Monday, March 25, 2013

The Championship Play-Off Lottery!

The gloves are off!

Promotion to the English Premier league (EPL) next season and the huge financial windfall that goes with it is oh so close that clubs and their fans' can almost taste the sweet smell of success! It is akin to dangling a scratch and sniff card in front of a host of clubs, except that this season, for some inexplicable reason the clubs in the race for promotion seem to have lost their sense of smell!

With just eight games to go in the npower Championship there are seven teams that are in with a realistic shout of going up automatically. For those clubs that fail to make the two automatic places and with it a guaranteed place in the top flight of English football next season, four of them must face the drama and potential pain or elation that is part and parcel of the play-off lottery!

Cardiff look almost certain to go up automatically, probably as champions, but that still leaves one automatic promotion spot available, and six teams to fight it out for the right to take their place in the English Premier League at the start of the 2013/14 season.

The teams that fail to take that final automatic spot following a ten month season spanning 46 games will then have the outcome of their season defined by just two, possibly three matches. There is no single sporting event in the world more valuable to the winners, than the victors of the play-offs, who will end up approximately £85million better off, predominately made up from the commercial television revenue that the English Premier League generates. However, by convention the two finalists agree that the loser will keep all the gate receipts from the game, so as to very slightly soften the financial blow of missing out.......(at a guess i would say a figure in the region of £3million - peanuts in comparison).

The Football League Championship play-offs are a series of matches contested by the teams finishing from 3rd to 6th in the Football League Championship table. The semi-finals are played over two legs, with 6th playing 3rd and 5th playing 4th, with the return fixtures following. The final is played at Wembley Stadium and the winners are promoted to the English Premier League.

Cardiff have been top for sometime now, and although they have had the odd wobble over the last few months, so have everyone else around them. Taking Cardiff out of the equation as they are nine points clear of dropping out of the top two places, the battle for the second automatic spot is between Hull, Watford, Crystal Palace, Nottingham Forest, Leicester and Brighton with Bolton and Middlesbrough in a position to pounce should the wheels fall off of any of the aforementioned clubs in the final month of the 2012/13 season.

As I write only two points separate 2nd placed Hull from 3rd placed Watford, just three points separate Hull from 4th placed Crystal Palace, while six points separate Palace from 6th placed Leicester. Brighton lie 7th on the same number of points as Leicester, but with an inferior goal difference.

Looking at the run-in:

Hull still have to play Watford, Middlesbrough and Cardiff, but face difficult games against Barnsley, Bristol City, Ipswich and Wolves, who are all fighting for Championship survival at the bottom.

Watford's fixtures obviously include Hull, but also Cardiff and Leicester and potentially tricky games against Peterborough and Blackburn who are both fighting to stay in the division.

Forest's run in includes games against Brighton, Cardiff, Middlesbrough and Leicester along with struggling Barnsley and Blackpool.

Leicester's fixtures include games against Brigthon, Bolton, Watford, Palace and Forest and they like Hull and Forest face Barnsley.

Brighton's run in includes matches against Forest, Leicester,and Middlesbrough, along with relegation candidates Wolves and Peterborough and struggling Blackpool.

Crystal Palace would seem to have the easier of the run-ins, but as anyone who watches Championship football knows, there are no easy games in this league hence why no teams have run away at the top or been cast adrift at the bottom. Four points separate the bottom four clubs, and only eight points separate the bottom eleven.
Palace only play Leicester of the current top ten teams, but face a plethora of fixtures against struggling sides, namely Blackpool, Barnsley, Ipswich, Blackburn and Peterborough on the final day.

You can argue that it's better to play teams around you at the top as you are in control of your own destiny, but at the same time they are the form sides. On the otherhand playing the bottom sides may seem a better option, but they will be fighting for their lives and definitely won't role over easily. Perhaps fixtures against mid-table teams with nothing to play for is the best option, but to be honest this is not a division where any one team has the 'right' to beat another team, and the higher you finish the more that club earns financially.

There will also be players at all clubs in the division playing for new contracts or looking to impress the powers that be at other clubs. At the end of the day as a club you firstly need to get out and win your own fixtures, then you will have done everything in your power to put yourself in a the best possible position come the end of the season. What will be will be, but at the end of the day you cannot rely on other teams to do you so called 'favours.'

