Chess boxing, or chessboxing, is a hybrid sport that combines two traditional disciplines: chess and boxing. Two combatants play alternating rounds of blitz chess and boxing until one wins by checkmate or knockout. It is also possible to win by time penalty as in normal chess, and by boxing decision if there is a draw in the chess round.
Typically, events are held in a standard boxing ring using standard amateur boxing equipment and rules. The chess round is also played in the ring with the table, board, and seating being moved in and out of the ring for each round.
The governing bodies of chessboxing are the World Chessboxing Association and the World Chess Boxing Organisation.
Chessboxing was invented by French comic book artist Enki Bilal and adapted by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh as an art performance and has subsequently grown into a competitive sport. Chessboxing is particularly popular in the United Kingdom, India, Finland, France, and Russia.
An earlier version of combining chess and boxing took place in a boxing club outside London in the late 1970s. The Robinson brothers were in the habit of playing a round of chess against one another after a training session at their boxing club. The concept of chessboxing was first coined in the 1979 kung fu film Mystery of Chessboxing made by Joseph Kuo, where it referred to the Chinese variant of chess, xiangqi. In homage to the film of the same name, the band Wu-Tang Clan brought chessboxing into popular consciousness for the first time in 1993, when they released the song "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'".
The first chessboxing event was put on by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh. Rubingh's idea to create a new sport fusing the two disciplines, chess and boxing, originates from the 1992 comic Froid Équateur, written by French comic book artist Enki Bilal, that portrays a chessboxing world championship. In the comic book version, however, the opponents fight an entire boxing match before they face each other in a game of chess. Finding this to be impractical, Rubingh developed the idea further until it turned into the competitive sport that chessboxing is today, with alternating rounds of chess and boxing and a detailed set of rules and regulations.
The first chessboxing competition took place in Berlin in 2003. That same year, the first world championship fight was held in Amsterdam, in cooperation with the Dutch Boxing Association as well as the Dutch Chess Federation and under the auspices of the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO) that had been founded in Berlin shortly before. Dutch middleweight fighters Iepe Rubingh and Jean Louis Veenstra faced each other in the ring. After his opponent exceeded the chess time limit, Rubingh won the fight in the eleventh round, going down in the history books as the first-ever World Chess Boxing Champion.
By 2012, Rubingh in Berlin and Tim Woolgar in London had become the two shining lights of the chessboxing scene. Rubingh's events tended to have a more serious tone, while Woolgar's brought a party atmosphere and larger crowds. These two champions of the new sport were unable to agree on forming a unified style, which eventually left the sport with two governing bodies: the World Chessboxing Association (WCBA) and the WCBO. This period in chessboxing history was immortalised in the film By Rook or Left Hook – The Story of Chessboxing.
The first European Chess Boxing Championship took place in Berlin on 1 October 2005. Present-day chessboxing commentator Andreas Dilschneider was defeated by Tihomir Dovramadjiev (FIDE Master) when he resigned in the ninth round of chess, crowning the latter by being the first European Chess Boxing Champion. A video report by German television channel RBB presented the event in detail. In 2006, more than 800 spectators filled the Gloria Theatre in Cologne for the world championship qualification fight between Zoran Mijatovic and Frank Stoldt. The 36-year-old Frank Stoldt, who was a former UN peacekeeper in Kosovo and Afghanistan, won when his opponent resigned in chess in the seventh round. After qualifying to fight for the title in 2006, Frank Stoldt went up against American David Depto in November 2007 in Berlin to fight for the first world championship title in the light heavyweight division. More than 800 tickets were sold for the event at the Tape Club in Berlin, making it the biggest chessboxing title fight to that date. Frank Stoldt defeated Depto in the seventh round and thereby cemented Berlin's status as the leading city in the chessboxing world and becoming the first German world champion.
Chessboxing first received credit from the International Chess Federation FIDE, in April 2008; its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, took part in a chessboxing demo fight in Elista. In 2008, chessboxing clubs were founded in London and Krasnoyarsk. Created in 2009, the Los Angeles Chessboxing Club was the first of its kind in the United States and was directly followed by the New York Chessboxing Club in 2010. The Boxer in Munich also opened in 2010 and offers chessboxing training. In addition to the WCBO's initially European and later world championships taking place, the scene at the London Chessboxing Club grew as well. In 2011, the first international club matchup took place, with Berlin and London in the ring.
