Check­mate or knock­out: Chess box­ing lands a punch

The Asian Age - - Sport+ -

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. —

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