What is this Chess Boxing, you ask?
I’ll tell you (clearing throat).
I did my research before buying a ticket and realised the rules are quite simple; The competitors will try and out think each other in a game of chess during a 4 minute round before trying to punch each other’s lights out during a 3 minute round of boxing. They will continue to alternate between the 2 sports before a winner is crowned by achieving either checkmate or knockout. Simple, right?
The event was held at multipurpose North London haunt, The Scala and arriving late meant having to cram myself into the back of the crowd.
The 2 urban gladiators were announced by the compare and individually made their way into the ring amongst a backdrop of cheering and music blaring. I’d expect nothing less from a spectacle involving boxing. They then derobed, donned a pair of headphones each and sat down to play chess. I know what you’re thinking, “how exciting can it be watching 2 half-naked men play chess?” From my past experiences watching homeless people playing in the park – not very, though this was different.
The chessboard was projected onto 2 big screens inside the arena so that we punters could follow exactly what was happening whilst the excellent compare hilariously commented on every move. Highly entertaining.
As soon as the bell went for the end of the chess round, teams of people would run into the ring and pick up the table whilst the chess players-come-boxers would strap on their gloves ready for a fight. Now, I’m no boxing expert, but I’ve seen enough fights to know a thing or 2, and what the boxers might have lacked in technique they totally made up for in entertainment. The crowd, with the help of countless amounts of Red Stripe were baiting for blood as the mood completely changed from that of just a minute earlier. Attack seemed like the best form of defence as flailing arms were definitely the order of the day. There were moments where it would have been more fitting to have seen car keys or broken bottles in their hands as opposed to gloves. I was sold.
After a few fights, I picked up on a trend. Some of the competitors were more focussed on playing chess where as the rest were relying more on their ability to beat the living piss out of their opponent. It made for incredible viewing and obviously a lot more tactical than first thought. In the end it seemed as though chess was the easier way to win. Out of the 4 fights, all 4 were won on the chess table, not in the boxing ring.
I loved it, and will definitely go back again.
For more info on upcoming events or how you can get involved in one of London’s fastest growing sports go to London Chess Boxing.