London Chessboxing: 'The Rock' defeats 'The Phoenix'

6/2/2010 – With spectator numbers and gate receipts that would turn any chess organiser green with envy, with centers in Los Angeles, London, Berlin and Siberia, chess boxing is becoming a real success story. Recently in London a super-fit boxer managed to knock out his opponent just when he was about to be mated. You'll never guess whom director Iepe Rubingh has been trying to recruit.

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London Chessboxing:
"The Rock" defeats "The Phoenix"

Report by Rajko Vujatovic

Chessboxing combines the ultimate mental sport and the ultimate physical sport, with alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The position on the chessboard is preserved between chess rounds, so checkmate or knockout wins - whichever comes first! Each player has 12 minutes on his clock for all moves, so there is a maximum of 11 rounds: six four-minute chess and five three-minute boxing rounds.

In a mouthwatering heavyweight contest, promoted by Tim Woolgar of the Great Britain ChessBoxing Organisation, Andy ‘The Rock’ Costello (left) defeated Sergio ‘The Phoenix’ Leveque (right) by technical KO in round eight. After a controversial decision to halt the fight, Costello earned the right to challenge Gianluca ‘Il Dottore’ Sirci for the European Heavyweight crown.

Exeter-based Costello is a world class cage-fighter, and was a junior chess champion before giving up
the game at the age of twelve to dedicate himself to martial arts. The Italian Leveque is an experienced
boxer and has reached the rarefied heights of chess master. Leveque has a 100% chessboxing record – if he doesn’t win by KO, he’s adept at hammering through the king’s defences instead.

‘The Rock’ has a terrifying style of boxing, where he gets close in, and pummels away to wear his opponent down. Leveque, much the stronger chess player, could afford the luxury of playing quickly to reduce the number of boxing rounds. Costello’s strategy was conversely to make the chess last as long as possible, so he could get as many boxing rounds to increase the chances of a KO. He would not want to quickly get checkmated. Even if he got an inferior position, he’d want to use his full 12 minutes.

After the initial two rounds it was clear the contest was a tense race between whether Leveque (left) could checkmate Costello before Costello could KO Leveque. After a quiet opening where Costello had the advantage of the White pieces, Leveque launched an audacious attack against Costello’s king. At first the Englishman retaliated with a combination that won a pawn. However, the Italian chess master showed his class by methodically improving his piece placements to threaten checkmate. Costello coolly defended a difficult position to cling on until round seven. However, he needed a KO in boxing round eight, as he only had 40 seconds remaining in the chess with a worse position, and would therefore certainly lose in chess round nine.

Having achieved a knockdown in round two, the immensely fit Costello went for one last push against the drained Italian in round eight. The Englishman hurtled himself towards Leveque with his trademark 'arms-a-swinging' attack. Leveque fell to the ground for an eight-count. He got up, and held on for dear life before being floored again. With 50 seconds remaining, referee Dominguez stopped the contest. Leveque protested that the knock-down was not legitimate, and he (rather bravely) pleaded that he should be allowed to continue. Dominguez disagreed. Boxer spectators were heard to say that he was not incorrect to stop the fight, certainly for safety reasons. The doctor’s opinion was that Leveque looked utterly exhausted, and if the referee didn’t stop the fight, then the she was poised to jump into the ring to stop it herself. Victory to Costello by TKO in round eight!

The ebbs and flows of the bout, and the dynamic tension between the two disciplines, are represented visually. Click here to play through the game.

In the undercard, Germany reinforced itself as a chessboxing powerhouse when Anatol Przytulski (left) defeated Matt ‘Crazy Arms’ Read by technical KO in round four. Przytulski had a fluid boxing style and he caught Read out with a powerful right-hook when his guard was down. Although the chess game was unfinished with just 20 moves played, they were high-class moves where neither player made a mistake.

Costello,Andy 'The Rock' (1800) - Leveque,Sergio 'The Phoenix (2059) [A46]
London ChessBoxing, 15.05.2010 [Rajko Vujatovic]
Each player has 12 minutes for all moves. There is a maximum of 11 chessboxing rounds: six four-minute chess rounds alternating with five three-minute boxing rounds.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3 d6 3.Nbd2 Nbd7 4.e4 e5 5.dxe5 dxe5 6.Bd3. True to his nickname, Costello plays a rock-solid opening. 6...Bc5 7.0-0 0-0 8.Nb3. Most precise is to pressurise the e5 pawn with 8.Nc4! Qe7 9.Qe2, followed by putting the Bc1 on b2 or c3. 8...Bb6 9.Bg5 h6 10.Bh4 Qe8!? 11.Re1 Nh5 12.Bg3 g5!? At the end of round one, the Italian signals his attacking intentions by thrusting his pawn forward. Round 2 saw the fighters get into their stride and size each other up in the ring. Costello went flat out. Leveque generally defended well but was caught out by a hook and had an 8-count at the bell.

13.Bxe5! "A fantastic combination," exclaimed commentator Malcolm Pein! Costello notices the Nh5 is hanging, although it turns out that Black gets some compensation for the pawn. Post-game analysis demonstrates that there were two good alternatives based on the same motif. 13.Nxg5!! was the best from the viewpoint of a chessboxing bout. It leads to a draw by perpetual check, which would be in Costello's favour as the weaker chessplayer. As the stronger boxer, he would then be the favourite to get the points decision. 13...Nxg3 14.Qg4! (14.Nh3 Nxe4 15.Qg4++/=) 14...hxg5 15.Qxg5+ Kh7 16.Qh4+ Kg7 17.Qxg3+ Kf6 18.Qh4+ Kg6 19.Qg4+=; 13.Nxe5! Nxg3 14.Nc4 and Black can't extricate his knight on the next move. After 14...Nxe4 15.Bxe4 Qd8+/- Black's kingside is weak.

