By Rich Beattie
Updated: 3:32 p.m. ET May 2, 2007
The players stare intently at their chess board, the white rook stalking the opposing queen as the black bishop tries for a quick strike. Gazes ricochet from board to opponent and back to board as the pressure of the match builds. Though they’re not breaking a sweat, players are decked out in shorts and sneakers, a fashion choice that makes sense when they stand, don gloves, and start throwing powerhouse punches at each other. Welcome to the wacky world of chess boxing.
…But who the hell decided to combine chess and boxing? Its origins are a bit unclear. This odd hybrid appears to have its roots in the 1990s, and while its growth has been slow, there’s now a governing body (the Berlin-based World Chess Boxing Organisation) and a world championship, which started in 2003. Rounds alternate between two-minute boxing rounds and four-minute “Blitz game” chess matches when the gloves come off.
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