Chessboxing for men, women and children

by Albert Silver
12/9/2013 – The subject of chessboxing is not new, and while fascinating on a multitude of levels, has resisted common acceptance with the less adventurous. Nevertheless, ten years into the sport's inception, reports are multiplying on how this ultimate hybrid of brains and brawn is gaining traction with unexpected audiences: white-collar workers, women, and children.

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Chessboxing for men, women and children

The subject of chessboxing is not new, and while fascinating on a multitude of levels, has resisted common acceptance with the less adventurous. Nevertheless, ten years into the sports inception, the ultimate hybrid of brains and brawn, as opposed to brains versus brawn, is reaching out to an unexpected audience: youth.

Chessboxing and children

In England, the London Chessboxing Club has developed a youth program designed to help youth develop both mentally and physically, often overcoming personal issues through the process. It bears emphasizing that this is non-contact boxing, and the children are never actually striking each other.

In boxing, they are provided physical conditioning as well as proper skills, whilst in chess they are taught the game with all its well-established benefits. This pioneer program has met with great enthusiasm by both children and parents, who see the youths develop more completely, including healthy friendships and improved self-esteem.

Video showing the chessboxing youth program in action

Chessboxing and white-collar workers

Interestingly, chessboxing has also found a new group of adepts: lawyers, financial consultants, and graduate students to name a few, who regualrly attend the club for training in both disciplines. The hybrid sport has found a strong niche among City workers who find it a perfect way to exercise both the mind and body.

As reported by the Financial Times:

One enthusiast is Sean Mooney, a 28-year-old commodities broker at Citi, who has climbed Mount Everest for a bet and completed an Iron man competition. Last year, while at Goldman Sachs, he took on Bryan “Singapore Slinger” Woon from Citibank, in a fight dubbed the “battle of the banks”. Mr Mooney won on a combination of points on chess and boxing.

The Financial Times wrote about the multiplying adepts among white-collar workers
seeking a means to exercise both mind and body

Mr Mooney says the sport is a perfect fit for City workers who tend to be “competitive people that are educated”. He believes it helps him focus at work.

Mr Woon, who works in capital markets and is originally from Singapore, got into the sport two years ago, “attracted by the craziness”. He thinks the combination of chess and boxing is complementary because “both need concentration”. Chess, he says, has helped his boxing: “It makes me step back and re-evaluate. Chessboxing helps you think under stressful conditions. Helps you keep your cool.”

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The BBC was not oblivious either, and sent their journalist Christian Parker to cover
it in their Live the Story series

Here is the full video of his report for BBC

The Indian craze and women

Nevertheless, the sport has gained it biggest foothold in... India! As pointed out by Tim Woolgar, one of the sports' pioneers and founder of the London Chessboxing Club, “They are crazy for it. This summer at one tournament they had more participants than we have spectators.” The BBC reports that in less than two years of its launch, ten state-level associations organising championships have come up, including state level teams, and hundreds of participants in two national level championships held in 2013.

Perhaps the most startling statistic in all this is the number of women. One would think that this sport combining adrenaline and nerdiness would be heavily male-dominated in terms of numbers, but not so: in India about 30% of the registered chessboxers are women.

"My parents are happy that it isn't an all-out combat game," says 22-year-old Mousumi Bar. "As a kick boxer, they would worry that an injury might hamper my marriage prospects."

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The final chessboxing event of 2013

If you happen to be in London, and would like to see a chessboxing bout, there will be a last event of the year on December 14 at Scala, King's Cross. Tickets and information can be found here.


Topics chessboxing

Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
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