Saturday, May 7, 2011

Chess Boxing

Think CrossFit is insane? Last week, my buddy Mint heard about "chess boxing" on NPR, and -- being the activity junkie that he is -- immediately began scouring the web for more information.

Turns out chess boxing is exactly what it sounds like: After a four-minute round of speed chess, opponents step into the ring for a two-minute round of boxing. The competitors alternate between rounds of chess and boxing -- until one wins by knockout, checkmate, or judge's decision.

Sound like something that someone pulled out of their ass? It was. (Figuratively.) According to most accounts, a Dutch artist named Iepe Rubingh invented chess boxing after being inspired by a similar hybrid sport depicted in Froid_Équateur, a 1992 French comic book. Others claim that chess boxing was actually based on the Wu Tang Clan's 1993 track "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" -- which, in turn, was based on a 1979 chop-socky film called "Ninja Checkmate" (a.k.a., "The Mystery of Chess Boxing").

Regardless, the sport is growing in popularity -- particularly in Europe, where chess is more popular and boxing is more bloody. Chess boxing even has a governing body, headquartered in Berlin: the World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO). Its motto? "Fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board."

This ain't exactly my cup of tea. I suck at chess, and the last time I got into a fight was in eighth grade. (Okay, it was more of a shoving match. But it was angry shoving.) Still, I can already think of a few people who'd take a second look at chess boxing. Despite appearing bizarre on first glance, this sport may very well appeal to those who like to kick ass both mentally and physically. As Rubingh put it, "chess boxing is extreme physical stress combined with a huge mental test" -- making it one of the few sports that requires extremes in both brains and brawn.
The adrenaline after boxing inhibits your ability to think, making the chess harder. Few people can still think straight after a right hook to the head. You need to be able to pull off that champion chess move while blood is pouring from your nose.