Chess boxing is not only real, it gives fascinating new meaning to the concept of intimidating your opponent at a tournament.
But I’m being a bit facetious, I admit. According to the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO) one of their goals is to “promote aggression management” and as a retired black belt I can appreciate how this goal is meaningful, even if it may sound oxymoronic to some.
The WCBO also informs us that “women think chessboxing is sexy”, which may inspire me to end my retirement as a fighter.
The rules of chess boxing are simple. A match begins with a 4-minute round of chess, followed by a 3-minute round of boxing with a minute of rest and openings study between them. There are 11 rounds in all, the match beginning and ending with chess – mind over matter, if you will.
You can win either by checkmate, or pummeling your opponent senseless. In the event of a draw over the board, then the match is decided on points in the ring, and if a tie occurs in the ring, then whoever plays black is declared the winner.
The very first chess boxing fight was held in that most liberal of all cities, Amsterdam, in 2003 when Iepe “the Joker” Rubingh won on time, defeating Luis the Lawyer in the 11th and final round. While the WCBO insists that the battle was dramatic, I feel rather disappointed that it did not end in a KO, although that outcome apparently came close to occurring, as Iepe later related:
“I had a pretty terrible position on the board so in the last round I tried to knock him out,” said the victor with understandable nostalgia. “He only just managed to stay on his feet. The bell went and he put his hands up in the air but he couldn't find his corner. He was really dizzy but we still had to play the final round of chess. There was a clear win for him, but he just couldn't figure out the right moves.”
It is fitting that Iepe won the match because he actually invented the sport after being inspired by a comic book called “Cold Equator” written by Yugoslav Enki Bilal that dramatized what was then merely a gleam in the writer’s fist.
Brains and brawn do go together, of course. Two world-class boxers, Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko, play chess. And world-class intellectuals such as Albert Einstein have also been known to play chess. Now that would be a dream match:
Announcer: “In the Black corner, hailing from Belovodsk, Kyrghyzstan, 6-time World Kickboxing Champion and Silver Medalist in the World Boxing Championship……Vitali KLITSCHKOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!”
[The crowd cheers loudly, then hushes.]
Announcer Resumes: “And in the White corner, originally from Ulm, Germany and currently training at the Princeton Boxing Club, holder of the Nobel Prize in Physics, “Big Al” …………….EINSTEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN!!!!!!!”
[The crowd convulses in a deafening frenzy of intellectual fervor… and as the bell rings for the first round of chess, the walls of Caesar’s Palace in Vegas vibrate as the crowd begins its customary chant.]
1. E4 !
1. E4 !
1. E4 !
1. E4 ! …