Checkmate: Chess Boxing

Nobody likes a sore loser. And perhaps a sore winner is even worse. If a cocky victor or a whiny newbie pushes your buttons, then maybe you should consider the sport of chess boxing. It’s intellectual, you get to beat the snot out of your opponent and take some bitter pleasure in it if he’s a whiny loser. If you suck at chess, you can win by moving your fist to his kisser.
Chess boxing sounds and looks like a weird TV game show idea gone wrong. The prophet of the sport/game, a cartoonist by the name of Enki Bilal, delivered his vision in 1992 as a major plot point in his graphic novel “Froid-Equateur.” A Dutch artist known as Lepe Rubingh took the novel to heart and, out of inspiration, pulled Bilal’s wacky idea off the pages of his novel and brought it to life in the spring of 2004. He fought under the nickname “Lepe the Joker.” The idea of chess boxing was also used in the 1991 Finnish movie “Uuno Turhapuro – hera Helsingin herra,” in which Uuno, the main character, plays a game of chess with a person over a hands-free phone while fighting with someone else.
If you can believe it, the sport has its own governing body—the World Chess Boxing Organization. Its motto is “Fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board.” Amsterdam hosted the first global championship in 2003, and Lepe Rubingh emerged as champion. The first European Chess Boxing Championship happened in Berlin on Oct. 1, 2005. Tihomir Atanassov Dovramadjiev from Bulgaria wiped the floor with Andreas ‘D’Schneider of Germany after the latter chess boxer gave in during the seventh round. How often do you see people admit defeat in a game of chess before the checkmate?
On April 21, 2006, over 400 onlookers gathered in the Gloria Theatre in Cologne to watch two chess boxing matches. Zoran “The Priest” Mijatovic opened with the Queen’s Gambit – an opening move involving the two pawns in front and on the left of the queen to cross up two squares, making an opening for a quick potential checkmate – but “Anti Terror” Frank Stoldt held through. In the seventh round, Mijatovic saw he was only three moves away from a checkmate, so he admitted defeat. Stoldt also threw his weight around in the boxing portions of the match.
For those of you intrigued by the idea of pausing a game of chess to clobber intermittently your opponent, the rules are surprisingly simple for such a bizarre sport. A match of chess boxing constitutes two opponents engaged in a game of speed chess and each player has 12 minutes for the entire game. The game starts with a four-minute chess round, then alternates to two minutes of boxing. This goes on until a judge intervenes or one of the players is knocked out, caught in a checkmate or used up their 12 minutes of chess time.
Granted, boxing and chess have nothing in common, and a hybrid of the two sounds inane and seems as though it would mix together about as well as two bricks in a blender.
Nevertheless, the lovechild of the two completely unrelated activities has garnered a following to reckon with. So, if you’ve had a long day, head home, get out the chess board and take a few swings at your friends to let out your stress. Just don’t call up Mike Tyson for a match, or you’ll be walking home a little more deaf than when you came.