Upon hearing the phrase ‘chessboxing’, a small number of people may be reminded of ‘Da Mystery of Chessboxin’, a 1992 song by the Wu Tang Clan. A much larger number of people would simply be confused. However, there are a select few who would immediately associate ‘chessboxing’ with an exciting, fast-moving sport; a dark underworld where brain meets brawn and worlds collide— or kind of, anyway.
Chessboxing is exactly what it sounds like: a hybrid sport that combines chess and boxing in a bizarre battle of not just physical strength, but also strength of mind. Games consist of six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing, held alternately until a winner is declared. It can be won either in the ring or on the chessboard (which, confusingly, is also in the ring).
The rules state that contestants must not only be decent boxers, but also at least Class A chess players. This level is well below chess masters like Garry Kasparov or Bobby Fischer, but much higher than the average amateur, requiring extensive training to achieve.
Like a lot of things, chessboxing is big in Europe. It has gained a cult following from avid fans of boxing and chess alike. However, for those who aren’t fans of either sport, the novelty can wear off quickly, with the violence of boxing and tedium of chess becoming all too apparent.
Whether you’re a believer or not, there’s no doubt that those behind the chessboxing movement are committed to their cause. For instance, the FAQ section of the World Chess Boxing Organisation website claims that women find chessboxing ‘sexy’.
This is as inexplicable as it is inaccurate, considering that most women don’t ‘find’ chessboxing at all, due to its obscure nature. However, when considering the nerdy status of chess in the sporting world, coupled with the low profile of chessboxing thus far, it seems rebranding this wacky sport as ‘sexy’ may indeed be the best way forward.