Five Most Underappreciated Sports: Chess, Hurling, and More

By Jim Liao
Jim Liao
Jim Liao
July 9, 2014 Updated: July 9, 2014


Yes, it’s debatable, but chess is officially recognized as a sport by International Olympic Committee.

Above is Magnus Carlsen — the world, and possibly history’s best player, taking just one minute and 19 seconds to dismantle Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates.

A common misconception some have that serves to underrate chess:

By virtue of being a board game, many equate chess to simpler board games where talent is ultimately limited by the possibilities the game offers.

For example, many assume Carlsen beat Gates by following some formula or set move order.

This severely downplays the intellectual aspect of chess, implying that memorizing a few move orders is all it takes for Gates to give Carlsen a good game.

In actuality, in chess there are 318,979,564,000  ways just to play the first four moves.

A few years ago, media outlets like newsscientist reported that the game of checkers was successfully solved by computers. This means that as long as the players make no mistakes, there is a move formula that ensures that the game will always be a draw.

In comparison, The Shannon number – 10^120, is an estimated lower bound on the game-tree complexity of chess. 

This is more than the number of atoms in the observable Universe, which is estimated to be between 4 × 10 to the 79 power and 10 to the 81 power. 

In summary, chess is certainly not just a simple board game – even at chess’s highest level, there is ample room to pioneer the game with revolutionary play.

And though the physical(or lack thereof) aspect of chess is often debated, most would agree that you cannot possibly play a 4-6 hour game at the professional level — with all the intense concentration and brain cells needed, without being in good shape.

Competitive Eating

Competitive eating is not under-appreciated in the sense that it should be more popular.

It’s perfectly understandable if you don’t particularly like watching gluttons gorging away vast amounts of invaluable food(it’s not a pretty sight either).

Rather, what is often underestimated is the sport’s physical aspect. People aren’t recklessly eating with abandon;there is an athletic process.

You can click here to better understand how intense the physical aspect of the sport is, as well as why competitive eaters are surprisingly fit.

Gaelic Football

“Gaelic football combines the suspense of soccer, the skills and scoring of basketball, and the speed of the fastest sports in the world in a free-flowing action-packed sport.”

Enough said, and the video is evidence of the sport’s physicality.

Definitely a sport that is severely underappreciated in relation to the amount of skill needed to play it.


If Gaelic Football is to soccer, then hurling is to field hockey or lacrosse.

Using small sticks called hurleys to hit the ball into the goal, hurling, like Gaelic football, is unique in that it is highly complex, combines many different skills, and of course, requires outstanding athletic ability to play.

Sepak Takraw 

Don’t be put off by the name. Sepak Takraw is essentially ‘kick volleyball’  – volleyball where you can use anything but your hands.

Though there are just 3 players on each side, the Southeast Asian sport is lauded for its incredible athleticism and the beautiful body movements of the players, whom at the professional level, are able to effortlessly kick the ball while back-flipping into the air.

Jim Liao