Checkmate or knockout: Chess boxing lands a punch
Berlin: With his dental guard still in his mouth and a slightly queasy feeling in his gut, a shirtless Thomas Cazeneuve was exuberant after checkmating his opponent during a chess boxing bout in Berlin, the world capital of the unusual sport.
Just as deft in the movement of his rooks as with his fists, Cazeneuve claimed victory against his Ukrainian challenger after seven alternating rounds of boxing and chess.
The match played out before a crowd of curious onlookers drawn to the spectacle of the so- called “Intellectual Fight Club”.
Chess boxing was born 16 years ago when its founder Iepe Rubingh brought to life a seemingly far- fetched idea from a French graphic novel, Cold Equator by Enki Bilal.
Today, Rubingh has set his sights on introducing chess boxing to the Olympics and even looking at sending robots into battle, as the multidisciplinary sport gains popularity.
The rules of chess boxing are simple.
Three minutes of gentlemanly chess played on a board in the ring is alternated with three- minute bouts of intense boxing over 11 rounds — six of chess, five of boxing.
The winner has to earn either a boxing knockout or a checkmate on the chessboard, but either chess boxer can be disqualified for taking too long to make a chess move or by breaking the boxing rules.
“You need to be good in both disciplines, which can be quite complicated. But it’s true that one mustn’t be afraid of being punched,” said Rubingh.
The biggest difficulty may be staying lucid to pull off the winning chess move despite the physical demands of boxing.
“It was my toughest fight with a rival who is a total all- rounder, and who has left me exhausted, especially in boxing,” said Cazeneuve, 24, a recruitment consultant. “I held on thanks to my mental strength,” he added.
In fact, “60 per cent of the winning moves are made on the chessboards and 40 per cent in boxing,” said Rubingh, a 43- yearold Dutchman.
Recalling the sport’s gestation, chess- lover Rubingh said that it began in 2002, when, after a round of chess that ended in stalemate, he suggested to a friend that they go for a boxing bout at a bar in Amsterdam.
“The idea was born, but we were sober,” he said.
“Combined, the two sports are the amalgamation of the most beautiful capacities of human beings to create a type of supreme being,” he said.
The author of the graphic novel, Bilal, said that he found it “rather amusing that the idea that was potentially absurd had become reality”.
While it was considered more a curiosity than a real sport in the beginning, chess boxing has gained a strong following, including chess fans who have crossed over to the more physical realm of boxing.
Alina Rath, a 29- year- old German, has been a member of a chess club for 20 years but only began adding boxing to the mix in August. — AFP
Mohamad Kadija ( left) and Daniel Biman at a chessboxing fight during an amateur fight event at the Intellectual Fight Club IX in Berlin last year. —