By Kaitlin Fahey
Sports are mentally challenging. Between strategizing, learning plays and staying focused, athletic competitions can be as intellectually stimulating as they are physically taxing. In general, however, most sports continue to be revered for their intense physical demands rather than mental strength. A sport started in Amsterdam, called chessboxing, combines brains and brawn in a much less subtle way.
Chessboxing derives its name from the two sports of which it is comprised— chess and boxing. Described as “the ultimate challenge for both the body and the mind” and “more radical than a biathlon,” chessboxers participate in alternating four-minute rounds of chess and three-minute rounds of boxing for a maximum of 11 rounds(wcbo.org).
The concept of chessboxing originated from a French comic book written by Enik Bilal in 1992. However, the sport did not come to life until 2003 through Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh, who envisioned the sport as an “artistic performance” combining the themes of a healthy spirit, a healthy body and aggression management. Rubingh, under the name “Iepe the Joker,” competed against “Luis the Lawyer” in 2003, when Iepe became the first chessboxing world champion.
Today, there are major chessboxing clubs in cities such as Berlin, London, Los Angeles and Krasnoyarsk, Russia. The World Chessboxing Organization, whose motto is “fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board,” holds three to four championship matches each year.
While the WCBO accepts applications to compete in the championship matches, the criteria for these matches are somewhat rigorous. Applicants must be younger than 35 years old, be in an “exceptionally good” state of fitness, and have competed in at least 20 boxing matches. In addition, potential candidates must have an ELO rating, which is used to measure relative skill level in the chess component, of at least 1800. A recommended training regimen includes alternating 400-meter runs with three-minute rounds of chess in quick succession, along with sandbag training.
A chessboxing match can be won by three different methods: checkmate, knockout or decision. In the event of a tie in the chess game, the winner is decided by the number of points earned in the boxing match. If boxing ends in a tie, the player who had black on the chessboard wins.
The next international chessboxing event will be held on December 8 in London, England.