In 2011, the WCBO and with it, the global chessboxing community, made the biggest leap forward in its development to date with the foundation of the Chessboxing Organisation of India and its expansion in Asia, including Chessboxing China and the Chessboxing Organisation of Iran, which was founded in 2012. Furthermore, the third chessboxing organization in the United States, USA Chessboxing, was founded in 2011 and the European movement was being reinforced by the foundation of the Italian Chessboxing Federation in 2012. In addition to the WCBO becoming a registered association under German law in 2014, the Chess Boxing Global Marketing CBGM GmbH – called Chess Boxing Global (CBG) – was founded; it as of May 2013[update] is responsible for organizing all professional chessboxing fights worldwide and above all, for the organization of the Chess Boxing World Championships.
The Chess Boxing Organisation India was founded in 2011 by kickboxing official and former Indian kickboxing and karate champion Montu Das. With this, the growth of chessboxing in Asia gained momentum, with the first Chess Boxing Organisation in Western Asia already being built in the following year by another experienced official in the kickboxing world, Fereydoun Pouya, who started the Chess Boxing Organisation Iran.
At the same time, the process of making chessboxing a professional discipline reached a milestone: The 2013 World Championship in Moscow was the first chessboxing event organized and marketed by Chess Boxing Global. With three world championship fights in one night, more than 1,200 spectators, and a standard of fighting never seen before, the first CBG event set new standards in the history of chessboxing, with Leonid Chernobaev leading the way. He has been able to make a name for himself with more than fifteen years of chess-playing experience, and in the boxing world as Marco Huck's and Yoan Pablo Hernández's sparring partner, and having fought over 200 amateur bouts. He won the light heavyweight title against Indian fighter Shailesh Tripathi after a technical knockout in the eighth round (boxing). Sven Rooch secured his title in the middleweight class division—winning against Jonatan Rodriguez Vega after the Spaniard resigned in the seventh round (chess), and Russian Nikolay Sazhin won the heavyweight title against Gianluca Sirci by checkmate. Thus, Sazhin (heavyweight), Chernobaev (light heavyweight), and Rooch (middleweight) would all go down in chessboxing history as the first Chess Boxing Global World Champions.
In terms of its development into a mass sport, there was much success in 2013 and early 2014 for the chessboxing world. There were more competitors in the second and third Indian Championships in the summer of 2013 and early 2014 than in any chessboxing events ever before, with more than 245 fighters of varying age and weight class, taking place in Salem and Jodhpur, respectively. Furthermore, the chessboxing community in London—under the command of London Chessboxing and the WCBA—has continued to grow constantly since 2011 and by now stages chessboxing events for 800 or more spectators regularly four to five times a year at the Scala, King's Cross.
Late 2014 also saw the Finnish Chessboxing Club being founded in Helsinki by five members. Since 2013, there has also been a Moscow Chess Boxing club.
Chessboxing events in 2015 were produced by London Chessboxing under the WCBA—two events at Scala, Kings Cross. The second event, in June 2015, The Grandmaster Bash!, saw the British, European, and IBF light-welterweight world champion Terry Marsh fight and defeat Dymer Agasaryan. Terry Marsh is the first professional boxer to compete in chessboxing and has competed in three fights since June 2014 in London and still remains unbeaten in his career.
Chessboxing has also become more popular among young, poor women in India, where the sport has been seen as an alternative to traditional roles.
Actual numbers of local federations are officially registered in some countries, such as: China, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Iran, Italy, Madagascar, Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, and others.
In 2016, then-FIDE president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, publicly announced to Top Sport his desire to include chessboxing in the Olympic games.
On 11 December 2022, content creator and YouTuber Ludwig Ahgren held a chess boxing event, called the Mogul Chessboxing Championship, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. The competition's bouts featured other content creators. The event's live viewership peaked at over 315,000 viewers on YouTube.
