Chess boxing

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A chess boxing match in Berlin, 2008

Chess boxing, or chessboxing, is a hybrid sport that combines two traditional pastimes: chess and boxing.[1][2] The competitors compete in alternating rounds of chess and boxing.[3]

The basic idea in Chessboxing is to combine the number one thinking sport with the number one fighting sport into a merger sport that demands the most of its competitors - both mentally and physically.[4] The governing body of Chessboxing is the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO).[5]

Chessboxing was invented by French comic book artist Enki Bilal and adapted by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh as an art performance[6][7] and has subsequently grown into a competitive sport.[8][9][10] Chessboxing is particularly popular in Germany, the United Kingdom, India and Russia.[11]


The concept of Chessboxing was first coined in the 1979 Kung Fu film Mystery of Chessboxing made by Joseph Kuo. The first Chessboxing event was put on by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh.[12][13][6][7][14][15] Rubingh's idea to create a new sport fusing the two disciplines, chess and boxing,[16] originates from the 1992 comic Froid Équateur—written by French comic book artist Enki Bilal that portrays a chessboxing world championship. In the comic book version, however, the opponents fight an entire boxing match before they face each other in a game of chess. Finding this to be impractical, Rubingh developed the idea further until it turned into the competitive sport that chessboxing is today with alternating rounds of chess and boxing and a detailed set of rules and regulations.[17]

An earlier version of combining chess and boxing was said to have taken place in a boxing club outside London in the late 1970s. The Robinson brothers were in the habit of playing a round of chess against one another after a training session at their boxing club. However, no direct correlation can be made between the Robinson brothers' chess playing and chessboxing.[18][19] The same goes for the Kung-Fu movie Mystery of Chessboxing as well as the Wu-Tang Clan's song "Da Mystery of Chessboxin'" (1993).

Early history of the Chessboxing conception, sport and rules is detailed presented in the article of GROUPCHESS. [20]

The early years (2003)[edit]

The first chessboxing competition took place in Berlin in 2003. That same year, the first world championship fight was held in Amsterdam [21] in cooperation with the Dutch Boxing Association as well as the Dutch Chess Federation and under the auspices of the World Chess Boxing Organization (WCBO) that was founded in Berlin shortly before. [22] Dutch middleweight fighters Iepe Rubingh and Jean Louis Veenstra faced each other in the ring. After his opponent exceeded the chess time limit, Rubingh won the fight in the 11th round going down in the history books as the first-ever World Chess Boxing Champion.[23] The same goes for the Chess Boxing Club Berlin, created in the following year (2004), that is the first of its kind making Berlin the birthplace of chessboxing.[24]

2005–2008: the first champions[edit]

A chess round in a chess boxing match in 2008.

Two years after the first world championship,[25][26][27] the first European Chess Boxing Championship [28] took place in Berlin on October 1, 2005. [29][30] Present-day chessboxing commentator Andreas Dilschneider was defeated by Tihomir Atanassov Dovramadjiev (FIDE Master [31][32]) when he resigned in the 9th round (chess),[33] crowning the latter by being the first European Chess Boxing Champion.[34][35] The event was covered by a number of world popular magazines [36] and media as: Eurosport,[37] CNN,[38][39][40] Los Angeles TImes [41] Die WELT,[42] ChessBase [43] and other.[44][45][46][47][48] A video report by German television RBB [49] for the event of the first European Chess Boxing Championship was presented in details. [50] In 2006, more than 800 spectators filled the Gloria Theatre in Cologne for the world championship qualification fight between Zoran Mijatovic and Frank Stoldt. The 36-year-old Frank Stoldt, who was a former UN-Peacekeeper in Kosovo and Afghanistan, won when his opponent resigned in chess in the 7th round. After qualifying himself to fight for the title in 2006, Frank Stoldt went up against the American David Depto in November 2007 in Berlin to fight for the first world championship title in the light heavyweight division. More than 800 tickets were sold for the event at the Tape Club in Berlin, making it the biggest chessboxing title fight to that date. Frank Stoldt defeated Depto in the 7th round and thereby cemented Berlin's status as the leading city in the chessboxing world becoming the first German world champion.[51]

