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Is Chess Boxing Real? Here is What You Need to Know About This Hybrid Sport

As a sport that requires both brain and brawn, chess boxing has gained massive popularity in recent years. Yes, chess boxing is a real sport with numerous fans worldwide. It combines two different sports into one, I.e., chess, and boxing. The two games couldn’t be more different from each other. However, for fans and chess boxing players – both complement each other in a surprising way. So, let’s get to know this peculiar hybrid sport and what makes it so great!

What is Chess Boxing?

It is literally what the name suggests. Chess boxing is a sport in which players alternate between rounds of chess and boxing throughout the match. Sure, it sounds like a weird sport, but not as weird as some other sports like cardboard dueling, bossaball, underwater hockey, wife carrying, etc.

Competitors battle against each other until one of them wins, either by checkmate in chess or knockout in boxing. The match takes place in a standard boxing ring and seating for the chess match is moved in and out of the ring alternatively.

Chess Boxing Origin Story

What started as a fantasy game is now one of the most popular sports in the world. Yes! Chess boxing was first conceptualized in a comic book by French artists Enki Bilal in 1992. It was later adapted and turned into an actual sport by Dutch performance artist and athlete Lepe Rubingh.

The comic book portrays a world chess boxing championship where players first fight off in a boxing match and then compete in a chess match. However, Rubingh found this to be impractical and pointless. Thus, he came up with alternating rounds of both chess and boxing and combined them into one match. It works because both chess and boxing have a similar rounds system. Further rules and regulations of the game were also developed by Lepe Rubingh.

Chess Boxing Governing Bodies

In fact, it was Rubingh who founded the World Chess Boxing Organization – the first chess boxing governing body responsible for organizing chess boxing events, matches, world championships, and categorizing the players. The first official chess boxing competition as well as the first Chess Boxing World Championship was held in 2003.

Here, Lepe Rubingh won in the 11th round, crowning himself the first-ever Chess Boxing World Champion.

In less than a decade, chess boxing gained worldwide popularity. Enter Tim Woolgar, another key chess boxing player on par with Rubingh. Both had become the faces of chess boxing by 2012. However, where Rubingh took a serious and somber approach to the game, characteristic of chess; Woolgar adopted the flamboyance, party atmosphere typical of boxing matches. Then two main chess boxing champions could not agree on one style for the sport.

As a result, it has two official governing bodies today I.e., World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO) and World Chess Boxing Association (WCBA).

Fun Fact: This era of Chess Boxing and the story about how the sport essentially split into two was adapted into a 2021 documentary film called By Rook or Left Hook – The Story of Chessboxing”. Produced and directed by Canadian filmmaker David Bitton, this documentary does an amazing job explaining the drama and rivalry between Rubingh and Woolgar.

The film was recorded over eight years and spans 21 years of Chess Boxing – from its early conception and development by Rubingh till his death in 2020. Absolutely, a must-watch for chess boxing fans!

Is Chess Boxing Popular?

Yes! Chess boxing is played in almost every part of the world. It is especially popular in the UK, India, Finland, and Russia. Other countries with their own official chess boxing federations are the USA, Spain, Turkey, Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, Ukraine, Madagascar, Italy, France, Czech Republic, Costa Rica, Philippines, China, and even Iran.

In 2016, the then-president of FIDE, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov publicly expressed his desire to include chess boxing in the Olympic games also. That should tell you how popular is chess boxing!

How to Play Chess Boxing?

As said earlier, chess boxing is played with alternating rounds of chess and boxing. A total of 11 rounds are played in a match, starting and ending with chess. Boxing rounds are 3 minutes each while in the chess rounds, each player is given 9 minutes to make his move. The winner is decided by four main possibilities:

  • Knocking out your opponent in the boxing round
  • Checkmating the opponent in chess
  • Losing by exceeding the time limit in chess
  • Or tapping out in boxing (this rule of resignation also applies to chess)
  • In a special scenario where the 2nd last chess game results in a draw, another round of boxing is played to determine the winner. If the last game ends in a draw, the player with the more points wins the game.

Important Rules of the Game

As with any sport, there are important rules of chess boxing as well. Some of them include:

  • Warnings are issued for extended inactivity, extra-long playing time in chess, and rule infractions in boxing. If a player gets multiple warnings within a match, they are disqualified and the opponent is declared the winner.
  • Chess boxing uses a similar weight class system to regular boxing. Both men and women above the age of 17 can compete in their respective matches. The weight classes are lightweight (70 kg for men, 55 kg for women), middleweight (80 kg for men, 65 kg for women), light heavyweight (90 kg for men, 75 kg for women), and heavyweight (over 90 kg for men & over 75 kg for women).
  • In order to qualify for a global chess boxing competition, players (both men and women) must have a record of at least 50 amateur boxing or similar martial arts fight experience under their belt.
  • Moreover, you need a minimum of 1,600 Elo rating to participate in a chess boxing competition.
  • Chess boxing also requires different training such as blitz or speed chess combined with interval physical training to get ready for the actual game.

Why is Chess Boxing the Ultimate Sport?

Chess boxing is different from other sports like soccer or fistball, where only your physical strength is challenged. On the other hand, chess boxing tests your physical toughness as well as mental dexterity at the same time. Players have to rapidly shift from fighting aggressively hands-on to thinking calmly and rationally. It challenges your mind and spirit like no other game. Plus, you can only win once you’ve mastered these contradictory sides of yourself.

It brings to the surface man’s rational side and the violent animalistic side, and players have to learn how to control both of these sides. As the match progresses, the rapid shift becomes increasingly taxing for players. This is the reason why people believe it to be the ultimate sport that brings out our best potential.

Final Words

Chess boxing is not just a sport. It is an excellent way for one to discipline oneself. By challenging yourself both mentally and physically, you will learn to control both your body and mind. Naturally, it will bring benefits to your physical and mental well-being. So, why not play chess boxing and become the highest version of yourself?

Have you ever played chess boxing? Do let us know in the comments!

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Alisha Shabbir
Alisha Shabbir is a Student, Content Writer and hopefully, a Future Bestselling Author, whose sole passion is to create content that's not only Aesthetically Pleasing but also Progressively Life-Changing. Currently, she has all her resources focused on producing content that improves the quality of life. She writes on a broad range of topics which cover different aspects of life and tackle various issues When she's not working, you can find her buried in Books, lost in Music or Procrastinating on her assignments.

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