Sunday, July 13, 2008


Among the weirdnesses of the world is chess-boxing, a hybrid sport I just learned about. The "athletes" alternate three minutes of boxing with four minutes of "blitz" (speed chess also known as "skittles") until someone either is knocked out or gets a checkmate. The current World Champion is a Russian math student, Nikolai Sazhin. He says that succeeding at this sport attracts girls.

I am completely bemused by this. For one thing: which girls? In my admittedly long-ago college days (Nikolai is 19), the girls who were attracted by chess players were not the same girls attracted by violent sports. For another bemusement, how could this phenomenon even come about? Who would think of putting together boxing and chess? At the Rochester Chess Center, where I intermittently play, chess is mostly the passion of skinny eleven-year-old boys, teenage nerds with very high IQs, and elderly Russian emigres. None of them would look great in boxing trunks, although some wield a mean Queen's Gambit Declined.

I can, however, see a lot of other, possibly SF-nal competitive pairings. Ski-Cooking. Volleyball-Scrabble. Polo-Gardening. In the latter, the horses could aid plant fertilization. Let the New Weird stories roll!


Alex Wilson said...

Aren't (or weren't) chess champions in Russia given celebritylike status? IIRC Kasparov is still among the most famous men in the country.

You K.O. any students at Odyssey this year? I encouraged one student I met at a con to play you.

I always thought golf could use some contact, but I guess that's hockey.


sdn said...

ha! hilarious. in real life, perhaps one could consider computer programming/sca battling.

TheOFloinn said...

There's always skeet football. It can discourage the use of long, high passes.

TheOFloinn said...

Chess-boxing would make more sense [assuming that making sense is an issue] if the boxing matches took place each time a piece tries to take another piece. The boxing match will decide if the taking is successful or not.

g d townshende said...

I'd lose at chess, or even chess-boxing. I suck at both.

Tennis anyone? :P Or anything combined with it? (Preferrably something that wouldn't neutralize my tennis, because I'm not that much into neutrality of winning is on the line. :P)

g d townshende said...

erm, IF (not of) winning is on the line. (Damned typos.)

Nancy Kress said...

I didn't get to play anyone in chess at Odyssey, no. I almost went into withdrawal.

Neal Holtschulte said...

Though not a combination sport, midnight underwater speed chess is another interesting variation.

I can't resist suggesting distance running chess (because I would be excellent at it). The lead vehicle could have the chess board secured to the rear. Racers would have to run to the lead to make their next move. Unlike chess boxing, the two competitions would be simultaneous.

dolphintornsea said...

Former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis was said to be a good chess player - he featured on the cover of a chess magazine I once received, mid-1990s.

And the late Bobby Fischer was said to work out with a punchbag before his famous title match against Spassky in 1972.

TheOFloinn said...

I can't resist suggesting distance running chess (because I would be excellent at it). The lead vehicle could have the chess board secured to the rear.

Ooh, ooh. No, the chess boards are stationary. You have to make your moves as you run past them. This means that a player's consecutive moves are on different boards with different games; and moves in the same game are made by different players.

Neal Holtschulte said...

Ooh, ooh. No, the chess boards are stationary.

So the sport is something like the winter Biathlon? Shooting and cross country skiing, where accuracy determines how much time is added to the racer's time and best time wins. Fascinating.

The way I see it, either it would have to be a team sport (so that the same team could make all the moves for the same color on each board), or the stationary boards could be on a track or large loop so that the runners would pass the board repeatedly.

I like the team idea, because the strategy of line up would enter into it. Which racers are best at the chess midgame? which are best at the endgame?

Sophie said...


Chess-boxing was actually invented in a series of graphic novels by Enki Bilal.

Someone who read the novels then decided it might translate 'in real life'.

Unknown said...

In the sitcom "the big bang theory"

the geeg protagonists play tetris-arm whreseling.


Mark said...

I just must add my $.02 worth: Axis & Allies As A Drinking Game. For every territory you take over, you must chug. A player can be Germany, take over all Eurasia, pass out, hence not be able to roll the dice, and therefore let that last Soviet infantry unit on their last transport take over Berlin.

Naturally, being a competent A&A player and physically larger than the average bear, this is a game I'm pretty good at :-))
Mesa, Az.

Kirk Dunkirk said...

Though kind of funny, I actually think chess boxing is not a bad idea, for exactly the reasons Nancy mentioned: it helps dispel the image of chess as a pastime just for nerdy teenage boys. I'm not really trying to elevate the two to the same status, but I'm sure some young men changed their mind about poetry after finding out that samurai used to write it.

Must say though that I like the suggestions for similar mixed sports. Might I suggest triathlon charades?

(ps Nancy, I took one of your classes a looong time ago in Rochester before I moved to Japan. It was great.)