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You thought we were making it up?

12/5/2003 – "Is it April 1st?", a number of readers asked. Chess boxing? Putting players in a boxing ring for chess and boxing? The crowd screaming for blood and piece sacrifices? Our recent report described the setup, now the organisers have sent us a report and pictures to prove that they are really serious about this new discipline.
 

Chess Boxing World Championship

This is the real thing, no holds barred. Iepe the Joker vs. Luis the Lawyer, Germany versus Holland. The two WCBO-title candidates are supermotivated to sweep their opponent from the board and the ring. Iepe 'The Joker' (29) in everyday life is a well known artist in Berlin. His opponent Luis 'The Lawyer' (30) is a lawyer in Amsterdam. The two Chessboxers each weigh 75 kilogramm, have been doing hard work training for months, and can't await fighting for the title of World Champion at the Amsterdam pop-temple 'Paradiso'.


Press conference before the world championship

Iepe (1,80m) is coached by the two Germans Jan Schulz (chess) and Johnny Camara (boxing); Luis (1,85m) has support from the Netherlands by the Vice World Champion in Kickboxing Richard van Altena and chesstrainer Herre Trujillo.

The course of the world championship match

Iepe the Joker won in the 11th and last round of the match, which is a chess round (the match starts with four minutes of chess, followed by two minutes of boxing, then chess again, and boxing, etc; max 6 rounds chess, 5 rounds boxing). Luis the Lawyer ran out of time and his flag fell.


Why don't the games in Linares and Wijk start like this?

The match had two faces: Iepe was much better in boxing than Luis who seemed somewhat paralysed by the tension – overconcentration probably. But Luis was better than Iepe in chess: Luis with the white pieces allegedly punished Iepe for his opportunistic play, and had the advantage of one piece and two pawns. His problem: time. It took him too much time to win his chess game. This added to the drama. People knew Luis could win his chess game with a few more moves, but he didn't make it (chess commentators informed the audience about the game, the moves, right ones, bad ones, whose position was better etc., the audience could see the time of a big screen as well as the digital chessboard).


They start with the fisticuffs part of the boxing chess world championship

Same thing for the boxing: the drama lay in the fact that Luis 'just' needed to survive the boxing. But he got quite a few hits. The referee gave him two counts to eight to make sure he was okay (a third eight counts would have mean technical knock-out and the end of the match). But Luis survived the boxing and had one more round of chess left to win the world title – but alas, mind and body refused to make the right moves in time...


Then comes the more cerebral part, with board, pieces and chess clock

About the crowd: the Paradiso in Amsterdam was packed with around 800 people. The atmosphere was great, people were curious and willing to see the unexpected. It was in the air that something new was happening. During the evening the cheering of the crowds grew, and there was lots of excitement. During the main program, the match between Iepe and Luis, you could feel the tension that came along with the match. Who would win, chances in the hands of both players. The crowd was diverse: people from both chess and boxing world were present (officials, players, chess- and boxlovers), as well as young and nightlife people and people from the artworld. A nice blend of people which was exactly the idea: to bring together certain worlds and cultures that are seemingly different, but then again have more in common than one would think.


Instant replay projection on giant screens above the ring

About the future: A chess-boxclub will be established in Berlin this spring – the first one. Training programs will be developed for this new sport. New chess-boxers need to be recruited soon. In Berlin, but also in the rest of Europe and the world. Who will challenge the world champion? New chess-boxing galas are planned to be organised in Tokio and Berlin – and who knows: in Athens during the Olympic Games?


And then it's back to bloodying your opponent's face

What more to know? Perhaps I should stress that this event was organised with support of the Royal Dutch Chess Association (KNSB) and the Dutch Boxing Organisation (NBB). They have been part of the process in its early stages and, for example, took part when the rules of this new sport were developed. Perhaps it's interesting to mention the old Latin saying 'mens sana in corpore sanem' (healthy in mind and body) which intentionally goes with this new sport. And also the WCBO's credo: fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board!


A study in pugilist concentration. The headphones are to keep out the noise of an unruly crowd that is screaming for piece sacrifices.

To conclude: until January 12th there will be an exhibition about the WCBO and the 1st world championship in Showroom Mama in Rotterdam. Some people tend to forget: Iepe is an artist to begin with!


The triumph of the winner, who won on time after two knockdowns with counts of eight

Simon van Melick

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