World of Sport

Chess-boxing: Yes, it’s an actual thing

All photos: Reuters

By now, there's a fair chance you've at least heard of the hybrid 'sport' phenomenon known as chess-boxing.

Of course, whether you actually believe it exists, and isn't just some sort of bizarre myth or April Fool's prank which somehow lingered on, is another matter altogether.

But yes, since 2008 when the modern concept was 'officially' rolled out in London, the combination of the two competitions which regard themselves as noble arts (and yet, couldn't be any more different) is starting to gain popularity worldwide.

Los Angeles (USA), Tokyo (Japan), Nantes (France), Reykjavík (Iceland), Amsterdam (Netherlands) Calcutta (India) and Krasnoyarsk (Russia) have all staged events over the last five years, while more than one reputable British ticketing website sells seats to the multiple chess-boxing cards taking place in England's capital.

First question, of course: How does it work?

From Wikipedia:

"A full match consists of eleven rounds: six rounds of chess, each four minutes long, and five rounds of boxing, each three minutes long (four minutes under amateur rules). The match begins with a chess round which is followed by a boxing round. Rounds of chess and boxing alternate until the end of the match.

"There is a one-minute break between each round, during which competitors cool out and change gear. Rules of fast chess are used, and a competitor only has a total of twelve minutes to use for all his chess moves. Player's chess time is measured using a chess clock.

"A competitor may win the match during a boxing round by knockout or a technical stoppage by the referee, by achieving a checkmate or if the opponent's twelve minutes run out during a chess round, or by the opponent's resignation at any point.

"If the chess game reaches a stalemate, the scores from the boxing rounds are used to determine the winner. If the boxing score (calculated on a round-by-round basis) is also a draw, the outcome is declared as a tie.

"If a competitor fails to make a move during the chess round, he can be issued a warning after which he must make a legal move within the next 10 seconds or become disqualified. Repeated warnings may also result in a disqualification. The warnings are in use to avoid situations where a competitor would stall a losing chess game and focus his activity only on boxing.

"The players wear closed-back headphones during the chess rounds to avoid being distracted by the live chess commentary, or hearing advice shouted from the audience."

The pictures included show just how peculiar the two backdrops look when merged as one, but there is nonetheless something undeniably intriguing about the whole concept.

And while chess-boxing does not have recognized global champions to the degree of either individual sport (a good thing in boxing's case, as the last thing any fledgling competition needs is about 200 different 'champions' confusing everyone), there's only one logical choice for inaugural undisputed chess-boxing champion of the world:

Lewis takes on fans at chess during a public event in 2002

Yes, that's right: Lennox Lewis, who unified the heavyweight boxing straps before retiring, also happens to be a dab hand on the chequered board.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter

Would YOU be interesting in watching chess-boxing live? If not, which two sports/pastimes do you think would make for a better hybrid? Have your say in the comments section below...