Chess Suicide

Upon hearing the term “chessboxing” I took it to be joke. It is still difficult for me to wrap my mind around chessboxing. The name sounds oxymoronic. There is chess, and there is boxing. I boxed, and I played chess. I learned to box when younger because I was small and needed a weapon to stop the bullies. I played chess when older because I needed to replace baseball with something competitive. Who in their right mind would combine the two? I learned the answer by reading an article in the NY Times, In Chessboxing, Beware of Left Hooks, Jabs and Castling.
The article, by Greg Bishop, begins, “The title highlights a contradiction, pairing an intellectual activity in which the combatants never touch and a combat sport in which opponents aim fists at each other’s chins. There is chess. There is boxing. And then there is chessboxing.
The sport will be showcased Saturday in Brooklyn as members of the Los Angeles Chessboxing Club make their New York debut at Gleason’s Gym on amateur night. Opponents will alternate rounds between chess and boxing, between a cerebral pursuit and a savage one. They will win by checkmate or knockout, or the judges’ scorecards.”
From my previous experience in the ring, along with my time at the board, I am uncertain which is the “cerebral pursuit,” and which “a savage one.” Those who have never played rated chess have no idea how savage it can be. Those who have never stepped into the ring will never understand what a cerebral experience is boxing. From the moment one enters the ring he better be thinking!
The part about the judges’ scorecards made me think of the brilliancy prize in chess. But what if a chess game was judged not by checkmate or stalemate, but by judges awarding points for how beautiful the game. There goes the buddy-buddy draw!
Andrew McGregor, founder of the Los Angeles club, thinks “Playing chess, with all its intricacies, after being punched in the face, heart rate elevated, as close to “doing math at the end of a gun.” Something similar could be said about time pressure in chess.
David Bitton is a filmmaker who has an in-progress documentary film, “Chessboxing: The King’s Discipline.” To him it represented controlled aggression. I have always thought chess personified controlled aggression because when the body’s natural flight or fight response kicks in and a chess player’s brain is telling his body to MOVE, he must stay seated, control his aggression, and make a good move. “As he dug deeper, he found seriousness in the chessboxing scene. “That’s what separates it from checkers or dodge ball,” Bitton said. “Both chess and boxing are universally well known. Putting them together puts a rift in people’s brains. Their initial reaction is to laugh. But there’s so much more to it than that.” A chess player does not need boxing to put a rift in people’s brain. There have been many times my chess opponent has put a rift in my brain!
Upon reading, “Chessboxers take the sport more seriously in Europe than in the United States,” I thought there might yet be hope for US after all.
Tim Woolgar, founder of London Chessboxing, has formed his own sanctioning body, the World Chessboxing Association. In an interview last summer, he said about 300 people had tried chessboxing there and about 50 practiced regularly. “We’ve got quite a few people who work in banking,” he said. “It seems to attract bankers.” Why am I not surprised? They are young and filled with energy. For the banksters stealing money from US has been so easy, like taking candy from babies, that they need some way to exercise their aggression, and their brain. What better way than to beat each other’s brains out?
“Being punched in the face, Woolgar said inside a local pub, took some getting used to. There was the sharpness of the sound, the blurred vision, the way his legs suddenly felt unsteady. He watched chessboxers commit what they call chess suicide — losing on purpose to avoid another round inside the ring.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s