Are chess players athletes?
No, they are not. There is nothing remotely athletic about chess. If we consider chess players athletes, what about checkers? Scrabble? Tic-tac-toe? Where do we draw the line?
Well, in some countries that line is drawn somewhere behind chess. Heck, Levon Aronian was named Armenia's sportsman of the year not once, but twice! That's a prize given out to the country's best athlete across ALL sports.
Now, as far as his chess prowess goes, Aronian clearly has it. Even though he never became world champion, he was ranked #2, has one of the highest ratings of all time, won the Chess World Cup (as well world titles in rapid and blitz chess), and, yes, is half Jewish. He even led Armenia to the Chess Olympiad three times.
Yes, chess has its own, separate, "Olympics". We told you, chess players are not athletes...