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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Chess Boxing

The Gloves are Off...and On Again

Knights and ladies, You have hopefully enjoyed some of my anarchic puckish Brit humor...and i'm always on the look out for quintessential Monty Pythonesque ways to mentally marry two extremes for amusement, but it seems reality has beaten me to it this time....May i introduce to you the sport of Chess-Boxing!

It's hard to imagine too many similarities between the cerebral game of chess and the bone-juddering discipline of boxing and yet the new sport melds the two.

When you think of chess players, you probably think of tangle-haired geniuses, reclusive Russians, and the boys at school who were too delicate to play in the yard.

You probably don't think of bulging biceps, iron jaws and sweat flying. That's why the mere mention of chessboxing causes so many raised eyebrows.

It's a mixture of chess and boxing - one round of chess is followed by a round of boxing and so on until the winner is declared by knockout, checkmate or points victory.

The sport, brought into reality in 2003 by a Dutch performance artist inspired by a French comic, came to the UK in April and has its headquarters at a boxing gym in north London. On the continent, the sport's epicentres are in Amsterdam and Berlin.

Some might assume that boxers lack the cerebral skills required for the game of kings, while a single punch would knock a chess player's glasses clean off his head?

"It's a devilish combination," the sport's Dutch inventor Iepe Rubingh tells a crowd of shaven-headed East End geezers and wild-haired cool kids at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, east London.

He has come to see the latest instalment in Chess-Boxing's rise in popularity - a UK international bout.

A large chessboard sits in the middle of a boxing ring beneath the club's dusty glitter ball.

As paramedics wait behind the ring and a rockabilly DJ plays 80s electro music to the sold-out venue, there is a palpable sense of uncertainty and menace.

It lifts when the first fighters take to the stage, with a compere whipping the crowd into a frenzy and a traditional glamorous lady circling the ring with a sign declaring "Round One". The boxers then sit down and play chess. A bout of Chess-Boxing stretches to 11 rounds - six of chess (four minutes each) and five of boxing (three minutes each).

Event promoter Tim Woolgar has put his money where his mouth is by taking part in the first bout. Unfortunately he is up against Konrad Rikardson from Sweden, a confident chess player and even more confident boxer.

As their chess moves are tracked on a giant computer screen, a commentator guides us through the game and evaluates the players' tactics.

A blokey cheer erupts whenever a piece is taken, but the boxers wear headphones to block out the noise. We are told they pump out Eric Clapton songs all night to increase the players' aggression.

"Go on - 'ave him!" shouts someone in the audience after a particularly good move. "Bash his bishop!", another yells, while the commentator sagely notes: "It's a pawn storm."

Minutes later the mood darkens as the board is moved aside, gloves and gum shields are put on and the boxing begins.

As the pair bob around the ring ducking and weaving, jabbing and defending, it becomes clear that they are deadly serious about their sport.

Woolgar takes one head blow after another yet minutes later returns to drip sweat over the chessboard.

He defends himself admirably but suffers a further physical pounding before Rikardson snatches his queen. The crowd goes wild.

After the tournament, Woolgar has recovered enough to explain the pain and pleasure of Chess-boxing. "I took an almighty pounding. I have a sense it didn't do me any good."

Nevertheless he is undaunted in his enthusiasm for the hybrid sport, adamant that Chess-Boxing has an "Instant Appeal" that wins over "a cross section of the community"

He now wants to encourage more young people to take it up and is aiming for it to be recognised as an Olympic sport.

High ideals maybe...but i'm thinking wouldn't it be a utopian way to pick our Leaders, who would then, in matters of warring take on the leader of the other country at Chess Boxing. Just think how many Young Lives would be saved.

Sir Dayvd (Knight to kings pawn with a left hook to the ribs) of Oxfordshire


  1. I wish I new about this when I was younger and playing chess with the smarter boys. I could of just knocked the shit out of them and declared myself the winner!

    Reminds me of an old ESPN promo where they did a parody on Full Contact Golf, marrying American Football and Golf. The only sport where you can break your nose while you read the break!

    Very English ole' chap. Keep the MP stories coming.

    Sir Hook the Pummeled Pawn of Warrick

  2. Wish I knew how to play chess, this sport would be right up my alley. I wish they held chess boxing contests here in the U.S, it would inspire me to learn how to play, what an interesting sport if I must say so.

  3. "I took an almighty pounding. I have a sense it didn't do me any good."

    WOW -- I think that this is a quote from many of my attempts at sport.

    I remember, when we were 13 maybe, we found one pair of boxing gloves in a dumpster. What can you do with one pair? Hold one-armed boxing matches. We literally tied one arm behind our back and went at it.

    Yes, I often took an almighty pounding that didn't do me any good.

    Sir Bowie of Greenbriar

  4. Hey could have boxed with one hand, and played chess with the other LOl....maybe that is the way round the complicated change over section...:)

    D of O

  5. Chess? I thought it said "Cheese."
    We used to box and then move our chess pieces made of cheese with our mouths. Unfortunately, we kept biting the tops off to the point we didn't know what pieces were what.
    So, we just had to go out and beat each others' brains out.

  6. .......and finish off with a big foaming glass of dark beer I hope,...sounds like my kind of night out...

    Sir D ( getting into the Christmas Spirit 70% proof ) of Oxfordshire

  7. Now you boys have got me thinking...dangerous!

    How about no change overs, just sitting across from each other with one glove on and moving chess pieces with the other. Whoever wins a move gets to hit the other as hard as he can while sitting down. The match continues on this way until there is a KO or Check Mate.

    What do you think?!

    Sir Hook the One Armed Man of Warrick