Too impatient to watch a full game of chess? We might have a solution for you. Why don’t you tune into chess boxing? It combines both brains and brawns to give you an entertaining mix!
Although it sounds ridiculous, chess boxing has risen to become one of the most exciting, if not the wackiest, sports in the world. Here, players use the best of their minds and their boxing skills in an exciting combination. Today, we will be going through everything there is to know about the eccentric world of Chess Boxing.
What Is Chess Boxing?
As the name suggests, chess boxing combines elements of chess and boxing to create a ‘balanced’ game. Players compete with each other in alternative rounds, one where they use their fists and one where they use their intellect. The objective of each player is to either knock out their opponent in the boxing round or strike a checkmate in the chess round. Through violence or tactics, only one player will emerge as the winner.
The game starts with a 4-minute round of speed chess and continues with a three-minute boxing round. It keeps repeating for 11 rounds, consisting of 6 chess and 5 boxing rounds. Players outfit themselves with gloves during the boxing rounds and take them off as they sit down for a round of blitz chess. Headphones are compulsory so that neither player can take suggestions from the crowd.
Since we’re talking about speed chess and not regular chess, players have to be prudent with how much time they take. According to the rules, a player can lose if he stalls too much during his turn. So the chess rounds are just as action-packed as the boxing rounds.
At first glance, chess boxing appears to be a shaky mismatch between two very different disciplines. The violence of boxing is contradictory to the intellect of chess. And yet, when combined, these two sports seem to feed off each other. This is a unique game unlike any other, as the contradictory rules keep things engaging.
What Is The History Of Chess Boxing?
Initial Roots And Creation
Chess boxing is actually the brainchild of Enki Bilal, who thought up the imaginary game in 1992. Bilal, the French-Yugoslavian artist, and author, was working on the final edition of his popular graphic novel trilogy. The series was called the Nikopol Trilogy, and this was to be the third chapter, Froid Équateur.
As a cartoonist, Bilal was no stranger to wacky combinations and eccentric imagery. Much of his work revolved around sci-fi fantasy fiction, filled with many offbeat stories and outlandish characters. The vibrant graphic novel showcased the sport with two characters equipped in boxing gloves resembling a chess board’s colors. But unlike in reality, the fictional version of the game featured a full boxing match first, and then a full chess game after.
Whatever the case, the make-believe sport was an instant hit amongst his readers, who ate up this nonsensical game because of its fresh appeal. Although used as a plot device, the game was never meant to go beyond his graphic novel. It was simply the work of an inventive artist who felt it would be a great piece of content. And for the most part, he was right. However, the actual rise of chess boxing came ten years after the release of his popular book.
Transition Into A Sport
The year was 2001 when Dutch performance artist and athlete, Iepe Rubingh, had the crazy idea to make a real sport out of chess boxing. But first, he had to tweak the rules of the original fictional game before it could be deemed doable.
Rubingh felt that having a chess match after a full-fledged boxing bout was impractical. As we know, boxing matches last a long time, requiring players to spend a lot of energy. Having the boxers play a game of intellect right after going through so much physical competition was simply too much. What’s more, what if the boxing match ends in a knockout? In that case, there would be no room for chess afterward.
So, Rubingh came up with a new and practical formula. In his version of chess boxing, players would alternate between the two contradictory games after each round. Meaning that after each boxing round, players would switch to a chess round, and so on. That way, both players would need to spend a balanced amount of physical and mental energy. This format would help players achieve, as the Romans put it, a ‘healthy mind in a healthy body.’
Although Rubingh had already began practicing the sport in 2001, it wasn’t until 2003 that people first started taking it seriously. That’s when the first-ever world chess boxing championship took place in Amsterdam. As the person who started this whole shebang, Rubingh took a deep interest in the sport and created the championship tournament. What’s more, he even won the event, becoming the first-ever chess boxing champion in the world.
The Rise Of Chess Boxing
As time progressed, the sport became increasingly popular amongst numerous circles. October 1st 2005, marks the day of Europe’s first chess-boxing championship. Berlin was the chosen city, where the tournament would be hosted in full zest, with several esteemed participants fighting to be the winner.
As the tournament reached its final rounds, only two of them remained. On one side, we had the Bulgarian fighter and world-class chess player, Tihomir Atanassov Dovramadjiev. On the other side, was Germany’s Andreas D’Schneider, a renowned athlete and expert tactician on the chess board.
The two ‘nerdletes’ went toe to toe, move to move, in 6 action-packed rounds; it was truly something to behold. Finally, the winner was decided in the 7th round when Andreas D’Schneider forfeited the match on the chess board. It resulted in Bulgarian chess boxer, Tihomir Atanassov Dovramadjiev, becoming the first European chess boxing champion.
What Are The Rules Of Chess Boxing?
