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In Pictures
Chess boxing scores a knockout
Combining punches and checkmates, the new sport is gaining popularity as combatants put on a show of muscle and mind.
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2012 18:32

London - Brains and brawn, the 21st-century biathlon, the toughest and smartest - that's how people describe chess boxing.

It's a sport exactly as it sounds: four minutes of speed chess, two rounds of boxing, four more minutes of speed chess … and on it goes until someone gets knocked out in the ring, or checkmated on the board.

Chess boxing is a relatively new sport. The first London match was held in an East End working man's club in 2008.

London organiser Tim Woolgar says the sport is growing by the week. On Wednesday night, a bout was held in the Royal Albert Hall.

Not exactly "the" hall that sits 5,200 people and has seen performances by stars such as Jimi Hendrix, Frank Sinatra and Luciano Pavarotti, but pretty close.

The 141-year-old Royal Albert Hall's loading bay was transformed into a chess-boxing venue for 500 fans, replete with graffiti, a smoke machine, DJ, and, of course, a boxing ring.

It was a young, professional crowd who came after work to cheer, queue at the bar and chat. One wore a T-shirt that read: "Fighting is done in the ring, wars are waged on the board."

At a north London gym recently, Chris Levy, who had worked all day as a market researcher, still appeared energetic, skipping and shadow boxing. He topped that off with a few hours of chess on the computer.

Levy says the hardest thing about chess boxing is the transitions, especially going from boxing to chess.

"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," Levy says.

Most of the competitors come to the sport with a background in chess. Levy is a former England county chess player. He says it's easier to train the body to jab and dodge than it is to teach the mind the intricacies of chess.

Neither Levy's chess experience, nor his physical training, paid off on Wednesday night, however, when he was beaten by Tim Benfeldt, a law student from Kiel, Germany. Win by checkmate.

The second match pitted banker versus banker: in one corner Sean Mooney from Goldman Sachs, and in the other Bryan Woon from Citibank. Mooney scored the victory after the marathon match was judged in his favour by a combination of chess and boxing points.

What chess boxing lacks in tradition, it makes up for in razzmatazz.

There's the pumping music, wafting smoke, and a voluptuous blonde prancing around the ring with the round number held aloft on a sign.

There's a big screen showing the chess moves, and a commentator who explains the match. Chess boxers wear headphones while they play to drown out the noise.

The bouts are streamed live on the internet, with organisers counting 10,000 online viewers.

Woolgar says chess boxing is "mushrooming" around the world, with the sport now being played in Asia, North and South America, Australia and New Zealand.

Squaring off against a grandmaster or professional fighter, most chess boxers would quickly crumble, but they don't seem to mind.

The combination of brawn and brains makes them the toughest, smartest, competitors in the world, they say.


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A sell-out crowd of 500 people watch chess boxing on Wednesday night in London. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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The loading bay of the 141-year-old hall was transformed with graffiti, smoke and a DJ. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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Chris Levy, a market researcher from London, was one of four competitors playing chess and boxing on the night. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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Bryon Woon, a chess boxer from Singapore, gets advice from his boxing coach. Woon works in London for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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Large screens of the chess action show the crowd who is winning the four-minute speed-chess rounds. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Al Jazeera/ Jack Hochschild/Al Jazeera/ Jack Hochschild
Sean Mooney gets advice from his trainer in the ring [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Al Jazeera/ Jack Hochschild/Al Jazeera/ Jack Hochschild
Bryan Woon faces off across the board against Mooney. The competitors wear headphones so they can't hear the commentary on the game explaining the moves to the audience. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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Mooney, left, surveys his chess position against Woon. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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Woon, left, protects his head from an onslaught by Mooney. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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Mooney takes a left jab Woon in the 'battle of the bankers', with Mooney working for Goldman Sachs and Woon for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Al Jazeera/ Jack Hochschild/Al Jazeera/ Jack Hochschild
Woon makes a move against Mooney. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
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A sell-out crowd of 500 people watch chess boxing on Wednesday night in London. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;The loading bay of the 141-year-old hall was transformed with graffiti, smoke and a DJ. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Chris Levy, a market researcher from London, was one of four competitors playing chess and boxing on the night. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Bryon Woon, a chess boxer from Singapore, gets advice from his boxing coach. Woon works in London for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Large screens of the chess action show the crowd who is winning the four-minute speed-chess rounds. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Sean Mooney gets advice from his trainer in the ring [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Bryan Woon faces off across the board against Mooney. The competitors wear headphones so they can\(***)t hear the commentary on the game explaining the moves to the audience. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Mooney, left, surveys his chess position against Woon. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Woon, left, protects his head from an onslaught by Mooney. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Mooney takes a left jab Woon in the (***)battle of the bankers(***), with Mooney working for Goldman Sachs and Woon for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild];*;Woon makes a move against Mooney. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild] Daylife ID:
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Photographer:
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Image Source:
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Gallery Source:
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A sell-out crowd of 500 people watch Chessboxing on Wednesday night in London. The Royal Albert Hall's loading bay was the venue. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=0e7248M59wg4gAl Jazeera Upload Images
A sell-out crowd of 500 people watch Chessboxing on Wednesday night in London. The Royal Albert Hall's loading bay was the venue. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Chessboxing
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London's Royal Albert Hall was the venue for Wednesday night's chess boxing competition. The loading bay of the 141-year-old hall was transformed with graffiti, smoke and a DJ. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=02a2a6Z5GO4XiAl Jazeera Upload Images