When the Championship play-offs were first introduced for the 1986/87 season, they originally featured a top flight team as well as the three second tier clubs. This format was continued for the 1987/88, but discontinued afterwards to include only the four teams who finished behind the team or teams winning automatic promotion. As before, the semi-final and final were both two-legged.                                              
        The New Wembley Stadium

Since 1989/90, the final has been a single game, played at Wembley Stadium, although from 2001 to 2006, it was played at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, while Wembley was being rebuilt.              

Ipswich Town have been in the Championship play-offs a record seven times: 1987, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, 2004, and 2005, making the final only once and winning it in 2000.

Leicester City have reached the Championship play-off final four times, losing two in 1992 and                 1993 and winning two in 1994 and 1996.

Crystal Palace have also appeared in the final four times, losing in 1996 and winning in 1989, 1997 and 2004.

Birmingham City have reached the Championship play-offs four times consecutively from 1999 to 2002, losing the first three attempts before, in 2002, reaching the Play-Off Final at the Millennium Stadium, and finally winning promotion to the Premier League.

The team finishing highest in the league (third) has succeeded in winning promotion ten times out of twenty-six seasons up to 2012, with the 4th placed team managing four promotions, the 5th six promotions and the 6th five promotions.

The play-off winners have managed to finish above the Championship winners and runners-up in the subsequent Premier League season on five occasions: Blackburn Rovers in 1992/93, Leicester City in 1996/97, Ipswich Town in 2000/01, West Ham United in 2005/06 and Swansea City in 2011/12.

Championship Play-Off Records:

Most play-off promotions: 3 – Crystal Palace (1989, 1997, 2004)
Most play-off finals: 4 – Crystal Palace, Leicester City
Most play-off final defeats: 3 – Sheffield United (1997, 2003, 2009)
Most play-off participations: 7 – Ipswich Town
Most unsuccessful play-off participations: 6 – Ipswich Town (from 7 in total)
Teams without any unsuccessful play-off participations: Notts County (1991), Hull City (2008), Burnley (2009), Swansea City (2011)
Biggest aggregate win: Chelsea 6–1 Blackburn Rovers (1988); Leicester City 6–1 Cambridge United (1992); and Hull City 6–1 Watford (2008)
Biggest home win: Leicester City 5–0 Cambridge United (Semi-final, 1992)
Biggest away win: Birmingham City 0–4 Barnsley (Semi-final, 2000)
Biggest win in a final: Bolton Wanderers 3–0 Preston North End (2001); Sheffield United 0–3 Wolverhampton Wanderers (2003); and Leeds United 0–3 Watford (2006)
Highest scoring final: 8 goals – Charlton Athletic 4–4 Sunderland (1998)
Highest scoring play-off match: 8 goals – Charlton Athletic 4–4 Sunderland (Final, 1998); Ipswich Town 5–3 Bolton Wanderers (Semi-final, 2000)
Highest scoring tie (aggregate): 12 goals – Ipswich Town 7–5 Bolton Wanderers (2000)
Highest attendance: 86,703 – Bristol City vs Hull City (Final, 2008)
Lowest attendance: 9,225 – Cambridge United vs Leicester City (Semi-final, 1992).

The English Premier League:

The competition formed as the FA Premier League on 20 February 1992 following the decision of clubs in the Football League First Division to break away from The Football League, which was originally founded in 1888, and take advantage of a lucrative television rights deal. This deal will be worth £3 billion as of 2013–14, with BSkyB and BT Group securing the rights to broadcast 116 and 38 games respectively.
The Premier League is the most-watched football league in the world, broadcast in 212 territories to 643 million homes and a TV audience of 4.7 billion people.

The Premier League distributes a small portion of its television revenue to clubs that are relegated from the league in the form of "parachute payments". At the end of the current season 2012/13 those clubs relegated from the EPL will get a proposed £23m in the first year after relegation and £18m in the second, followed by £9m a year in years three and four!

In contrast Championship clubs that are not in receipt of parachute payments will receive around £2.3m in solidarity payments. This ridiculously one sided financial divide is currently being looked into by The Football League as they attempt to look at ways of mitigating the advantage of parachute payments handed to clubs relegated to the Championship. Some Football League Club owners who attended a summit meeting last Wednesday (20th March 2013) claimed they may have to walk away from the game if they were forced to compete with clubs that received more in parachute payments than their entire budget for the year.