2008–2011: the chessboxing family grows[edit]

Chessboxing first received credit from the International Chess Federation FIDE, in April 2008; its president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, took part in a chessboxing demo fight in Elista.[52] In 2008, chessboxing clubs were founded in London and Krasnoyarsk.[53] Created in 2009, the Los Angeles Chessboxing Club was the first of its kind in the United States and was directly followed by the New York Chessboxing Club in 2010. The Boxer in Munich also opened in 2010 and offers chessboxing training. In addition to the WCBO's initially European and then later world championships taking place worldwide, the scene at the London Chessboxing Club grew where chessboxing events take place on a regular basis. In 2011, the first international club matchup took place with Berlin and London in the ring—London came out the winner with 2:1 won bouts.[54]

2011–2014: chess boxing turns professional and goes worldwide[edit]

In 2011, the WCBO and with it the global chessboxing community made the biggest leap forward in its development to date with the foundation of the Chessboxing Organisation of India and its expansion in Asia, including also Chessboxing China and the Chessboxing Organisation of Iran which was founded in 2012. Furthermore, the third chessboxing organization in the United States, USA Chessboxing, was founded in 2011 and the European movement was being reinforced by the foundation of the Italian Chessboxing Federation in 2012. What's more, the professionalization of chessboxing started to take shape in the second decade of the 21st century. In addition to the WCBO that became a registered association under German law in 2014, the Chess Boxing Global Marketing CBGM GmbH—called Chess Boxing Global, CBG—was founded, that as of May 2013, is responsible for organizing all of the professional chessboxing fights worldwide and above all, for the organization of the Chess Boxing World Championships.

The Chess Boxing Organisation India was founded in 2011 by kickboxing official and former Indian kickboxing and karate champion Montu Das. With this, the growth of chessboxing in Asia gained momentum with the first Chess Boxing Organisation in Western Asia already being built in the following year by another experienced official in the kickboxing world: Fereydoun Pouya started the Chess Boxing Organisation Iran.

At the same time, the process of turning chessboxing professionals reached a milestone: The 2013 World Championship in Moscow was the first chessboxing event organized and marketed by Chess Boxing Global. With three world championship fights in one night, more than 1200 spectators and a standard of fighting never seen before, the first CBG event set new standards in the history of chessboxing with Leonid Chernobaev leading the way. He has been able to make a name for himself with more than 15 years of chess playing experience and in the boxing world, as Marco Huck's and Yoan Pablo Hernández' sparring partner and having fought over 200 amateur bouts. He won the light heavyweight title against Indian fighter Shailesh Tripathi after a technical knockout in the 8th round (boxing). Sven Rooch secured his title in the middleweight class division-winning against Jonatan Rodriguez Vega after the Spaniard resigned in the 7th round (chess) and Russian Nikolay Sazhin won the heavyweight title against Gianluca Sirci by checkmate. Thus, Sazhin (Heavyweight), Chernobaev (Light heavyweight) and Rooch (Middleweight) would all go down in Chess Boxing history as the first Chess Boxing Global World Champions. They are also the first professional world champions in chessboxing ever.[55]

In terms of its development into a mass sport, there was much success in 2013 and early 2014 for the chessboxing world. There were more competitors in the second and third Indian Championships in summer 2013 and early 2014 than in any chessboxing events ever before, with more than 245 fighters varying in both age and weight class, taking place in Salem and Jodhpur, respectively.[56] Furthermore, the chessboxing community in London—under the command of London Chessboxing and the WCBA—has continued to grow constantly since 2011 and by now stages chessboxing events for 800 or more spectators on a regular basis 4–5 times a year at the Scala, King's Cross.

