The Gloves are Off...and On Again
Knights and ladies, You have hopefully enjoyed some of my anarchic puckish Brit humor...and i'm always on the look out for quintessential Monty Pythonesque ways to mentally marry two extremes for amusement, but it seems reality has beaten me to it this time....May i introduce to you the sport of Chess-Boxing!
It's hard to imagine too many similarities between the cerebral game of chess and the bone-juddering discipline of boxing and yet the new sport melds the two.
When you think of chess players, you probably think of tangle-haired geniuses, reclusive Russians, and the boys at school who were too delicate to play in the yard.
You probably don't think of bulging biceps, iron jaws and sweat flying. That's why the mere mention of chessboxing causes so many raised eyebrows.
It's a mixture of chess and boxing - one round of chess is followed by a round of boxing and so on until the winner is declared by knockout, checkmate or points victory.
The sport, brought into reality in 2003 by a Dutch performance artist inspired by a French comic, came to the UK in April and has its headquarters at a boxing gym in north London. On the continent, the sport's epicentres are in Amsterdam and Berlin.
Some might assume that boxers lack the cerebral skills required for the game of kings, while a single punch would knock a chess player's glasses clean off his head?
"It's a devilish combination," the sport's Dutch inventor Iepe Rubingh tells a crowd of shaven-headed East End geezers and wild-haired cool kids at Bethnal Green Working Men's Club, east London.
He has come to see the latest instalment in Chess-Boxing's rise in popularity - a UK international bout.
A large chessboard sits in the middle of a boxing ring beneath the club's dusty glitter ball.
As paramedics wait behind the ring and a rockabilly DJ plays 80s electro music to the sold-out venue, there is a palpable sense of uncertainty and menace.
It lifts when the first fighters take to the stage, with a compere whipping the crowd into a frenzy and a traditional glamorous lady circling the ring with a sign declaring "Round One". The boxers then sit down and play chess. A bout of Chess-Boxing stretches to 11 rounds - six of chess (four minutes each) and five of boxing (three minutes each).
Event promoter Tim Woolgar has put his money where his mouth is by taking part in the first bout. Unfortunately he is up against Konrad Rikardson from Sweden, a confident chess player and even more confident boxer.
As their chess moves are tracked on a giant computer screen, a commentator guides us through the game and evaluates the players' tactics.
A blokey cheer erupts whenever a piece is taken, but the boxers wear headphones to block out the noise. We are told they pump out Eric Clapton songs all night to increase the players' aggression.
"Go on - 'ave him!" shouts someone in the audience after a particularly good move. "Bash his bishop!", another yells, while the commentator sagely notes: "It's a pawn storm."
Minutes later the mood darkens as the board is moved aside, gloves and gum shields are put on and the boxing begins.
As the pair bob around the ring ducking and weaving, jabbing and defending, it becomes clear that they are deadly serious about their sport.
Woolgar takes one head blow after another yet minutes later returns to drip sweat over the chessboard.
He defends himself admirably but suffers a further physical pounding before Rikardson snatches his queen. The crowd goes wild.
After the tournament, Woolgar has recovered enough to explain the pain and pleasure of Chess-boxing. "I took an almighty pounding. I have a sense it didn't do me any good."
Nevertheless he is undaunted in his enthusiasm for the hybrid sport, adamant that Chess-Boxing has an "Instant Appeal" that wins over "a cross section of the community"
He now wants to encourage more young people to take it up and is aiming for it to be recognised as an Olympic sport.
High ideals maybe...but i'm thinking wouldn't it be a utopian way to pick our Leaders, who would then, in matters of warring take on the leader of the other country at Chess Boxing. Just think how many Young Lives would be saved.
Sir Dayvd (Knight to kings pawn with a left hook to the ribs) of Oxfordshire