Ailsa Harvey


Chessboxing, as suggested by the name, combines two very contrasting pastimes in alternating rounds: chess and boxing. While the board game tests the athletes’ mental ability, the boxing tests the physical.

The sport was invented by a Dutch performance artist, Iepe Rubingh. Originally, chessboxing was thought to be an art performance, but it soon turned into a competitive sport. Currently, it has gained most popularity in Germany, the United Kingdom, India and Russia.

There are eleven rounds in a fight, with six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. A victory in either of the two disciplines declares a winner and ends the entire contest. Each round lasts three minutes for both chess and boxing: a single game of chess is played over the six rounds with the progress digitally recorded. Between rounds, competitors have sixty seconds to prepare for the next.

Switches between the diverse disciplines becomes increasingly difficult as the match progresses and tiredness takes over.  Inventor Rubingh says, “It is a very difficult sport because you come out of the boxing with a very high pulse and adrenaline levels, so you need to have an excellent physical condition to get those levels down and be able to play chess.”

While it may seem like an unlikely sport, it is continuing to increase in popularity. German fighter Andreas Dilschneider believes in its future: “when triathlons first came about in the 1970s, people thought it was crazy that someone would run 10k, then jump into the water and start swimming,” he says. “But now that’s a normal, famous sport.”

The first chessboxing competition took place in 2003, with the first ever world championship being held in the same year in cooperation with the Dutch Boxing Association and the Dutch Chess Federation. In 2008, clubs for the sport were founded in London, with the first American club appearing a year later.


Did you know…

  • Chessboxing has become very popular among young, poor women in India where the sport is seen as an alternative to their traditional roles.
  • If nobody wins in regulation time, the chess game ends in a draw and the boxing points are equal, the player using the black chess pieces automatically wins. However, this scenario has not yet occurred in practice.
  • The chess games take place in the middle of the boxing ring. To remain concentrated on strategy, competitors often use noise cancelling headphones to block out the rowdy crowds.
  • Although technically invented by Rubingh, he first came across it in a comic book, drawn by French cartoonist Enki Bilal. Rubingh turned Bilal’s dream into reality by adapting it slightly.

Are you good on the board and in the ring? This is a sport designed for you!

If you have read this post and you are a competitive chessboxer, send a message to us at PACE News and feature on our website.