Late 2014 also saw Finnish Chessboxing Club being founded in Helsinki by five founding members. Since 2013, actively developing Moscow Chess Boxing club MCBF

2015 to present: chessboxing today[edit]

Chessboxing events in 2015 were produced by London Chessboxing under the WCBA—two events at Scala, Kings Cross in London. The second event in June 2015, The Grandmaster Bash!, saw the British, European and IBF light welterweight world champion Terry Marsh fight and defeat Dymer Agasaryan. Terry Marsh (57) is the first professional boxer to compete in Chessboxing[57][58] and has competed in 3 fights since June 2014 in London and still remains unbeaten in his career. The fight was one of the most compelling to watch as it went the distance, normal time ending in draw. After a deciding round of boxing Terry Marsh was awarded victory on points.

Chessboxing has also become more popular among young, poor women in India where the sport has been seen as an alternative to traditional roles.[59]

Currently, the sport of ChessBoxing is actively developing and growing as popular and favorite sport for many people which try to find new realization and challenges. Actual number of local federations are officially registered in countries such as: China,[60] Costa Rica,[61] Czech Republic,[62] Finland,[63] France,[64][65][66][67][68][69] Germany,[70][71] Great Britain,[72] India,[73][74][75][76][77] Iran,[78] Italy,[79][80] Madagascar,[81] Mexico, Netherlands, Philippines,[82] Russia,[83][84] South Africa,[85] Spain, Turkey,[86][87] Ukraine,[88] USA,[89][90][91][92][93][94] and other countries.

In 2016, Then-FIDE president, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov publicly announced to "Top Sport" his desire to include Chessboxing in the Olympic games. [95]



A chessboxing match can end by any of the following:

  • Victory by knockout or technical knockout in boxing
  • Victory by checkmate in chess
  • Loss due to exceeding the chess game's time control (9 minutes with no increment;[96] see fast chess)
  • Victory due to disqualification of their opponent by the referee e.g. due to inactivity due to overextended playing time (chess or boxing rounds following multiple warnings).
    • This rule prevents a player who is in an obviously lost position in one arena from stalling in order to attempt to win in the other
  • Loss by resignation (chess or boxing rounds)

In the case that neither of the chessboxers win in regulation time and the chess game ends in a draw, the fighter who is ahead on boxing points wins the overall bout. In case the scoreboard is also tied, the fighter that used the black chess pieces will be named the winner (due to the first-move advantage in chess). This has not yet occurred in practice.

Weight classes[edit]

Like boxing, chessboxers are divided into weight classes. Currently, the following apply to professional chessboxing events of Chess Boxing Global (as of October 2014):

Men (17 years+)[edit]

  • Lightweight: max. 154.324 lbs (70 kg)
  • Middleweight: max. 176.37 lbs (80 kg)
  • Light heavyweight: max. 198.416 lbs (90 kg)
  • Heavyweight: 198.416+ lbs (90+ kg)[97]

Women (17 years+)[edit]

  • Lightweight: max. 121.254 lbs (55 kg)
  • Middleweight: max. 143.3 lbs (65 kg)
  • Light heavyweight: max. 165.347 lbs (75 kg)
  • Heavyweight: 165.347+ lbs (75+ kg)

For amateur and youth chessboxing bouts under the flag of the WCBO weight classes are graduated in 6-kilo-steps. In exception event hosts can classify into 10-kilo-steps.

Particular requirements and training[edit]

A chess boxer must have strong skills in both chess and boxing in order to be permitted to compete in a professional chess boxing fight. The current minimum requirements to fight in a Chess Boxing Global event include an Elo rating of 1600 and a record of at least 50 amateur bouts fought in boxing or another similar martial art. One deciding factor in chess boxing is that the fighters have to mainly train in speed chess; the skills required by speed chess are different from those for chess using classical time controls. However, chess boxing is not only the ability to master both sports but above all, being able to withstand the constant switch from a full contact sport to a thinking sport, round after round. After three minutes of boxing, pulses are racing, yet the opponents have to face each other at the chessboard barely having taken a break, and have to then perform calmly and think tactically. This switch becomes increasingly hard for the athletes as the fight goes on and they become tired.