Attached is a link to The Guardian's article on the subject right here!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Intense Football Rivalry - Crystal Palace versus Brighton

Brighton and Hove Albion host Crystal Palace this coming Sunday lunchtime, the 17th March 2013, as one of the fiercest fan rivalries in British football is reignited again!

At first glance, it may seem strange that one of English football's fiercest rivalries is between two teams 60 miles apart, one Club which resides on the South Coast, whilst the other is in South London.

Correct, they are not in the same county let alone the same city, there's no deep routed historical reason, no trading rivalries between the areas, no religious differences, it's pure and simple - a genuine footballing rivalry based on the fact that both clubs used to play each other a lot and had managers happy to stoke up the fires of rivalry.

Crystal Palace and Brighton are fierce rivals - See why!

Many football fans assume that Millwall and Charlton are Palace’s main rivals, being so close in location, and that Portsmouth 40 miles along the coast might be Brighton's number one enemy.

To really understand the hatred between Palace and Brighton you need to turn the clock back to the 1970's and the days of Mullery v Venables.

Between January 1963 and August 1974 there were no competitive fixtures at all between Palace and Brighton - as Brighton got relegated into Division Four in 1963 and Palace started their climb into the top flight.

Their rivalry did not develop until Palace's relegation to the Third Division in 1974. The clubs had two of the division's biggest followings, communications between Croydon and Brighton were good and many fans were keen to travel to an away fixture.

So in August 1974 the two teams met in full competition, for the first time since the early 1960's in the old Division Three, and both clubs with new nicknames to boot. "The Dolphins" versus "The Eagles" was the first game of that 74-75 season and Palace suffered a 1-0 reverse in front of the largest crowd to watch Palace at home that season. The following March, revenge was metered out by Palace as they defeated the South Coast side 3-0. The win did little to aid Palace's dying promotion effort, but it almost spelt disaster for Brighton, who only narrowly avoided relegation.

The following season Palace got off to a flying start, were undefeated in their opening seven games and sat proudly at the summit of the division. Then came the visit of Brighton and with it a 1-0 defeat. It wasn't a disaster in footballing terms at the time, as come Christmas Palace were sitting pretty at the top of the league by seven clear points. By the time the away fixture came around, Palace were in the midst of the great FA Cup run of 1976, but their league form had deserted them and Palace went down 2-0. Brighton finished the season in fourth, a place above Palace on goal difference and they had completed the 'double' over their rivals.

It was the following season that the fireworks really began!
Terry Venables, fresh out of coaching school under the late Malcolm Allison was the new manager at Palace, and Alan Mullery was appointed the new boss at Brighton, after Brighton manager Peter Taylor rejoined his old mate the late Brian Clough, up at Forest. Both clubs were the biggest in the old Division Three and doing quite well.

In the 1976-77 season the sides meet five times: twice in the league and three times to decide an First Round FA Cup tie. To say neither manager had much time for the other would be understating the case. Palace remained undefeated against Brighton over the season recording three draws and two victories.

It was an FA Cup second round replay at neutral Stamford Bridge that finally ignited the already smouldering blue touch paper that season. Mullery got out of his pram about a number of dodgy decisions from referee Ron Challis, including a converted Brighton penalty that had to be retaken and a disallowed goal! The retake was saved by Paul Hammond. That referee is still known as "Challis of the Palace" down in Brighton! It culminated in Mullery blowing his top in front of the Palace fans who were giving him abuse for his outraged protests. He flung down about a fiver's worth of change into a puddle and screamed "You're not worth that, Palace" - in the end, the police had to lead him away! At the end of the 1976-77 season both sides were promoted.

Alan Mullery's outspoken-ness continued to fan the flames of a rivalry that often violently spilled over into the alleyways, railway stations and park areas of Brighton and Hove and, on more than one occasion, the side-streets and shops of Croydon. It was rumoured that he was motivated by jealousy having wanted the Palace managerial job himself. He decided to change the Club nick-name once again, this time to "The Seagulls"

The 1978-79 season saw Palace, Brighton, Stoke and Sunderland all slog out a nail-biting promotion race. On the last Saturday of the season, Brighton, Stoke and Sunderland had finished their seasons, Brighton ended up top on goal difference, Stoke and Sunderland provisionally claimed second and third, but Palace still had a game in hand - win it and Palace were Champions, displacing Brighton, lose and Palace would miss out on promotion completely, on goal difference.

