Chessboxing documentary – The King's Discipline

by ChessBase
6/20/2013 – David Bitton is a Canadian independent filmmaker who for the past three years has been working on the first feature length documentary about chessboxing, telling the story of three visionaries who are struggling to transform the sport from underground cult curiosity into a respected and recognized mainstream phenomenon. Bitton is is currently crowd-funding the project on kickstarter.

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Chessboxing – The King's Discipline

The film follows the three club founders in Berlin, London and Los Angeles as they try to develop their different visions for the sport, and make it more widely accepted by the general public. At the same time, it will get the perspective of people in the chess and the boxing world, to try to understand what the implications of this new combination are. Here's a trailer and Kickstart promotional on the film.

What's the documentary about?

Chess and boxing are both known and widely respected by hundreds of millions of people around the world. Chessboxing, as you might imagine, is not. The WTF factor of such an unlikely combination has made it an easy target for satire on shows like The Colbert Report or as fluff-piece fodder at the end of the nightly news, but to the man who invented it, chessboxing represents nothing less than the pinnacle of sport – an ultimate test of body and mind.

Chessboxing's Inventor: Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh (Photo: TipBerlin)

Chessboxing: The King's Discipline will tell the story of this man's struggle to transform his sport from underground cult curiosity into a respected and recognized mainstream phenomenon. But he's not the only one with big plans for the sport.

By zeroing in on these hotbeds of brain vs. brawn action, The King's Discipline will offer you an exclusive glimpse into the worlds of the three visionaries who are vying to create their own special brand of chessboxing.

  • BERLIN: The birthplace of the sport and home of the World Chess Boxing Organization, which was founded by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh in 2003. Rubingh's sights are set on the big leagues: televised Pay-Per-View chessboxing events, Vegas-style productions, top-tier athletes and ultimately Olympic glory.

  • LONDON: Despite having founded his chessboxing club at the start of the Great Recession, former TV executive Tim Woolgar was able to exercise his media savvy to build a loyal following for his events in central London. Solid fights mixed with P.T. Barnum style showmanship are his recipe for success and it's been keeping the crowds coming back.

  • LOS ANGELES: At 6'10" and 290 lbs, former war photographer Andrew McGregor is an enormous man with a heart to match. Shell-shocked after having lived some harrowing experiences while on assignment in the DR Congo, he credits chessboxing with having set him right again. His off-the-wall charity-focused events reflect his vision of chessboxing as a means to help the world while simultaneously embracing it's inherent absurdity in true LA-style.

Epic battles have taken place between these men both inside and outside the ring, and we were there to capture it all.

The funding

Does this sound like a film you would like to see? The producers need your help to get it finished, and have launched a appeal at Kickstarter, the American-based company that provides tools to raise funds for creative projects via crowd funding through its website. Kickstarter has funded a diverse array of endeavors, such as films, music, stage shows, comics, journalism, video games, and food-related projects. People cannot invest in Kickstarter projects to make money. They can only back projects in exchange for a tangible reward or one-of-a-kind experience, like a personal note of thanks, custom T-shirts, dinner with an author, or initial production run of a new product.

The good news, as David Bitton explains in the final section of the video above, is that 95% of the film has been shot. Now the exciting process of sculpting a 90-minute masterpiece out of all that footage is ready to begin. The down side is that post-production on a documentary of this scale is absurdly expensive. Here's a breakdown of the costs:

Getting through the three-year production phase has been extremely rewarding, but it has also completely drained David's savings, which means that the project is at a standstill until the necessary funds are raised. "Thankfully we live in an age where it's possible to reach out to the people who want to see this film get made as much as I do and involve them in the process," David says. "I'm determined to finish this film one way or another, but realistically without your help it might take years to complete and would only be a mere shadow of the movie that it could and should be."

From the mind of Enki Bilal

So where did chessboxing come from? Iepe Rubingh got his inspiration for chessboxing from French comic book creator, comics artist and film director Enki Bilal, whose 1992 book Froid Equateur (Cold Equator), depicted fighters competing in successive boxing and chess tournaments in order to determine the strongest, smartest person in his post-apocalyptic world.