In order to train these skills, a specialised chess boxing training is used, in which physical interval training forms are combined with blitz or speed chess games. Thereby the fighters adapt the rhythm of a chessboxing bout. They will use exercises like "track chess" and "stair chess" in which training partners will play an 18-minute game of speed chess over six rounds with intensive running exercises in between, such as 400-meter sprints or stair sprints. Other common methods of training combine speed chess games with strength exercises such as push-ups. The classic chess boxing training is box sparring combined with a game of speed chess.


Between 2003–2013, the chessboxing world championships were organised by the WCBO. As of 2013, they take the form of professional events under the auspices of Chess Boxing Global.

WCBO (2003–2012)[edit]

World champions[edit]

European champions[edit]

CBG (starting 2013)[edit]

  • 2013: Nikolay Sazhin  Russia – Heavyweight, in Moscow against Gianluca Sirci  Italy
  • 2013: Leonid Chernobaev  Belarus – Light heavyweight, in Moscow against Shaliesh Tripathi  India
  • 2013: Sven Rooch  Germany – Middleweight, in Moscow against Jonathan Rodriguez Vega  Spain

Major organizations[edit]

World Chess Boxing Organisation[edit]

The World Chess Boxing Organisation e.V. (WCBO) is the leading umbrella organisation for international amateur chessboxing. It is based in Berlin, Germany and legally recognized as a non-profit organisation by the German Government. Iepe Rubingh founded the World Chess Boxing Organisation directly after the first chessboxing fight in 2003. Its goal was, and still is, to establish the WCBO as the worldwide organisation for the sport of chessboxing. The WCBO's aim is to collect and link all of the active chessboxing clubs worldwide under one roof. It was legally recognised as a registered association by Berlin's district court in 2014. The WCBO was the official organizer of the chessboxing world championships until it recognised Chess Boxing Global, in accordance with its statute, as the exclusive marketing agent for professional chessboxing fights, in 2013. Since then, the WCBO has been focusing on the organisation of the mass sport chessboxing and its further development. Chessboxing inventor and WCBO founder Iepe Rubingh, is also the current chairman. The first honorary member became Comic book artist Enki Bilal, whose comic provided the inspiration behind the invention of chessboxing.

WCBO member associations[edit]

  • Chess Boxing Club Berlin (CBCB)
  • Chess Boxing Organisation of India (CBOI)
  • Chess Boxing Organisation of Iran (CBOIR)
  • Italian Chess Boxing Federation (FISP)
  • China Chessboxing (CBCN)
  • USA Chessboxing
  • Russian Chess Boxing Organisation
  • Mexican Chess Boxing Organisation
  • Spain chess boxing

World Chess Boxing Association[edit]

The World Chessboxing Association (WCBA) is a legally recognized umbrella organisation for chessboxing. It was founded in 2013 and is based in London, England. English heavyweight chessboxing champion, Tim Woolgar, is its current president. The World Chessboxing Association originated from the London Chessboxing Club after having separated from the World Chess Boxing Organisation (WCBO). It was founded by Tim Woolgar in 2013 in order to accelerate the development of chessboxing. WBCO champions are also managed and recognised by the WCBA.

WCBA members[edit]

  • UK Chessboxing Association
  • Russian Chessboxing Organisation
  • Italian Chessboxing Federation
  • Spanish Chessboxing Association

London Chessboxing[edit]

London Chessboxing is a brand under which the sport of chessboxing has been promoted since 2008[103] in London, United Kingdom. Although the sport has been practiced in London since 1978,[104][105] the home of Chessboxing in London today is Islington Boxing Club[106][107] where London Chessboxing host regular training sessions.

The first ever Chessboxing event hosted in the UK under the brand was at Bethnal Green Working Men's club in Hackney by Tim Woolgar on the 15th of August 2008. Other notable venues include Chelsea Old Town Hall,[108][109] The Grange Hotel in St Pauls[110] and the Royal Albert Hall.[111][112] Presently their events are hosted at Scala, King's Cross, London,[113] York Hall, London and The Dome, in Tuffnell Park. The events are also broadcast on the livestreaming service Twitch.

