Boxing Chess: All About This Sport

Have you ever heard of a sport where you combine two pretty much different disciplines into one? The sport where a chess game plays an important role in a chess boxing match, the discipline that combines a chess board with boxing gloves and fighting rounds?

Boxing Chess: All About This Sport
Boxing Chess: All About This Sport

Well, a chess boxing match is pretty much one of the most unorthodox sports disciplines you’ll see in the world. Chess and boxing are two different sports, but alternating rounds of two different disciplines are putting the athletes’ cardio, fight IQ, and brain activity to the maximum level!

Is Chess Boxing A Real Thing?

Absolutely yes. You can lose via legal boxing technical knockout or you can knock your opponent out cold to win the combat. You can also lose during the chess round via checkmate or time penalty as in normal chess in a chessboxing bout.

This sport is real, the events take part in a boxing ring. A hybrid sport that combines two pretty much different disciplines will make your brain cells go wild, it burns a lot of calories. In chessboxing events, your ability to adjust has to rock, or you’re going to lose the fight. Believe me, chessboxing training sessions are harder than many other sports disciplines.

Even if you’re a professional boxer, you can lose the fight because of poor chess skills against an average guy. Chess boxing is a very competitive sport where you can win thanks to a better chess game or superb knockout skills.

What Is Chess Boxing?

Chess boxing is a hybrid sport that combines boxing rounds with rounds of chess – the two competitors take part in blitz rounds of chess and boxing until one of them wins by a knockout or a checkmate. You can also win the combat via a boxing decision when the chess result is a draw.

Founded in 2003, the World Chess Boxing Association is nowadays getting more and more popular all over the globe. This discipline becomes more popular in many states because it combines two extremely different sports – but in both kinds of rounds, your neurons are put on fire!

Who Is The Most Famous Chess Boxer?

The most famous dude in the world is Nikolay “The Chairman” Sazhin. His overall record was 49-13-0 when he reached an Elo rating of 1911. Sazhin won all of his professional bouts via checkmate, and that’s one of the reasons for getting his first moniker.

His secondary nickname was “The Siberian Express” thanks to his quick punches and thinking. Sazhin was 19 years old when he dethroned legendary Frank Stoldt, which is one of the greatest successes ever. Yet, he’s way better in alternating rounds of chess, which was seen in the bout against Frank Stoldt, as his head defense rocks and it’s very hard to knock him out.

On the other hand, Frank Stoldt is the most famous and the first German world champion in the history of this sport; while Karl “Ouch” Strugnell is the best French name at the moment – he is the reigning defending WCBA and WCBO world championship title, owner.

History

Chess boxing originates from the London boxing club and the late 1970s. Robinson brothers used to play chess against each other after boxing rounds in their local dojo. This is the first mention of this discipline in chessboxing history.

The first concept of a chess boxing match was seen in the kung fu movie from 1979, “Mystery of Chessboxing”, which referred to the Chinese variation of chess known under the name “xiangqi”. The popular song “Da Mystery of Chessboxin” was released in 1993.

Who Invented Chess Boxing?

Boxing Chess: All About This Sport
Boxing Chess: All About This Sport

We can call the Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh, as he created the first-ever chess boxing event by combining the two different disciplines.

What Is The Purpose Behind Chess Boxing?

The purpose of the sport is to either beat your opponent via legal techniques until he’s unable to continue or to defeat him via checkmate in alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The opponent can also forfeit in boxing rounds or chess periods, plus you can also win via boxing decision.

But there is another goal of this pretty much new sport – to test the opponent’s brain skills and the ability to adjust to the new situation, to quickly transition between chess rounds and boxing periods. Good chess players get an opportunity to square off against great boxers and vice versa.

Where Did The Idea Of Chess Boxing Come From?

Iepe Rubingh came to this idea from the comic Froid Equateur, written by French comic book writer Enki Bilal.

This comic portrays a Chessboxing World Championship, but in the comic, the athletes first take part in an entire boxing match before taking part in a game of chess. Iepe Rubingh made some modifications and turned chess boxing into a sport by the combination of an alternating round of boxing and speed chess, and a detailed set of regulations and rules.

When Was The First Chess Boxing Match?

The first competition in chess boxing took place in Berlin in 2003, while the first World Championship took place in Amsterdam that same year. The event was hosted in cooperation with the Dutch Boxing Association plus the Dutch Chess Federation, under the auspices of the World Chess Boxing Association which was created in Berlin in 2003 too.

What Nationality Is The First Chess Boxing World Champion?

In the first match, Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh squared off against Jean Louis Veenstra. Jean lacked speed chess skills, so he exceeded the chess time limit, which led to a victory for the Dutchman in the eleventh round. Rubingh is the first-ever World Chess Boxing champ of the world.

Is Chess Boxing Still Played?

