Chess boxin’, ya hur?

It is often difficult to fuse two incongruous elements together; how could one combine, say, Muhammad Ali’s forceful agility with Garry Kasparov’s brilliant tactical reversals? What of Mike Tyson’s raw ferocity and Paul Morphy’s raw genius? The most profound and intuitive solution to this quandary comes in the form of a strange and beautiful fusion, known simply as Chess Boxing. The premise behind Chess Boxing is piecemeal – four-minute rounds of speed or “blitz” chess (each player has a total of twelve minutes in which to make all of his or her moves for the entire game) are interspersed between two-minute boxing rounds. During each transition, the players are afforded a one-minute intermission, in which they may change their gear and mentally prepare for the next segment. Chess Boxing retains a quiet and aloof dignity, yet is seldom referred to with the same respect as either of its components. When mentioned, it is usually either maligned as trivial or mocked as ridiculous; this is evident most flagrantly in the Wu-Tang Clan’s “Da Mystery of Chessboxin’”, to which further space shall not be devoted. A few, however, appreciate the game as it should be appreciated. “It’s the best sport ever; no, it’s both a game and a sport – and more,” senior Devin Lu said. “I once saw a match – it was awe-inspiring. The match ended with a checkmate, and the crowd cheered uproariously. Chess Boxing is amazing.“ Chess Boxing is generally regulated by the World Chess Boxing Organisation, or WCBO, whose headquarters are located, aptly, in Germany. Its motto reflects the game’s purpose; “Fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board.” The WCBO was founded in 2003, although underground Chess Boxing has existed (in a crude form) since at least 1991, when it was featured in the movie Uuno Turhapuro – herra Helsingin herra (Numbskull Emptybrook – Lord of Helsinki), in which the president of Finland was seen simultaneously boxing and playing a chess match (blindfolded, no less) via a headset. As one might expect, the game is quite different from both of its roots. From boxing comes the need for intense physical and mental focus and preparation; from chess comes the need for prescience and careful yet lighting-quick planning. Also, a player must be careful to avoid harm during the boxing rounds. If he or she is addled then, it could have a fatally detrimental impact on his or her chess skills. Similarly, a particularly effective gambit could weaken an opponent’s resolve and lead him or her to falter during fisticuffs. Ultimately, Chess Boxing is able to elegantly fuse both of its progenitors and simultaneously create a new, Hegelian synergy that gives the game its soul. From its clumsy beginnings in a low-quality Finnish comedy to the creation of the WCBO, the game has grown enormously; whether its momentum will carry it to the forefront of the mainstream is unknown. We can only hope.