On the 11th May 1979 Palace defeated Burnley 2-0 in front of a record 51,801 people at Selhurst Park, and in doing so Palace snatched the Second Division Championship title away from Brighton.

The news was broken to the Brighton players at 30,000 feet whilst on route to play in a tournament in the US. That wasn't the only bad news they were receive that day, when they landed they found the tournament had been scrapped, due to a fuel crisis!

The next season saw both clubs in the First Division, Brighton for the first time in their history. To cope with the larger crowds that top-flight football brings, Brighton erected the naffest temporary grandstand of all time on one side. Even their own fans nicknamed it 'The Lego stand'. Palace fans quickly coined the phrase and the Goldstone Ground became known as 'Legoland.'
Later that season, fire swept through the South Stand, gutting the seats and wooden structure. An act which many local fans pointing the finger at Palace fans, who lived in the area! On the field, both sides held onto their First division status.

The following season Palace were relegated but Brighton went on escaping relegation for another two seasons, band managed a Cup Final appearance in their last season in the top flight.

In November 1981 Palace played a 'friendly' against Brighton and came away with a credible 1-1 draw adminst another management upheaval at the club as Dario Gradi made way for Steve Kember. Then in a enormously unpopular move, Ron Noades appointed Alan Mullery as manager. Palace fans couldn't not swallow this and deserted the Club in large numbers, whilst some drifted back slowly over the years - plenty never came back at all. One of Mullery's first games in charge was a home 'friendly' against Brighton, which Palace managed to win by a single goal.

Palace renewed acquaintance with Brighton again in the 1983-84 season, the second year of Mullery's two years. The now traditional Christmas and Easter games saw Mullery stick the dagger even further into mortally wounded Palace hearts, yes, he let them get away with all six points again. This were the nadir of recent Palace history and the serious violence that followed the April trip to the Goldstone served only to counterpoint the frustrations.

Mullery slipped away quietly to Q.P.R. after two relegation struggles, giving way to managerial new boy Steve Coppell. His first season saw an early South Coast encounter end in 1-0 defeat, but the home game saw a Trevor Aylott goal ensure a deserved draw. The game was surrounded by controversy with Palace defender Henry Hughton sent off for a late tackle on Brighton winger Gerry Ryan, who sustained a badly broken leg, which ultimately ended his playing career. The Brighton Manager Chris Cattlin claimed in the press it was the worst tackle he'd ever seen, but Ryan himself refused to condemn Hughton.

In the 1985-86 season Palace lost at Brighton on New Year's Day, a game mainly remembered by Palace fans for a scandalous dive by Terry Connor which earned Brighton a penalty. Late in March, Palace managed to chalk up a narrow league victory against their rivals in the reverse fixture.

Later that year in another bizarre twist of fate surrounding the two clubs, Brighton re-appointed the 'Prince of Darkness' Allan Mullery OBE as their new manager.

The following season, Palace fans saw this as their chance for revenge on Mullery in the Boxing Day fixture of 1986. The players duly obliged as Palace beat their rivals and relegation strugglers. By Easter Monday, Barry Lloyd was in charge of a Brighton side that had not won a League game for three months.........enter Palace, chasing a 'play-off' place, but on the day they somehow contrived to lose 2-0 to a woeful Brighton side, that were up for this fixture and ultimately this result helped end Palace's play-off hopes for that season.

The mood of the Palace fans was not pleasant, angry at the scoreline and fed up at being so tightly packed onto a tiny corner terrace, when the Brighton fans had the run of the open East Terrace. With ten minutes left, a sizeable number stormed out of the terrace, to confront Brighton fans in their own end. The ensuing violence spilled out of the ground into Phoenix Park which played host to several running battles before The Sussex Constabulary eventually brought order to the seaside town.

There was some consolation for Palace that the result did nothing to assist Brighton's survival. They ended up getting relegated, thanks in the main to the ministrations of their one-time idol, Alan Mulllery.

Two seasons later and Brighton were back in Division Two. Palace lost at Brighton in another Boxing Day encounter in 1988, but the return fixture on the 27th March 1989 still holds a place in the English League record books thanks to a certain referee named Kelvin Morton. Morton awarded five penalties, Palace were given four of those five and incredibly managed to miss three of them - but Palace still won the game 2-1! Morton also sent off Brighton midfielder Mike Trusson in the first-half.
That season Palace were promoted to Division One via the play-offs, whilst Brighton finished 19th.