A match consists of eleven alternating rounds of chess and boxing, starting and ending with chess. Each boxing round lasts three minutes, followed by a one-minute break. The chess rounds are played under time control, with a total of nine minutes allotted to each player and no increment added to either player's clock after a move is made.
A chessboxing match can end by any of the following:
If the chess game ends in a draw before the final round, one more round of boxing is held. If this round also ends without a clear victory, the fighter who is ahead on boxing points wins the overall bout. If the chess draw occurs in the final round, the fighter ahead on points is immediately declared the winner. In either case, if the bout ends with both fighters tied on points, the one playing the black chess pieces wins the bout, due to not having the first-move advantage in chess. This scenario has not yet occurred in practice as of 2022.
Like boxing, chessboxers are divided into weight classes. Currently, the following apply to professional chessboxing events of Chess Boxing Global (as of October 2014[update]):
For amateur and youth chessboxing bouts under the flag of the WCBO, weight classes are graduated in 6-kilo steps. Exceptionally, event hosts can classify into 10-kilo steps.
A chessboxer must have strong skills in both chess and boxing to be permitted to compete in a professional chessboxing fight. The current minimum requirements to fight in a Chess Boxing Global event include an Elo rating of 1,600 and a record of at least fifty amateur bouts fought in boxing or another similar martial art. One deciding factor in chessboxing is that the fighters have to mainly train in speed chess; the skills required by speed chess are different from those for chess using classical time controls. However, chessboxing is not only the ability to master both sports but above all, to be able to withstand the constant switch from a full-contact sport to a thinking game, round after round. After three minutes of boxing, opponents have to face each other at the chessboard barely having taken a break, and have to then perform calmly and think tactically. This switch becomes increasingly hard for the athletes as the contest progresses.
To practice these skills, specialized chessboxing training is used, in which physical interval training forms are combined with blitz or speed chess games. Thereby, the fighters adopt the rhythm of a chessboxing bout. They will use exercises like "track chess" and "stair chess", in which training partners will play an 18-minute game of speed chess over six rounds, with intensive running exercises in between, such as 400-meter sprints or stair sprints. Other common methods of training combine speed chess games with strength exercises such as push-ups. The classic chessboxing training is box sparring combined with a game of speed chess.
Below is a partial list of chess boxing tournaments held in recent years:
|1||CBN – St Patricks Day Bash 2023||25 March 2023||The Dome, London, England||5|
|2||CBP – Intellectual Fight Club 3||3 February 2023||Cabaret Sauvage, Paris, France||4|
|3||Mogul Chessboxing Championship||11 December 2022||Galen Center, Los Angeles, United States||7|
|4||CBN – Seasons Beatings 2022||10 December 2022||The Dome, London, England||4|
|5||WCBO – World Chessboxing Championships 2022||16 November 2022||Palmet Beach Resort Hotel, Antalya, Turkey||41|
|6||CBP – Intellectual Fight Club – Chessboxing Night||1 October 2022||Cabaret Sauvage, Paris, France||4|
|7||FISP International Chessboxing Show||3 June 2022||Piazza Ducale, Vigevano, Italy||4|
|8||CBN – Chessboxing Mayhem||28 May 2022||The Dome, London, England||4|
|9||FSHB Champion Belt of Russia||6 March 2022||Unknown venue, St Petersburg, Russia||1|
|10||Alpari Cup Chessboxing Tournament||10 February 2022||5 Element gym, Moscow, Russia||2|
|11||CB Iran – 6th National Chessboxing Championships||21 January 2022||Kish Island, Iran||0|
|12||CBN – Seasons Beatings 2021||11 December 2021||The Dome, London, England||4|
|13||CBOI – 4th Federation Cup, Jitendra Sharma Memorial||27 October 2021||Digha Sea Beach, West Bengal, India||0|
|14||CBCB – Schachboxen im Goldenen Haus||9 October 2021||Das Goldenen Haus, Germany||3|
|15||CBOI – National Ranking Chessboxing Tournament||3 October 2021||Digha Sea Beach, West Bengal, India||0|
|16||FCC – Nordic Chessboxing Fight Night||2 October 2021||Paasitorni Main Hall, Helsinki, Finland||4|
|17||First Lithuanian Open Chess Boxing Championship||21 August 2021||Geležinės pirštinės, Kaunas, Lithuania||4|
|18||CBOI – 9th National Chessboxing Championship 2021||17 August 2021||The Circle Club, Kolkata, India||0|
|19||CBOI – 9th West Bengal State Chessboxing Championship||7 February 2021||Das School of Martial Arts complex, Kolkata, India||0|
|20||LCB – 36 Clash of Kings 2020||14 March 2020||The Dome, London, England||4|
|21||Ignition Amsterdam||8 January 2020||Paradiso, Amsterdam, Netherlands||2|
|22||WCBO – World Chessboxing Championships 2019||15 December 2019||Palmet Beach Resort Hotel, Antalya, Turkey||43|
|23||LCB – Seasons Beatings 2019||7 December 2019||The Dome, London, England||5|
|24||CBP – Chessboxing Fights Paris #1||9 November 2019||Cabaret Sauvage, Paris, France||3|
Further information: List of Chess boxing champions
Between 2003 and 2013, the chessboxing world championships were organized by the WCBO. As of 2013[update], they take the form of professional events under the auspices of Chess Boxing Global.
