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The Beginner’s Guide to Chessboxing

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(Chessboxing, photo via wikipedia commons)

Chessboxing is a hybrid sport that combines the physical discipline of boxing and the game of chess in alternating rounds. According to the World Chessboxing Association, the first known chessboxing club was set up in London in 1978 by amateur boxer and club chess player James Robinson. Widespread interest in the sport began after the conception of the sport at Greenich’s Mantagu Boys Club. Chessboxing was brought to a wider audience with the release of the Chinese kung-fu movie “The Mystery of Chessboxing,” and by 2008 independent chessboxing clubs began sprining up internationally in London, Berlin, and LA. Here’s how the sport is played:

The World Chessboxing Association organizes competitors into standard boxing weight class categories from strawweight to heavyweight. Competitors are graded and ranked by Elo points (devised by Hungarian chess master Arpad Elo) into an 8-tier system that ranks them against opponents of equal chess-playing ability. A full match consists of eleven rounds: six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. The match begins with a chess round and is followed by a boxing round alternating to the end of the match. During the chess rounds of the bout, the players wear closed-back headphones to avoid being distracted by the live commentary or any advice shouted from the audience.

(Andreas Stoldt (l) and  David "Double D" Depto of USA partake in a bout of 'Chess-Boxing' during the world championships in Berlin 03 November 2007. Opponents take turns with four minutes of chess followed by ten of boxing and the game can be won either by knock-out or check-mate, photo: EPA/Wolfgang Kumm)
(Andreas Stoldt (l) and David “Double D” Depto of USA partake in a bout of ‘Chess-Boxing’ during the world championships in Berlin 03 November 2007. Opponents take turns with four minutes of chess followed by ten of boxing and the game can be won either by knock-out or check-mate, photo: EPA/Wolfgang Kumm)

There are several ways to win a chessboxing bout:

1- Checkmate

2- Time Penalty (your opponent runs out of time on his or her clock)

3- KO/TKO

4-Disqualification– (if a competitor is guilty of cheating)

5- Points decision. In the event of a drawn game (by stalemate or repetition of the position) the decision is made on boxing points scored. If a draw occurs at any point prior to the final round, there will be one more round of boxing to conclude the bout.

(U.S. chess boxer David Depto moves a horse with his taped hand during a chess boxing world championship, organized by the World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO), in Berlin, Germany. Chess boxing combines the sports of chess and boxing in alternating rounds, photo: AP Photo/Miguel Villagran, File)
(U.S. chess boxer David Depto moves a horse with his taped hand during a chess boxing world championship, organized by the World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO), in Berlin, Germany. Chess boxing combines the sports of chess and boxing in alternating rounds, photo: AP Photo/Miguel Villagran, File)

The rules of the WCBA state that stalling by making chess moves very slowly (or not at all) is discouraged by an arbiter who constantly monitors the position on the chessboard. If the arbiter judges that a player is time-wasting, he has the ability to impose a ten-second time limit in which a player must move or be disqualified from the match. Similarly, if a position comes to a complete draw and the arbiter believes a player quickly moves their pieces to only win on time, the arbiter can declare the game a draw.

(Photo via hypeness.com.br)
(Photo via hypeness.com.br)

The combination sport is structured to be the perfect balance between mental and physical competition with an equal chance of winning in either chess or boxing. Check out WCA.com to learn more about the sport.

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Kurt Tellez
Kurt Tellez is a Southern California-based writer and musician. He first developed a passion for writing and literature in high school that carried through to the completion of a B.A. in English from Cal State Fullerton in 2013. Inspired by Joseph Conrad, Emily Dickinson, Alan Moore and Hunter S. Thompson, he has pursued a career in writing through contributions to online magazine publications, blogging, and social media management. His musical studies began at thirteen, and has since played in garage bands, concert bands and jazz bands everywhere from Honolulu to The Matthew Street Beatles Festival in Liverpool. Kurt has followed MMA since becoming an avid listener of the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast. Inspired by Eddie Bravo's appearances on the show, he became a member of Tenth Planet Jiu-Jitsu in 2014.