Enki has since then created a series of chessboxing themed paintings that collectively sold at auction for over 1.5 million dollars. Chessboxers with Black Horse alone sold for over 170,000 Euros earlier this year.

Enki Bilal: Chessboxer, 2012, sold for 151,600 Euros

Because Kickstarter is an all or nothing funding platform, David has set his goal to the absolute minimum needed to complete an edit of the film: US $35,000, to be raised by Wednesday, July 17, 2013. Currently there are 79 backers who have pledged $8,149. You can log into the Kickstarter site and contribute. If this campaign is a success, everyone who contributes will get to select a reward as thanks for helping to make this documentary happen. Here are some of the prizes:

Three signed lithographs of "Chessboxers with Black Horse" by Enki Bilal

Other rewards include chessboxing themed T-shirts and baseball caps, archival quality photo prints from chessboxing events, DVDs of the film, VIP tickets to chessboxing events, and a lot more. You will find information on the prizes towards the end of the Kickstarter site. There you can also find information on what additional funding would mean – e.g. if $175,000 is raised David can include a lot of archival footage and some animated sequences in Enki Bilal's distinct style. Bilal himself would supervise the animation to ensure it meets his standards and he has already given his blessing for this.

You can contribute anything from $1, for which you get a virtual high-five by email, to $30 for a download of the movie, $50 for a DVD of it, all the way to $5,000 for a high-quality signed limited-edition of the Enki Bilal lithograph "Chessboxers with Black Horse".

Previous stories on Chessboxing on our news page

2.12.2003 - Chess boxing: Kramnik vs Klitschko?
Is chess too boring for you? Those crafty Dutchies have found a way to finally resolve the impasse in the chess world. Put the players in a boxing ring, let them play for four minutes and then duke 'em up for a round with the gloves. Hmmm, Vladimir Kramnik loses badly to Vitaly Klitchko in the FIDE classical world chess boxing championship final? We are not joking.

27.6.2006 - Chessboxing on ESPN, Playboy and Maxim
This unusual sport, in which two competitors face each other in 11 alternating rounds, six of chess, five of boxing, is rapidly gaining popularity. You know that is the case when you see chessboxing on the front page of a leading sports web site, and as a major story in a number of men's magazines. Check out the ESPN video footage.

14.10.2007 - American fighter takes on German champ in Chessboxing
David “Double D” Depto and “Anti Terror” Frank Stoldt will meet for the World Championship in Chessboxing. Six rounds of speed chess and five rounds of boxing will take place alternatingly. In a maximum of eleven rounds, the decision will come either through K.O. or check mate. The match takes place on November 3rd 2007 in Berlin, Germany. Press announcement.

3.7.2008 - Chessboxing World Championship 2008 in Berlin
In October there is one between Anand and Kramnik in Bonn. But that will be peaceful compared to the World Championship that is scheduled in Berlin this weekend. There four minutes of chess are interspersed with three minutes of violent pugilistic activities. We bring you photos and videos – and we also found out what FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov thinks about this sport.

9.7.2008 - The Russians are coming – in chessboxing
Having enjoyed recent success in soccer, basketball and ice hockey, Russia is now also able to boast a world champion in the little-known sport of chessboxing. Russia's Nikolai Sazhin, a 19-year-old mathematics student from the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, defeated light heavyweight defending champion Frank Stoldt, a 37-year-old policeman from Germany, to lift the world chess boxing title.

12.9.2008 - Chessboxing in London’s East End
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.

19.11.2008 - Chessboxing Triumph in London
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.

28.6.2009 - Swedish ChessBoxing Sensation in London
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.

27.2.2010 - New Chessboxing season starts in London
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.

5.4.2010 - Chessboxing Victory for Leveque and Lizarraga
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.

2.6.2010 - London Chessboxing: 'The Rock' defeats 'The Phoenix'
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.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


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