However, the two did not play in a league encounter between 1990 and 2001, although there were have been a number of 'pre-season friendlies' staged between the sides, all at Brighton!

The first in August 1992, saw an injury-struck Palace side once more deliver a below par performance, although still managing to win 1-0. This game was originally scheduled for a Saturday afternoon, when it would have attracted a much larger crowd, but was eventually played on Friday night. Possibly the only friendly fixture ever to have been moved on Police advice!
After the game, however, it was Palace fans getting back on the train who were subjected to a CS gas attack at Hove station.

That season ended with Palace's relegation from the Premier League, whilst Brighton having survived a number of High Court actions maintained their Division Two status.

In August 1993, a second 'friendly' took place, the game was to have been a testimonial match for Palace player Gary O'Reilly, but a row about gate receipts scuppered that. Once again, some Palace fans were subjected to another tear gas attack, this time before the game in a pub. Just for a change, Palace really turned on the style on the pitch. A 2,000-strong Palace posse of supporters saw Palace score three times without reply. A performance that underlined the major difference in class that now existed between the sides.

The 2000-01 season saw Brighton, under the stewardship of Mickey Adams, promoted out of Division Three as Champions, Palace on the other hand, had a shockingly bad season and coming into the final week of that season they were firmly ensconced in the relegation zone.

On the morning of Sunday 6th May 2001, Brighton paraded their Division Three Championship trophy through the streets of Brighton, and afterwards their supporters settled in pubs everywhere to watch Palace get relegated to Division Two, thereby setting up two mouth-watering encounters. For 87 minutes, the party was in full swing, then Dougie Freedman worked his magic and his epic late winner at Stockport sent the South London fans' delirious and the Brighton fans were left inconsolable!

Crystal Palace beat the drop - 2000/2001 season

The following season, despite losing manager Mickey Adams to Leicester, Brighton appointed former Palace legend Peter Taylor as manager. Taylor helped Brighton get promoted as Champions, thereby setting up two more spicy Brighton versus Palace derby matches for the forthcoming season, before he walked out on them. Another ex-Palace player, Martin Hinshelwood was appointed the new manager.

So 2002 saw the return of Brighton to the second tier but they started the season poorly and Hinshelwood was kicked upstairs, and then the unthinkable happened - they went and appointed Steve Coppell, the former Palace manager as their new boss a couple of weeks before Palace hosted the South Coast side at Selhurst Park!

On 26th October 2002 Palace thrashed them 5–0 in a memorable game, with Palace striker Andy Johnson scoring a hat-trick. That date and scoreline is etched in Palace history forever!

The return fixture, the following March was a dull affair, the game ended 0-0 with Palace full-back Danny Granville getting himself sent off, but endearing himself to the Palace faithful by telling the jeering Brighton fans near the tunnel to "f*ck off".

Brighton were relegated that season, making Steve Coppell an even bigger cult hero at Palace, for taking their bitter rivals down a division, while Palace finished the season mid-table.

Brighton bounced straight back through the play-offs into Division One in 2003-04, only to find Palace had already left the Division by the gentleman's exit, promoted into the Premiership via the play-offs.

Palace got themselves relegated from the Premiership straight away, whilst Brighton managed to take it right to the last day of the season before narrowly ensuring their survival in 2004-05.

Brighton gained revenge in 2005 with a 1–0 win at Selhurst Park, however, a month later at the Withdean, Palace twice came from behind, with Dougie Freedman scoring his 100th and 101st goals for Palace and Jobi McAnuff scoring in the very last minute to win the game 3–2.

 Brighton lose to Crystal Palace in a thriller on the 20/11/2005

Despite Brighton and Palace sharing the spoils in the 2005-06 season, Brighton were relegated, finishing bottom of the table, winning just 7 of their 46 league games. Palace finished 6th but lost in the play-offs to Watford. Brighton then spent the next five seasons in League One, before finally winning promotion back to The Championship.

However both Clubs and both sets of fans are in a much better place now than they were several years ago. A lot has happened and a lot has changed for the good.

Brighton were promoted as League One champions in 2010-11 and have former Chelsea, Spurs and Uruguay international Gus Poyet as boss. On 31st May 2011 they moved from their temporary home at the Withdean Stadium, (which was not predominantly a football ground, having been used for athletics throughout most of its history, and previously as a zoo), to a shiny new 27,000 all-seater stadium, sponsored by AMEX, situated just outside Brighton in Falmer. They finished last season in a respectable 10th place in their first season back in the second of  English football, and they currently lie just outside a play-off spot this season.