Like any other sport, chess boxing comes with its own set of rules and regulations. The main objective here is to defeat your opponent during a boxing round or a chess round.
To win in a chess round, you must either get a checkmate on your opponent or make him forfeit the match. Alternatively, the game can also be concluded by disqualification if either player stalls the chess round for too long. On the other hand, you can win the boxing round by knocking your opponent out or by a points decision.
The match starts off with a chess round that lasts for four minutes. Remember, since this is blitz chess, you have to make plenty of moves in each round. If the judges determine that you’re taking too much time on purpose, they might step in and force you to make your move within ten seconds. If you fail to do so, you are automatically disqualified.
After the initial chess round, players step into the ring and unleash their fight against each other in a traditional boxing round. Each boxing round lasts for 3 minutes, so there’s only a small window of opportunity to knock your opponent out.
The game continues like this for the next 11 rounds, with 1-minute intervals between each round. In total, there are 6 rounds of chess and 5 rounds of boxing. Players need to show exemplary skill in both boxing and chess to make it through. One single checkmate or a sudden knockout immediately brings the entire match to a conclusion.
Tools & Equipment
Players are fitted with the necessary equipment for the entire match. They put on their boxing gloves whenever they step into the ring for a boxing round and remove them during the chess rounds. On top of that, both players are provided with headphones that prevent them from hearing the audience. This is done so that players cannot take any help from the chanting crowd.
The speed chess rounds are played out over a 12-minute clock, so you really have to be super fast with your moves. Players can accumulate boxing points depending on how they perform in the boxing rounds. If the chess game can’t come to a conclusion, judges will count the boxing points to determine the winner. If the boxing rounds are a draw, the player with the most chess points will win.
In most cases, the chess game usually decides the winner, making the boxing rounds just an add-on. However, there are rare instances when the chess game becomes a stalemate, and the results of boxing rounds gain more importance. One way or the other, the judges will determine a winner depending on the final score.
Chess boxing is an entertaining spectacle and certainly comes with a unique drive. Both chess and boxing involve using strategic moves to defeat the opponent, and we can get a glimpse of both with this fascinating sport. Overall, chess boxing is smarter than traditional boxing and more violent than traditional chess.
Are There Any Chess Boxing Organizations?
Most people might not be aware of this fact, but chess boxing actually has a governing body that presides over it. It’s called the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO), and it handles everything related to official chess boxing events.
Iepe Runbingh was the founder of this organization, who installed its headquarters in Berlin, Germany, in 2003. The main objective of this body is to train people in both boxing and chess and then combine both structures for the ultimate thinking & fighting sport. Their motto? “Fighting is done in the ring, and wars are waged on the board.” A line that captures the essence of chess boxing.
The WCBO has spent a lot of time promoting the sport to various corners of the world. What started out as an exciting side gig soon became a full-time venture for Rubingh. As the founder, Rubingh spent a great deal of time building a chess boxing community that spun worldwide. Moreover, he organized multiple championships and held several promotional fights.
Pretty soon, the WCBO established numerous chess boxing clubs, teams, and regional organizations. The most prominent of them are the Chess Boxing Club Berling, founded in August 2005, and the Bulgarian Chess Boxing Organization, founded in October 2005. Other prominent organizations include the World Chess Boxing Association (WCBA) and the Chess Boxing Global (CBG), established in 2013.
Where Is Chess Boxing Being Played?
Support for chess boxing was slow in the initial years. However, it grew steadily as more and more people became exposed to it. Soon, the hybrid sport was accepted in several countries spanning multiple continents, a massive improvement from when it first started.
The sport initially became popular in several European countries like Germany, Netherlands, and France. These were the countries where chess boxing established its roots, so support from here was something predictable. However, what was not predictable was that the sport would become popular in countries like England, Russia, and Japan.
Chess-boxing federations have found their way into many European countries. Some include Finland, France, the UK, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and Ukraine. Asia has also seen its fair share of chess boxing organizations in the Philippines, India, and China. The sport has also impressed folks in the Middle East, with countries like Iran and Turkey boasting their own regional chess boxing federations.
In Africa, chess boxing has become a popular sport and an interesting pastime in Madagascar. Finally, the hybrid sport has also made its way in North and Latin America, with the USA and Mexico becoming staunch supporters.
Are There Annual Chess Boxing Events?
Chess boxing events have come a long way since 2003 and have evolved into prominently known annual events. Some of them are regional, while some of them are country-focused, but all of them are 100% entertaining. In this section, we’re going to discuss some of the most popular chess boxing events that take place annually.
The first event we want to mention is the exciting St. Patrick’s Day Bash, organized by Chess Boxing Nation. As the name suggests, the event takes place every year on St. Patrick’s Day, October 17th. The famous Irish holiday is the perfect time to celebrate some good old-fashioned nerd fighting with chess on the side. The event usually takes place in London in full zest, in front of a hyped-up cheering crowd.