Boxing Chess: All About This Sport
Boxing Chess: All About This Sport

There are competitions on a local and global level, hence the sport suffered a lot because of the CoVid pandemic. Here is a nice video of the chessboxing demo fight.

The number of chessboxing clubs is growing, especially in England, Italy, and the USA. For example, the most famous dojos in the United States of America are New York Chessboxing club and the Los Angeles chessboxing club. Morgan R Johnson is both the USA and the world lightweight champion of the world, the sport is slowly recovering after a nearly two-year layoff.

Rules Of Chess Boxing

The competitors should have a background in both sports – a chess boxing match lasts for eleven rounds. The match consists of six rounds of chess, five boxing rounds, plus a 1-minute break between the rounds. Players play chess in rounds 1 and 11, which means the competition kicks off and ends with a game of chess.

Aim Of Chessboxing

The goal of the game is to defeat the opponent via checkmate in the chess round or knock him out or win via TKO in a boxing bout. Judges score every round, so when there is no winner, one of the fighters has to prevail, as speed chess skills matter too.

Chess Boxing Rules For Scoring

There are eleven rounds of chess and boxing, and every round is scored as a whole. Dominance in one discipline doesn’t have to mean you’ll win the combat.

The match kicks off with a chess game in round 1, which lasts for three minutes. Every competitor is given an aggregate of 9 mins for the game of chess, which means they play chess for a total of 18 minutes.

Round 2 is a period of three-minute boxing, so the chess game is hindered by five periods of three-minute boxing.

You can win via KO or TKO in boxing rounds (for example, in the eighth round), while you can only end the match in chess periods via checkmate (for example, in the ninth round or seventh round).

There are even (10-10) rounds, and boxing rules are pretty much similar, when you score a knockdown, it will be a 10-8 round for you, so better visit a good boxing club if you plan to compete. When it comes to chess rules, controls matter when there is no checkmate. Read the next paragraph carefully, please!

Chess Time Controls Explained

Adding chess clocks helps judges control the bout better and see which fighter gets the edge. Chess boxing is like blitz chess when it comes to rule sets.

The time limit is pretty low, as every fighter is given only 9 minutes to perform his actions. The competitors don’t have to take notes during the game, and the bout is pretty much entertaining as they have to think quickly.

The competitor whose flag on the top of the clock comes closer to falling will lose the match when there is no checkmate or KO. If your flag is down, you lost! Also, the person who pulls quicker moves and uses less time for chess board actions during the round gets the edge on the scorecards.

How Do You Win In Chess Boxing?

There are a few ways to win:

  • Checkmate – like in regular chess, the athlete can lose when his king has no other way out.

  • Forfeiting – pretty much unpopular in the chessboxing community, the fighter gives up due to a massive advantage over the other guy in the game of chess or inside the boxing bout;

  • KO/TKO – the fighter goes down after a big punch and fails to beat the count, or the referee stops the bout when the fighter fails to fire back.

  • Decision – the fighter wins the greater number of rounds;

  • If the score is tied, the athlete who played with black figures on the chess board wins the bout. There are 10-10 rounds in boxing, and a stalemate in chess, but the one who pulled the last move should get the advantage.

List Of Chess Boxing Champions

The defending WCBA world champion is Sergio “The Phoenix” Leveque from Italy. The WCBO world amateur king is Jeet D. Patel from India, while the current WCBO champ is Nikolay Sazhin from Russia.

The European chess boxing champion is Gianluca Sirci from Italy, who was dethroned by Tihomir Titschko from Bulgaria, but later reclaimed the European chess boxing championship title. The UK’s champ is Cameroon Little.

The light heavyweight title holder is Karl Strugnell from France, while the current middleweight class division king is Sean “The Machine” Mooney from Canada. The lightweight king, also the best in the USA, is Morgan Rose Johnson at the moment.

World Chess Boxing Organisation

The World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO) is the governing body of the sport of chess boxing. It was founded in 2003, and its location is in Berlin, Germany.

Its goal is to motivate athletes in the number one thinking and fighting sport in the world, to promote chess boxing, to build the structure of chess boxing clubs and organizations, and to promote events. The famous motto is “fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board”.

Should Chess Be Part Of The Olympics?

Boxing is an Olympic sport for a while, but chess didn’t get Olympic status yet. Interestingly, World Chess Federation has its Olympiads. But opinions are divided for chess boxing.

Yet, it is pretty much unknown, and the general population would probably see it as “a freak fight” or something like that. But the answer is “no” at the moment.

Vladimir Vladisavljevic has been training in the art of kickboxing for over seven years, holds a Taekwondo black belt, and has a master's degree in sports and physical education. He's also a huge mixed martial arts fan. He's a big deal in Bulgaria as a mixed martial arts commentator, analyst, and podcaster.
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Vladimir Vladisavljevic