Meanwhile Crystal Palace survived administration in 2010 and two successive relegation battles in 2009-10 and 2010-11 before steadying the ship last season, as they comfortably maintained their place in The Championship and also reached the League Cup semi-final. With the current owners in place, and Ian Holloway at the helm, the club are finally on sound financial footing, and in Holloway, they have one of the most passionate, charismatic and determined managers in the league. They have exceeded expectations on the field so far this season and currently lie 4th in the table, three points off a top two place, and have a support base, particularly on the road, that is the envy of many fellow Championship clubs.

So the 27th September 2011 saw the two rival teams meet for the first time since November 2005. Brighton newly promoted had started the season well, Palace steady if unspectacular!

Palace beat Brighton 3-1 at the Amex Stadium on 27th September 2011

It was to be a memorable game as Brighton took an early lead. Things remained that way until the final ten minutes of the match as Palace roared back with three goals to inflict on Brighton their first ever league defeat at their new home! Not only were Palace the first team to win at the AMEX in a league game, one of the Palace goalscorers that night was Glenn Murray, a former Brighton player who Palace had picked up on a free transfer from their rivals in May 2011. This sent many Brighton fans into meltdown and coined the phrase 'FFS Murray' (For F*cks Sake Murray), a comment heard to be made by a frustrated Brighton fan in the crowd following the strikers goal on that infamous night.

The reverse fixture at Selhurst Park on 31st January 2012 was less spectacular although still somewhat fiesty. The game ended 1-1, both goals coming from penalties and five players were booked!

On the 1st December 2012 Brighton visited South London and that man Glenn Murray scored twice against his former employers, as Crystal Palace recorded a comfortable 3-0 victory and went top of the league. More controversy surrounded this derby match as Brighton had Lewis Dunk sent-off after just eight minutes and Palace were awarded two penalties in the game.

No wonder there is a rivalry between the two clubs, with a history like that....................................

Now this coming Sunday lunchtime the two sides face each other again once more, with Palace lying 4th in the league table and Brighton currently 7th. With only nine games left of the season this match is crucial to both sides, with a place in the lucrative English Premier league next season a distinct possibility, if both Clubs can finish the season strongly. Brighton go into the game short of strikers while Murray is currently the second highest goalscorer in Europe, taking in the top 2 divisions in each of the 5 leading European leagues, with a total of 30 goals. Murray is second only to Lionel Messi of Barcelona in the goalscoring charts!

For a player who hand been at the South Coast club for three and a half seasons and had a goalscoring record of almost one in every other game, it was a strange and seemingly bad error of judgement on Brighton's part to let Murray go for nothing, rather than offer him an improved contract. The Cumbrian born hitman has come back to haunt Brighton twice already since his move to Palace and has gone on to prove himself a leathal marksman at Championship level, so it must be a bitter pill to swallow for his former club.
Will it bite them on the backside once more come the final whistle at 2pm on Sunday.............we shall see!

Brighton & Hove Albion v Crystal Palace - Sunday 17th March 2013, kick-off Noon

Follow these twitter accounts for the latest news & views of the fans of Brighton & Crystal Palace:

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Insane Sports – ChessBoxing

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

Friday, March 01, 2013

Babe of the Month - Sexy WAG Sarah Brandner

Sarah Brandner

Sarah Brandner was born on 12th December 1988 in Munich, Germany. Sarah is not by any means the first WAG who has worked as a model. She became a model like many when she was discovered on the streets by an agent who spotted her and asked her if she would be interested in modelling. At first she wasn't so sure, especially because she was only fifteen years old at the time.

At 5'11" tall and with a perfect figure (84-60-90) Sarah eventually decided to venture into modelling and was soon on the books of Place Models in Hamburg, Germany.
She is perhaps best known for featuring in the 2010 Sports Illustrated Body Painting Issue, along with Abbey Clancy, Bethany Dempsey, and Melissa Satta. She has also done notable work for German magazine Bild, and GQ Germany.

It was during her time at school where at a social event she first met footballer Bastian Schweinsteiger, but it wasn't until they met again in Ibiza in 2007 that they started dating, and the couple now live together in Munich.

Her modelling career has taken Sarah to change her residence address several times from Milan to New York and from New York to Munich, where she is currently living with her famous beau.