Unusual Sports: Brains and brawn in chess boxing

         What is chess boxing? It is a combination of the two sports meshed together to make a new one. It was invented by a French comic book artist known as Enki Bilal. This idea was then later adapted into a sport by Lepe Rubingh after being inspired by the comic book. Chess boxing is fairly new; people just started playing competitively around 1992. What makes this sport so unique? Normally, in chess, for example, you rely on your brains, you make calculations to try to foresee upcoming moves; this requires no strength whatsoever. Boxing, on the other hand, even though one can argue there are some strategies and that it takes some level of intelligence to box, is mostly a physical sport. But, by combining both, it requires the athlete to be able to switch off and rely on both their brains and their muscles to win this game! This sport is most popular in the following countries: England, Germany, Netherlands, France, Russia and Japan. 

How do you play chess boxing? It involves alternating between playing chess and boxing. First, you start off playing chess, then you switch to boxing and so on. The match consists of 11 rounds — six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. You also get a minute grace period in-between rounds when transitioning from playing chess to boxing and vise-versa. The chess round only consists of about four minutes and three minutes for boxing, meaning it is more like speed chess. If the referees think that you are deliberately trying to waste time or are not playing fast enough, they give you 10 seconds to make your move, in chess. How do you win? You can win in two different ways, either through chess or boxing. For example, you can win by beating your opponent in chess. However, if it results in a stalemate, which is rare, but sometimes happens, then whoever has the most points in boxing wins. If, somehow, there is a draw with the boxing points, it is deemed that whoever was playing with the black chess pieces win. To sum up: to win you must either get checkmate or receive a withdrawal from the chess game. You also can win by knocking your opponent out in boxing or by gaining more boxing points if chess is a draw.

An interesting rule that this game has is that, in order to qualify to compete, the contestant/athlete must have a chess rating of at least 1800 to compete in this sport. This means they must qualify as a class A category 1 player, which ranges from a score of 1800 to 2000. To help put this in perspective, most players who are considered as a “novice” in the game of chess fall within the 1200 and below category. This means that you cannot just be a person who plays chess for fun; you actually have to be good and not considered average if you want to compete in this sport! Not only do you have to be good at chess, but you have to be able to remain intellectually sharp after who knows how many blows to the face, and that skill requires concentration. In chess, you must defend your pieces, but, in the boxing, you must physically defend yourself. The balance between switching from intellect and strength is what makes this sport so tough and unique!  

If you or someone else was thinking of pursuing chess boxing, it pays around $21 per hour, not too bad if you are passionate about those two sports! However, the downside of this sport is the injuries. There is no doubt that chess boxing is a test of the body and the mind. Your body has to absorb multiple punches to the head, and then you have to quickly transition back to playing a high-level game of chess. This is where mental toughness comes into play! Ironically, most of the players who play this sport are not too concerned about the impact it may have on them intellectually — after repeatedly getting punched in the face — but, nonetheless there are still risks, and to ignore and dismay those claims would be both negligent and ignorant. Did you know that the speed of a boxing punch is a minimum of 10 meters per second when it hits the eye or the head? After a fight, dark spots that show bleeding can be seen on an MRI brain scan. This usually occurs after a traumatic brain injury, also known in this sport as a knockout. With these risks in mind, are you still willing to subject your mind and body to this kind of trauma?