Looking to take up a new hobby or sport, well I may have found you the perfect activity, a combination of physical prowess and mental agility – Chessboxing!
A curious combination of brain and brawn, the sport of chessboxing has seen an explosion in popularity in recent years. Inspired by a science fiction graphic novel, the sport combines the physical action of the squared ring with the mental agility of the chequered board classic. The matches see competitors alternate between three-minute boxing exchanges with four-minute rounds of speed chess, with a one minute break between rounds. The winner is then determined by knockout, checkmate or referee’s decision.
A knockout or checkmate can lead to an early win, and the fight can also be cut short if a player exceeds the chess time limit (12 minutes per contest) or the referee decides the fight has to be aborted. If the game of chess ends with a tie, it is settled with the points earned in the boxing rounds. If the boxing fight ends with a tie, the player who had black on the chessboard wins.
The same people box and play chess, a common misconception is that there is a handover between a chessplayer and a separate boxer.
The game in it's current format originated from the mind of Serbian cartoonist Enki Bilal, who penned a graphic novel 'Froid Équateur' (literally ‘Cold Equator’) featuring the game in 1992, in which the themes of a healthy spirit in a healthy body and aggression management played a role.
However purists argue that the game was originally conceived in the 1991 Finnish film 'Uuno Turhapuro, herra Helsingin herra,' in which a man makes chess moves over a hands-free telephone headset while simultaneously beating seven bells out of another man. This makes me wonder why they don't do actual chess boxing that way, but who am I to tell them how to do their jobs!
The World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO) is the governing body of the sport chess boxing. The WCBO was founded in 2003 and has its headquarters in Berlin, Germany. Its current president is Iepe Rubingh, founder of the sport.
The WCBO's motto is: "Fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board".
Chessboxing events have taken place in London, Los Angeles, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Calcutta. The contestants boast names such as: Anti-Terror, the Beast, the Slice and the Priest.
The first official chess boxing fight ever to be held was the Middleweight World Championship between 'Iepe the Joker' and 'Luis the Lawyer' on the 14th November 2003 at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. 'Iepe the Joker' won the match after a dramatic fight in the 11th and last round when 'Luis the Lawyer' exceeded his chess playing time limit.
Chessboxing is the ultimate challenge for both the body and the mind. More and more contemporary athletic disciplines are characterised by multifaceted challenges. It’s comparable to a biathlon, as one example. Extreme physical stress is combined with a huge mental challenge. Chessboxing is a bit more radical than a biathlon, but through targeted training, the body can be prepared for matches just as well as it can for a biathlon. The alteration between boxing and playing chess represents the biggest challenge.
Naturally you might assume that a professional boxer would automatically have an advantage and could potentially win the world champion title in the second round of the fight?
However Championship fights require fulfilment of the following:
You must be younger than 35, be in an exceptionally good state of physical fitness, have experience in a minimum number of 20 boxing matches and your chess ELO rating must not be lower than 1800. If you don’t have an ELO rating yet or any comparable ranking from a national chess organisation in your country, our chess trainer will test your skills online. Someone like Vitali Klitschko would need years of training to achieve the chess rating required.
As its popularity grows, there are hopes that one day the sport will be recognised by the Olympics.
The next Chessboxing event takes place later this month, on the 23rd March 2013 at the Scarla London, 275 Pentonville Road, London N1 9NL, from 7pm until late.
Tickets are £20 in advance or £25 on the night - the perfect 'Mother's Day' gift!
You can follow the London Chessboxing scene including forthcoming events and videos on Twitter