London's Royal Albert Hall was the venue for Wednesday night's chess boxing competition. The loading bay of the 141-year-old hall was transformed with graffiti, smoke and a DJ. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Chessboxing
Chessboxinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=01O61GxcOW3Pk

Chris Levy, a market researcher from London, was one of four competitors playing chess and boxing on Wednesday night. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=01O61GxcOW3PkAl Jazeera Upload Images

Chris Levy, a market researcher from London, was one of four competitors playing chess and boxing on Wednesday night. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Chessboxing
Chessboxinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=0bzA6a0fCvevl

Bryon Woon, a chess boxer from Singapore, gets advice from his boxing coach. Woon works in London for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=0bzA6a0fCvevlAl Jazeera Upload Images

Bryon Woon, a chess boxer from Singapore, gets advice from his boxing coach. Woon works in London for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Chessboxing
Chessboxinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=00kOcZx1eR9wI

Large screens of the chess action show the crowd who is winning the 4-minute speed chess rounds. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=00kOcZx1eR9wIAl Jazeera Upload Images

Large screens of the chess action show the crowd who is winning the 4-minute speed chess rounds. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Chessboxing
Chessboxinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=06NJakW6l2c5U

Sean Mooney gets advice from his trainer in the ring at Wednesday night's chess boxing event in London. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=06NJakW6l2c5UAl Jazeera/ Jack HochschildAl Jazeera/ Jack HochschildAl Jazeera Upload Images

Sean Mooney gets advice from his trainer in the ring at Wednesday night's chess boxing event in London. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

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Bryan Woon faces off across the board against Sean Mooney in a Wednesday night's chess boxing. The competitors wear headphones so they can't hear the commentary on the game. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=0bmU7HIawxeiuAl Jazeera/ Jack HochschildAl Jazeera/ Jack HochschildAl Jazeera Upload Images
Bryan Woon faces off across the board against Sean Mooney in a Wednesday night's chess boxing. The competitors wear headphones so they can't hear the commentary on the game. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Chessboxing
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Sean Mooney (left) surveys his chess position against Bryan Woon in Wednesday night's chess boxing event at London's Royal Albert Hall. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=05JJgQU73v1xiAl Jazeera Upload Images

Sean Mooney (left) surveys his chess position against Bryan Woon in Wednesday night's chess boxing event at London's Royal Albert Hall. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Chessboxing
Chessboxinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=0fH66sqfYJ7QJ
Bryan Woon (left) protects his head from an onslaught by Sean Mooney in Wednesday night's chess boxing. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=0fH66sqfYJ7QJAl Jazeera Upload Images
Bryan Woon (left) protects his head from an onslaught by Sean Mooney in Wednesday night's chess boxing. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Chessboxing
Chessboxinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=05VsfwX8KJ6FV
Chessboxer Sean Mooney takes a left jab at his competitor, Bryan Woon at Wednesday night's event. It could be called the battle of the bankers as Mooney works for Goldman Sachs; Woon for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=05VsfwX8KJ6FVAl Jazeera Upload Images
Chessboxer Sean Mooney takes a left jab at his competitor, Bryan Woon at Wednesday night's event. It could be called the battle of the bankers as Mooney works for Goldman Sachs; Woon for Citibank. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]
Chessboxing
Chessboxinghttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=04yr4aF1DAetk

Bryan Woon makes a move against Sean Mooney in Wednesday night's chess boxing event in London. The competitors wear headphones so they can't hear the commentary explaining the moves to the audience. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Thu, 11 Oct 2012 00:00:00 GMThttp://aljazeera.smartgalleries.net/gallery/Chess-boxing-?image_id=04yr4aF1DAetkAl Jazeera/ Jack HochschildAl Jazeera/ Jack HochschildAl Jazeera Upload Images

Bryan Woon makes a move against Sean Mooney in Wednesday night's chess boxing event in London. The competitors wear headphones so they can't hear the commentary explaining the moves to the audience. [Al Jazeera/Jack Hochschild]

Chessboxing


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