13...Nxe5 14.Nxe5 Nf4! 15.Nf3. Costello keeps his knight near to his king, but this apparently solid move is a cause of later difficulties. 15.Nc4! eliminates Black's Bb6 from the attack. 15...Bg4! If YOU PIN, THEN YOU WIN! Black has compensation for the pawn, in view of his aggressively placed minor pieces. 16.h3?! White unnecessarily weakens his kingside. Stiff defence with 16.Nbd2!= and ideas of e5 or Nc4 would have kept the balance. 16...Bh5. 16...Qc8!? is a cute computer suggestion. 17.Qd2 Rd8! Leveque piles on the pressure by pinning the Bd3 against Costello's queen. Will Costello crack and allow checkmate? 17...Bxf3 18.gxf3 Qe6 19.Bf1 Nxh3+ 20.Bxh3 Qxh3 is strong and might be played in a normal chess game, but there is no chance of a quick checkmate. 18.Qd1? A confused Costello planlessly shuffles his queen from whence it came, effectively encouraging Leveque to strengthen his attack with 2 'free moves'. At the end of round 3, White had 6.30 left on his clock compared to Black's 9:30. Leveque followed up with a confident boxing round where Costello didn't look close to flooring him. 18.Nh2! Qe5 19.Nf1 Qxb2-/+; or 18.Re3!?-/+.

18...Qe6!! A beautiful and strong queen manoeuvre that points towards White's weakened kingside. Costello fans were fearing he could soon face checkmate. 19.Kh2 c6. 19...g4! 20.hxg4 Qxg4 21.Rg1 Bxf2. 20.e5! A great idea to stop tricks along the b8-h2 diagonal. 20...Bxf2 21.Rf1 Bb6. At the end of round five, Costello was clearly worse, but was delighted to successfully defend against checkmate. Costello had 3:35 minutes time left compared to Leveque's 8:25 minutes. Boxing round six saw the Englishman completely dominate, displaying his legendary fitness, whilst the Italian was flagging. 22.Nbd4?! Bxd4 Leveque needed to move super-quickly to win the chess in round seven, so that Costello would run out of time or be mated. Leveque is a chess master and has the ability to react instantly but used up too much of his time. Possibly the previous tough boxing round had affected his speed of thought. 23.Nxd4

23...Rxd4? 23...Qxe5! could have polished off the game in this round, as Black would win a piece by discovered check. 24.Bh7+! Kxh7 25.Qxd4 Bg6 26.c3 Re8 27.Rad1 Qf5 28.g4 Qxe5 29.Qxe5 Rxe5 Queens are exchanged and Black has little hope of checkmate before the bell. 30.Rde1 Rd5 31.Rd1 Re5 32.Rde1 Ra5 33.a3 Rb5 34.b4 Rd5 35.Rd1 Re5 36.Rde1.

End of round seven. Costello had just 40 seconds remaining for all his moves, compared to Leveque's 7' 20". Leveque therefore had the chess wrapped up, but he needed to survive the next boxing round eight. Costello, sensing blood, went for one last push against the drained Italian. Costello won by TKO in round eight (see above). 1-0. [Click to replay]


Chessboxing inventor and director Iepe Rubingh trying to recruit a new candidate


And here with a genuine student – Vaile has actually started training twice a week!

Video reports on chessboxing


Global TV report on Chessboxing


London Chessboxing Club Promo


Previous reports on chess and boxing

Chessboxing Victory for Leveque and Lizarraga
05.04.2010 – Cementing its status as the epicentre of the chessboxing universe, London’s historic Boston Dome hosted three action-packed fights. Followed by a sell-out 500-strong crowd. It was the first of five UK chessboxing events planned for London in 2010, ably promoted by Tim Woolgar of the GBCBO, in partnership with the WCBO. Pictures by James Bartosik, report by Rajko Vujatovic.

New Chessboxing season starts in London
27.02.2010 – Top of the bill is a thrilling heavyweight encounter between Sergio “The Phoenix” Leveque from Italy and Dutchman, Hubert Van Melick. Chessboxing entails alternating sessions of four minutes at the chessboard and two in the boxing ring. You can win by checkmate or knockout. In two weeks the new season begins, with the first fights in London. Press release and videos.

Swedish ChessBoxing Sensation in London
28.06.2009 – London hasn’t been this crazy about a Swede since the heady days of Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon. This was undoubtedly the best chessboxing night yet seen in the UK; there was a superlative headline bout between two of the world's leading chessboxers, controversy involving an illegal move, the flamboyant Red Kite, and an England vs Germany match. Pictorial report with annotated games.

Chessboxing Triumph in London
19.11.2008 – This hybrid sport, with four-minute sessions of chess interspersed with three minutes of boxing, is the brainchild of Dutch event artist Iepe Rubingh. The match ends in checkmate or knockout. Chessboxing is fast becoming a world-wide phenomenon, overtaking chess in the number of spectators it can attract. The latest match took place in London. Pictorial report.

Reb Fountain's Chess Boxing single
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Chessboxing in London’s East End
12.09.2008 – The UK’s first chessboxing extravaganza kicked off on a sultry summer’s night on 15 August in the East End of London. Famous for Jack the Ripper, Pearly Kings and Queens, and 1960’s gangsters, the area is now the hub of a vibrant night scene. Rajko Vujatovic gives his inside account as chess arbiter on the night, whilst Tim Woolgar offers a unique first hand report of his debut chessboxing bout.

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