I could have sworn the pawn hadn't moved from that square. But then again I had nodded off for a few minutes. And it wasn't all those lamb kebabs at lunch which had sent me to the land of nod, rather it was the action on the chess tables. Describing chess - making its debut as a medal sport at these games - as action-packed would be an overstatement to say the least. The players sit hunched in oversized chairs, many with furrowed brows, and some with chin in hand. The only people moving around in the pin-drop silence are the brown-suited officials watching the moves like a hawk eyes its prey. Doha officials, possibly thinking five moves ahead, pushed for this sport to be included soon after they won the rights to host the event - insiders say it was three years ago when Qatari grandmaster Mohammed al-Modiahki married Chinese world champion Zhu Chen. 'Qatar has some very good chess players, especially the husband and wife team. They are clear gold medal hopes and that is why this sport is in the Asian Games,' admits Hisham al-Taher, general secretary of the Asian Chess Federation. In 2001, when she was 25, Zhu defeated Russian Alexandra Kostenuik to be crowned world champion. The diminutive Zhu, who thinks computer-quick, was too good for her opponents on the opening day of the chess competition. She thrashed opponents from Jordan, Kazakhstan and Iran in the women's Rapid Swiss event. Each player has 25 minutes on the clock to beat their opponent. By the end of this time, the player who is in a winning position, if the opponent hasn't already been checkmated, is declared the winner. They are not only playing against an opponent, but also must be mindful of the time. Zhu is so good she was able to defeat Dana Aketayeva with 12 minutes remaining. Obviously, it is all mental. But is it sport? I ask Bahraini Aysha Mutaywea, who troops off dejectedly after losing her game to an Iranian. She bristles defiantly and moves close to me - the first active move I have seen all afternoon inside the chess hall. 'Sport doesn't have to be only physical. It can be all about using your head and brains. It is the ability to think and calculate which matters,' says Aysha. 'This is the hardest game in the world. It requires a lot of courage as one small mistake can cost you everything. There is no chance for a comeback like in other sports,' she adds with a withering look. I cower, mentally. I now know how a pawn must feel when a menacing bishop, crook in hand, threatens to knock him off his perch. The legendary Bobby Fischer might have lifted the image of chess back in the '70s, while any number of Russian greats, including Boris Spassky, who played against Fischer in the so-called Match of the Century in 1972, Anatoly Karpov and Garry Kasparov also brought glamour to the game. But there doesn't seem to be any magnetic appeal at the al-Dana Indoor Hall, a building which has an outer facade that quite appropriately for chess, resembles a castle. However, this does not faze American David Mundie from turning up. He is among a handful of spectators who have paid 10 riyals, or HK$22, to watch the action. 'I play chess with one friend,' says Mundie. 'We meet only once every two years. I tried to play with my wife one day, but she got angry and threw the board. I don't mind watching it at all, all sports don't have to be physical.' A native of Pittsburgh, Mundie has been working in Doha for the past six months as a computer security specialist. He is also an avid bird-watcher and says he should have brought his binoculars to the show. 'I could watch the action more closely,' he says. 'I'm glad I don't have to be the one making any decisions.' But I take a decision - and leave. Number of the Day: 64 It is the number of squares on a chess board. Or even the age which Paul McCartney, and the Beatles, used for his famed love song, When I'm 64.