The World Chessboxing Association (WCBA) is a legally recognized umbrella organization for chessboxing. It was founded in 2013 and is based in London, England. English heavyweight chessboxing champion Tim Woolgar is its current president. The WCBA originated from the London Chessboxing Club after having separated from the WCBO. It was founded by Woolgar in 2013 to accelerate the development of chessboxing. WCBO champions are also managed and recognized by the WCBA.
The World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO) is the leading umbrella organization for international amateur chessboxing. It is based in Berlin, Germany, and legally recognized as a nonprofit organization by the German government. Iepe Rubingh founded the WCBO directly after the first chessboxing fight in 2003. Its goal is to establish the WCBO as the worldwide organization for the sport of chessboxing. The WCBO aims to collect and link all active chessboxing clubs worldwide under one roof. It was legally recognized as a registered association by Berlin's district court in 2014. The WCBO was the official organizer of the chessboxing world championships until it recognized Chess Boxing Global, following its statute, as the exclusive marketing agent for professional chessboxing fights, in 2013. Chessboxing inventor and WCBO founder Iepe Rubingh is also the current chairman. The first honorary member is comic book artist Enki Bilal, whose comic inspired the invention of chessboxing.
London Chessboxing is a brand under which the sport of chessboxing has been promoted since 2008 in London, England. Although the sport has been practised in London since 1978, the home of chessboxing in London today is Islington Boxing Club, where London Chessboxing hosts regular training sessions.
The first-ever chessboxing event hosted in the UK under the brand was at Bethnal Green Working Men's club in Hackney by Tim Woolgar on 15 August 2008. Other notable venues include Chelsea Old Town Hall, The Grange Hotel in St Pauls, and the Royal Albert Hall. Their events are hosted at Scala, King's Cross, York Hall, and The Dome, in Tuffnell Park. The events are also broadcast on the livestreaming service Twitch.
In 2021 London Chessboxing rebranded as Chessboxing Nation in order to compete with Chessboxing Global; however, Chessboxing Global collapsed following the death of Iepe Rubingh.
In July 2021, a documentary titled By Rook or Left Hook – The Story of Chessboxing premiered at the Doc Edge documentary festival in New Zealand, to positive reviews. The film was produced and directed by Canadian filmmaker David Bitton and executive-produced by Ed Cunningham, producer of the gaming documentary The King of Kong. By Rook or Left Hook tracks the early years of chessboxing, primarily focusing on the tensions that formed between the sport's inventor, Iepe Rubingh, and London Chessboxing founder, Tim Woolgar, and the formation of the two rival governing bodies, the WCBO and the WCBA. Although the documentary was filmed over an eightyear period, (November 2010 to January 2018), the story spans over 21 years—from Rubingh's early years as an artist, all the way up to his death in May 2020.
In parallel with the development of chessboxing as a sport, the discipline has found an increasing place in several works by leading scientists who study the potential application of the concept in various fields.
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