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article imageGraphic novelist's 'joke' evolves into sport of Chess Boxing

By Greta McClain     Oct 14, 2012 in Sports
The man who came up with the notion of combining the fast paced brutal sport of boxing with the painstakingly cerebral game of chess did so as a joke. That joke has now become growing sensation in some parts of the world.
Enki Bilal, a comic book artist from France, combined the two in his 1992 graphic novel The Cold Equator. He is using the idea of chess boxing again, this time as the central theme for Oxymore, a 15 paintings series of scenes depicting contradictory or opposing nature.
Bilal held a two week exhibit of the paintings at Beijing's Hadrien de Montferrand Gallery recently. He told the China Daily: "The world is made of many contrasts, and the oxymoron is important in it. So I decided to do some paintings, with different themes, about men and women, sensuality, the nature of animals, and different forms of opposition. I used the chess boxing like a metaphor, trying to imagine a sport that would be the most intelligent and the strongest. It's a principle of competition, about how to be the best. When I first thought of the combination, I treated it like a joke...but it was interesting to explore."
Chess boxing consists of a four minute round of speed chess followed by a three minute round of boxing. There are a total of 11 rounds, 6 rounds of chess, 5 rounds of boxing. The WCBO (World Chess Boxing Organization) says the winner is decided by checkmate (chess round), exceeding the time limit (chess round), retirement of an opponent (chess or boxing round), knock out (boxing round), or referee decision (boxing round). If the chess game ends in a stalemate, the opponent with the higher score in boxing wins. If there is an equal score, the opponent with the black pieces wins.
A 2008 chess boxing match in Berlin
A 2008 chess boxing match in Berlin
Most of those who compete in the new sport come with a background in chess. Some say it is easier to learn and train the skills boxing requires then it is to teach the mind all the intricacies of chess.
The first chess boxing world championship was held in Amsterdam in 2003 and the first European Chess Boxing Championship took place in Berlin on October 1, 2005., London and Berlin have become the hotbeds of the emerging sport. Introduced in London in 2008, the first bout was held on the loading dock of Royal Albert Hall. Londoner Chris Levy, a chessboxing competitor, told Al Jazeera the hardest part of the sport is the transition between the boxing rounds to the chess rounds:
"You've been in the ring trying to knock out your opponent, your adrenaline is going, your heart is pumping at 170 beats a minute, and then you have to sit down and really concentrate on a game of chess."
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