The St. Patrick’s Day Bash is by far one of the most prominent annual chess boxing events. Each year showcases a solid rooster of nerdletes who are willing to go pound for pound to prove they are the ultimate intellectual champion. Whether you’re a fan of boxing or chess, the event is a glorious sight to behold. Champions are made this day and will continue to be made for years to come.
Chess Boxing Nation also holds numerous other events, although they are not done annually. Some of these include the gritty Season’s Beatings and their recently launched online PVP chess boxing event, Clash of Kings.
Other lesser-known but equally exciting annual events include the CBOI-National Chess Boxing Championship held in India, the CB National Chess Boxing Championship in Iran, and the CBOI Federation Cup in India.
How To Start Chess Boxing?
Chess boxing might look easy on the outside, but it is a tough nut to crack in reality. Players often undergo a long training process to be able to compete in the sport. Overall, it requires you to keep your mind focused, and your body pumped.
If you want to start your own chess boxing career, there are a few things that we could teach you. You won’t become an expert overnight, but you might just get good enough for your first game after several months of intense training. Prepare yourself, as you will need to untap the full potential of your mind while training your body to endure a brutal level of punishment in the ring.
To be a chess boxer, you need to have an in-depth understanding of both practices and excel at them. Most professional chess boxers are athletes with a good understanding of chess or nerds with a drive for combat sports. Figure out which one you are, and alter your training accordingly.
If you are already a boxer in your own right, then you’ll want to focus more on your chess moves rather than your physical attributes. Of course, you’ll still need to keep up with regular exercise routines to boost your strength and endurance. However, you must also balance it with hours and hours of chess play.
Learn Blitz Chess
Most people think that the boxing aspect is more difficult to pull off, but it isn’t so. Chess boxing involves blitz chess, which progresses much faster than traditional chess. It requires you to concentrate completely and focus on making strategic moves in rapid succession. After all, you can’t be sitting there for an entire minute staring at the chessboard.
In case you didn’t know, chess boxing matches rarely end with a knockout. Most of the time, it comes down to a clever checkmate, or forfeit, so the chess bit of the game carries plenty of weight. A player who is well-versed in speed chess can easily defeat their opponent in the first round. If not, it’s only a matter of surviving the boxing rounds, all the while forming a strategy on the chessboard.
Learn Defensive Boxing
As for the boxing bit, you’ll need to pull your weight in the ring, but scoring a knockout won’t be easy. Your main concern in the boxing ring should be defending yourself well enough not to give your opponent any scores.
Unlike traditional boxing, You won’t spend your time in the ring consecutively but rather with many intervals. Since that is the case, both you and your opponent won’t get exhausted to the point of being knocked out. Since both fighters are always full of stamina, the possibility of a knockout becomes too unlikely.
So, to conclude, chess boxing is won by defending yourself physically in the ring and attacking your opponent intellectually on the chessboard. Train yourself with this strategy, and we guarantee you will become a chess boxing champion in no time!
Who Is The Current World Champion?
The current US chess boxing champion, crowned on January 7th, 2022, is Morgan R Johnson. However, there is no official world champion in chess boxing, as different organizations have their own championships.
That being said, in our research, we encountered one name that displayed an exceptional career. That name is Karl ‘Ouch’ Strugnell, winner of both the WCBO and WCBA championships. If anyone deserves to be the world champion, it’s this man.
The 41-year-old learned how to play chess on the streets of LA to earn money and soon became a skilled tactician on the chessboard. He then competed in his first chess boxing match in 2013. Fans loved his energy and confidence, especially because he would do press-ups between chess moves. His ESO is 2300, which is higher than most players in the game.
Although he isn’t a professional boxer by any standard, he is still a considerable force in the ring, as far as nerdletes go. The Frenchman weighs about 196 pounds and stands 182 cm tall. What’s more, he’s one of the rare chess boxers who actually knocked out their opponent in the ring. His time spent in the Boxing House Beograd Serbia was not wasted.
Overall, Karl Strugnell is one of the best chess boxers in the world, if not the most enigmatic. He has a clean record of 10 wins and 0 losses, making him one of the few undefeated chess boxers today.
Who Are Some Famous Chess Boxers?
Chess boxing has its own heroes and icons that have made a thunderous impression on the world. Some of them are champions, some of them are contenders, and some are idols in their own right. Whatever the case, each of them stands as an expert chess boxer with enough brawn to match his brain.
Nikolay Sergeevich Sazhin
First up, we have Nikolay Sergeevich Sazhin, Russia’s top chess boxer. Nikolay hails from the city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia, one of the coldest cities to live in. It was here that he developed a knack for chess and boxing. Forged by the brutal Russian winters, Nikolay is a brutal machine in the ring and a ruthless tactician on the chessboard, the likes of which we have never seen before.
