The strange and fascinating sport of chessboxing


Two fighters of a new kind, alternating chess games and boxing, clash in front of a public ignited during a competition of chessboxing, the first in France for this sport invented by a comic author there is over 20 years old.

The Cabaret Sauvage room is filled on this Saturday evening. At the heart of the room, a chess table placed in the center of a ring. A DJ who plays very loud music, a rapper-like presenter who overheats the atmosphere and it's the entrance of the athletes.

Two fighters come on stage, shirtless, cotton sweatshirt on the shoulders and hood on the head. Escorted each by their team, they take place in the ring, but do not put boxing gloves on.

In this hybrid sport that is chessboxing, the part – made of 11 alternating rounds – always starts with chess. Opponents put a helmet on their ears to isolate themselves from the room's high-energy atmosphere.

"Move the pawn", can be read on a sign in the audience, mostly thirty.

The fighters then embark on an ultimate concentration effort to play chess in 'blitz' (in a given time). After 3 minutes, they interrupt the game to go to boxing.

Without a helmet or judges who can award a victory points, the two chessboxers unravel their shots impressively.

After 3 minutes, new interruption to return … to chess! The sweat that bursts all over their body, the heart that throbs to its fullest and the adrenaline rush that disrupts all their senses, they must return to the chess table and pursue their strategy.

"In this passage from the violence of boxing to reconcentration on chess, this sport uses the two most beautiful human abilities, the intelligence and the strength of the body," says AFP Enki Bilal, the cartoonist who created the sport, amused that a "fleeting invention concentrated in an album with a narrative trick, the chessboxing" became a reality.

For the needs of the latest installment of a trilogy, Cold Equator, published in 1992, Enki Bilal imagines chessboxing. Ten years later, a Dutchman, Iepe Rubingh, is organizing a real fight. An international federation is created afterwards. Today, a dozen national federations have emerged in the world for some 3,500 fighters.

"When Ieppe read the comics, he saw the sport right away. Boxing is noble art, there are rules, codes, and elegance, a form of beauty and inexorably, strength, resistance and intelligence. And chess is a strategic, mental game, "says the author," touched by the birth of chessboxing champions ".

"Practicing chess is also about reading books. It's worse than music theory. They have done something modern, a sport that brings all the qualities of the human and they are few, the sports that do that.

Saturday in Paris, the evening of fights, first of its kind in France, was a success. Of the three fights, two were won by K.O technique and one by checkmate.

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