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ChessOK.com » Chessboxing: The Oddest Of Sporting Combinations

Chessboxing: The Oddest Of Sporting Combinations

Viewers of the Winter Olympics often remark that the biathlon presented the oddest sporting duet ever assembled, pairing cross-country skiing and shooting. However, practitioners of the sport point out to newbies that this in fact was a commonplace training method for the military in Scandanvian and other northern European nations where snowfall is prevalent. 

When the Summer Olympics roll around, the same skeptics stare in stunned disbelief at the athletes contesting the modern pentathlon. This five-sport event unites swimming, running, fencing, shooting and show jumping. 

You would think that a sporting mix couldn’t get any stranger than that. Well, what are the odds on boxing and chess being drawn together in competition? Actually, quite good. In fact, this unusual sport is for real. Allow us to introduce you to the world of chessboxing.


“Chessboxing” by Wikimedia is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Born From Performance Art

The odd marriage of chess and boxing was originally the creation of Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh. He came up with the concept in the early 2000’s and remains the sport’s No. 1 supporter. 

Rubingh had appropriated the idea of chessboxing from the 1992 comic Froid Équateur. In the comic, two athletes spent an entire day competing at chess, followed by an entire day of trading punches inside the squared circle of a boxing ring. 

Finding that concept to be too unwieldy, Rubingh evolved his own version of chessboxing, creating rules and a blueprint that would be workable into a shorter time frame. In 2003 in Amsterdam, he launched the first official chessboxing competition. When all was said and done, Rubingh was also crowned the first winner of a chessboxing championship. He’s even credited as such in the Guiness Book of World Records.

Rules Of Chessboxing

A chessboxing match consists of 11 rounds of competition. There are six four-minute rounds of what is basically speed chess, interspersed with five three-minute rounds of boxing. 

The match starts with a four-minute chess round in which a move must be made by a player every 10 seconds. Headphones are worn during the chess portion of the match to ensure that players aren’t getting advice from members of the audience. After completion of the chess round, there’s a one-minute interval, during which the combatants don their boxing gloves and then step through the ropes and into the ring to trade punches. 

When that round concludes, there’s another one-minute rest, then it’s back to the chess board for four minutes of action. This rotation continues until all 11 rounds of chessboxing are completed, or until one of the combatants wins the match, whichever comes first.

There are several manners in which a player can win the competition. Gaining a checkmate, or a withdrawal by an opponent on the chess board is one route to victory. Knocking out an opponent in the ring, or winning on the judges’ card at the end of the boxing portion of the competition is another method of success. 

If neither combatant wins at chess and the boxing finishes as a draw, the tiebreaker goes to the chess player who used the black pieces.


“Chessboxing” by Pitchhigh is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Chessboxing World Championship

While it was born in the Netherlands, there is also significant following for chessboxing today in countries such as England, Germany, France, Russia, India and Japan. Working with the Dutch Boxing Association and the Dutch Chess Federation, the World Chessboxing Organization was founded. They even hold a world chessboxing championship, with the winner declared the smartest toughest person on the planet. In order to be allowed to enter the competition, a player must be at a rating of 1800 in chess.

Proponents of chessboxing insist that it is a remarkable one-of-a-kind sport since it asks the utmost of its athletes’ minds and bodies. Chessboxing requires its competitors to push themselves to the extreme of both their mental and physical limits. It also forces them to amp up to box and endure physical punishment in the ring, and then instantly calm down and find their center to focus on the mental gymnastics of the chess board.

“You have to flee or attack,” notes the chessboxing mission statement. “On the board, as in the ring. it’s about control. Testosterone, adrenaline, and ambition as driving forces. Chessboxing is about the balance between aggression and control; ambition and humility. We admire Steven Hawking and Arnold Swarzenegger. Gandhi is good. Tyson as well.

“It is the only sport in which the heart, mind and body perform in total harmony.” 

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