least bronze this year, tripped on her way to the board. She was carried to her chair by the entire Bolivian weight lifting team, who almost got injuries of their own by the uprecedented effort. Elena played a distracted game, barely winning over Gunther Kaufmann, one of the intellectually inferior contestants, who was able to capitalize on her unexpected weakness. She was seen rubbing her knee repeatedly where she apparently hurt herself on the carpet-covered floor. There are rumors that she is considering knee surgery. It is unclear if the surgery was to occur before or after her participation in the games.
The Korean Do-hyun Kwang, another rising star on the International Chess horizons, struggled as she lifted pawns to move them across the board. She is speculated to be symptomatic of repetitive stress injury of her forearm, which in the longer term would put an end to her hopes of winning gold.
Finally, Matumba Kotongo from Lesotho, the first African to qualify in the Senior Men’s category, announced that his Ophthalmologist has ran out of diopters for his thick bifocals that had endeared him to ladies of all nationalities and ages. He was, as he put it himself, “blind as a bat” from staring too long at chess boards. This “might have been OK if [he] were being used to hit a baseball with”, he joked, but it was doing him no good if he wanted to see all the way to the other side of the chess board.
Year over year, chess has been becoming more and more risky for the athletes who aspire to perform in this challenging sport. The World Olympic Association is now considering imposing stricter restrictions on the contestants, and establishing tougher ground rules of engagement.
“The health and safety of our athletes is our top priority,” said Lilly Lee Lelland, a prominent member of the Olympic Planning Committee from Lalla, Lithuania. “Starting with the next Olympics, we will not be allowing anyone over the age of 90, or over 300 lbs. We will require proper stretching of the mind before any game, say, by casual 10 minute conversation with another human being. The floor will no longer be just carpet. We will be padding it with tempurpedic material, and the athletes will be transported to their chess boards in wheelchairs, safely secured with seat belts.”
Concerns remain, but these actions have been seen as positive steps that would put the minds of our intellectually superior athletes at ease.