The 34-year-old has amassed a 49–13–0 record and is one of the best boxers in the hybrid sport. He has an overall ESO of 1911 and has proven to be a capable chess player throughout multiple events. Due to his tenacity in the ring, fans gave him the nickname “The Siberian Express.” Meanwhile, others call him the Chairman due to his cool and calculative nature while playing chess.
Nikolay Sazhin has enjoyed a successful career in chess boxing and has multiple victories to show for it. He won the International Chessboxing championship two years in a row, in 2011 and 2012. Before that, he won the Berlin Chessboxing Tournament of 2008, an impressive feat. The man is an enigma in itself and will continue to be a legend in the hearts of chess boxing fans.
Next on our list is Frank “Anti Terror” Stoldt, one of Germany’s most iconic chess boxers. This 51-year-old warrior weighs 189 pounds and is definitely not a nerdlete in the ring. Frank already had a successful career in combat sports, as he was the kickboxing champion of Berlin.
This martial arts expert had already fought in 25 boxing matches before joining chess boxing, so beating him in the ring was almost impossible. What’s more, he did his boxing training in an Albanian boxing club; if that doesn’t spell hardcore for you, we don’t know what will.
As a chess player, Frank is precise in his moves and knows how to think ahead of his opponent. He has an ELO rating of 2000, which is an impressive number for a jock. He has been active in the world of chess boxing since 2005 and still practices the sport to this day. Currently, he is a police officer and is tasked with training police forces in Kosovo.
The final chess boxing icon we want to highlight is none other than the sport’s creator, Iepe Rubingh. The man is a legend in the chess boxing world and is the founder of the World Chess Boxing Organization, chess boxing’s main governing body. Rubingh was a performance artist who had a deep interest in combat sports. This interest turned into one of his biggest ventures, as he was the man behind the entire chess boxing world we know today.
Rubingh started the world’s very first chess boxing championship back in 2003 and won the competition. This alone was enough to put up in the chess boxing hall of fame, but little did we know, he was only getting started.
In 2004, Rubingh traveled to Japan to compete in the Tokyo Fight, a prestigious chess boxing tournament open to the best players in the world. He displayed his amazing aptitude and tenacious fighting process as he defeated opponent after opponent to win the final prize. Then, in 2014, he competed in the Festsaal Kreuzberg chess boxing tournament. Needless to say, he came out as the final victor of the event.
Sadly, Iepe Rubingh passed away on May 8th, 2020, after a long and successful career as a performance artist and chess boxer. His efforts to popularise chess boxing will be remembered by the community forever.
What Are The Best Chess Boxing Matches Ever?
Chess boxing matches can be super intense, as well as downright funny; it really depends on the match. However, a few matches have gone down as one of the most iconic clashes, both inside the ring and on the chessboard. These are matches between the most legendary chess boxing players worldwide and will live on in the annals of history.
In our opinion, one of the best chess boxing matches is the clash between Nikolay Sazhin and Frank Stoldt during the World Chess Boxing Championship of 2008. Both players were evenly matched, both in the ring as well as the chessboard, and showcased exceptional skill in all departments.
The boxing rounds were some of the best we’ve ever seen, as both fighters went blow to blow with each other. Although their strengths were equally matched, Nikolay had the advantage of speed, being the younger of the two. Frank tried to maintain his distance and deal long-range blows in the hopes of weakening his opponent. However, Nikolay used his superior reflexes to get some effective body shots in between.
In the end, Nikolay defeated Frank during a chess round after a double knight attack trapped his opponent’s queen. Unable to make any further movies, Frank forfeited the match, making Nikolay the victor and the new World Chess Boxing Champion. The match is truly one of the most iconic clashes in chess boxing history and, in our opinion, the best chest boxing match ever.
What’s The Future Of Chess Boxing?
We think chess boxing holds a bright future and will grow to become a major sport. The hybrid game has risen significantly over the past two decades and has spread its wings across the globe. People see the sport as a means to gauge intellectual and physical strength, so its applications are endless. Today, the game is being adopted in colleges and institutions, becoming a means to measure cleverness and muscle.
However, unlike most sports, chess boxing has suffered from a lack of general support and funding. These shortcomings prevent the game from exploding as a major competitive sport and limit it to regional or local applications.
Chessboxing is not a commercial sport, but we believe it can be in the future. There are already several regional event organizers who promote the game regularly. Some of them, like LCB/Chess boxing nation, even specialize in chess boxing content and have held multiple tournaments and events. If this becomes a worldwide phenomenon, chess boxing will no doubt become a commercial sport with a massive fan base.
Hopefully, you have the whole picture by now when it come to chess boxing. If anyone you know might be interested in chess boxing please share it to your social media accounts. Feel free to check our other articles about chess strategies, and our recommended chess products. Enjoy chess!