As If That’s A Thing: Is Chess Boxing As Stupid As It Sounds?

Chilli and chocolate. Dan Walker and BBC Breakfast. Bananas on pancakes. Each pair shares the fact that they shouldn’t work together but somehow do, and you now couldn’t imagine waking up without any of them.

But there are some duos which just should not go together regardless of the circumstances. Welcome then to the weird and wonderful world of chess boxing.

That’s right, the absolute antithetic pairing of ‘sports’ have now melded into one and it is every bit as ridiculous as you would believe.

And yet, it is just as simple as it sounds. Participants take part in alternating rounds of boxing and ‘speed chess’ in the ultimate combination of mentality and physicality. To compete, an elo rating of 1600 and to have fought in 50 amateur bouts of boxing or similar martial arts. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

Run by the World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO), naturally, the sport transformed from an arts performance into a professional game just after the turn of the decade, just eight years after its 2003 introduction to the world from Dutchman, Iepe Rubingh. It is ‘hugely’ popular in Germany, Russia, India, and even in Great Britain.

Our shores have of course produced some great boxers in recent years. From Amir Khan to David Haye, Tony Bellew to Anthony Joshua, an array of great fighters who perhaps lack the mental capacity to take on chess masters such as Michael Adams or Nigel Short who wouldn’t last 30 seconds in the ring. But hey, if this ridiculous sport exists in the first place, why not go whole hog and see greats from the respective heats go head-to-head?

It may appear that the sport, with its Berlin birthplace, is a wall of stupidity, and to some extent it does appear like two of the most random pastimes fused together but the official website (yes, there’s an official website) states it as: “combining the nr1 thinking sport with the nr1 fighting sport”.

A rather grandiose statement perhaps, but there is an element of truth to it. While finding contestants worthy of expertise in both fields, on the board and in the ring, is no mean feat, it is perhaps worth keeping an eye on over the next few years as chess boxing strives to continue going from strength to strength.

The real question though remains; what next? What other hybrid sports could make it to the big stage? Scrabble and Ultimate Fighting Champion? Football mixed with horse racing? In fact, is that how polo came to be? Will chess boxing become a mainstay of the upper class sporting scene?

With professional chess boxing clubs now operating in London, Moscow and New York, the limits are seemingly endless for this sport which shows no sign of being checkmated or KO’d.