Chess Boxing Global[edit]

Chess Boxing Global (CBG) is a marketing agency responsible for professional chessboxing fights and all commercial activities affiliated with the sport of chessboxing. It is officially the only marketing agency for professional chessboxing recognised by the WCBO and takes on assignments such as organizing world championships for and marketing the profiles of professional athletes. Shortly after being founded by Iepe Rubingh in Berlin in 2013, CBG gained attention thanks to Enki Bilal auctioning off one of his paintings in Paris on February 23, 2013. The auctioned painting, that shows an artistic depiction of a chessboxer, was able to generate 174,000 Euro for CBG. The first world championship under the auspices of Chess Boxing Global took place in Moskow, Russia in 2013 before 1200 spectators. Professional athletes from all over the world fight each other under the slogan, "A quest for the smartest and toughest man on the planet."[114]

In popular culture[edit]

  • In season 5, episode 17 of Elementary, titled "The Ballad of Lady Francis", Holmes shows the virtues of Chess boxing as a way to train oneself to quickly shift mindset from rapid action to calm, deliberate control.
  • The Eclipse Phase sourcebook "Rimward" features chess boxing as a popular sport in one of the habitats on Titan.
  • In 2008 american singer Reb Fountain[115] (She currently lives in New Zealand) released music video for TAB off her album "Holster",[116] directed by Anton Steel, featuring Reb in a Chessboxing match with NZ lightweight Dylan Russell.[117]

Chess boxing and science[edit]

In parallel with the development of chess boxing as a sport, it has found an increasing place in a number of scientific works by leading scientists who study the potential of application of the concept in various fields.[118][119][120][121][122][123][124][125][126][127][128][129]

  • The concept of chess boxing is of great interest to science seeking to optimize and increase the physical and psychological characteristics of athletes through the application of new methods and approaches to increase human strength, biomechanical and intellectual abilities, and other.[130]
  • The concept of the sport of chess boxing occupies a leading place in the research of scientists looking for new integrated methods and approaches applicable in the educational process in order to improve the general condition of adolescents, young people and disadvantaged people.[131]
  • In general, the main conclusions shows the positive impact of the diversity of the sport of chess boxing, characterized by a certain dynamics in a diverse environment.[132][133][134]

Chess boxing and mass media[edit]

  • WCBO released official video promo introduction of chessboxing.[135]
  • In Hungary, in 2012, chessboxing was introduced in the country by professional chess players and multiple women's chess champions, the sisters Judith, Susan and Sofia Polgar, which included the progressive sport of chessboxing in the program of the organized festival. In the same event the WBF / IBO middleweight world boxing champion Mihaly Kotai played a chessboxing match.[136]
  • In 2013, the information and educational television channel Moscow 24[137] presented a report on the popularity of chessboxing.[138]
  • In 2018, the official promo video SHAHBOX PROMO was presented.[139] The video shows the preparation of the Russian national chess team for an international tournament in Moscow (March 28, 2018) under the auspices of the Chess Federation (Moscow, Russia) and the World Chess Federation (WCBO) with the support of Indigo Capital Partners. The tournament was held and supported by the Ministry of Sports of the Russian Federation. Among the participants in the cup there are five candidates for master of sports in boxing, two masters of sports in kickboxing, one professional boxer (with a score of 3 - 0), two masters, three candidates for master of chess, - three world champions in chessboxing, one European champion and one silver medalist from the World Chess Championship. The video was created with the support of Indigo Capital Partners. Author of the video: Rafael Timerbaev.[140][141]
  • In 2019, the St. Petersburg TV[142] channel presented a report on how chessboxing attracts chess players and boxers. (August 23, 2019).[143]
  • In 2019, RedBull TV[144] officially presented a documentary on chessboxing.[145]
  • In 2020, at an international chessboxing tournament held in the Netherlands, K1 multiple world kickboxing champion Remy Bonjasky[146] supported the event as a commentator.[147] The tournament is especially important because after 17 years chessboxing returns to the homeland where the first world championship was held.[148]

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