The Nerdiest of Contact Sports?

Chess-playing boxers try to knock out the opponent before "checkmate"

By Sean Sweeney

Yes, there exists a pugilist sport better than UFC. Only one competition in the world combines the strength and agility of Muhammad Ali with the creative and intellectual genius of Garry Kasparov, the force of an ox with the brain of Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind: chess-boxing.

The venue for a chess-boxing match is similar to any other boxing match. The only difference is that the match alternates rounds of chess and boxing. One minute, the competitors are mercilessly slugging each other. The next, they are sitting cross-legged at the chess table, contemplating a move with temples so swollen their eyes can barely see five feet in front of them.

These competitors are no George Foreman or Mike Tyson, as the latter probably struggles with checkers. The fighters in this clip, Luis the Lawyer or Lepe the Joker, couldn’t scare anyone, but intimidation is only part of the spectacle. To succeed at this mutt of a game, they have to be both willing to take a few punches to the nose and maneuver their way out of a King’s Gambit (it’s a chess term, look it up).

The boxing rounds are much like ordinary boxing: three minutes or until someone taps out or gets knocked out. Yet, the rules speed the chess to keep the action moving swiftly and it’s therefore the chess that stages the more interesting theatre.

With the announcers counting down the time limits, you can almost see the numbers shooting in and out of the guys’ brains. They are thinking too fast for their own body, enough to hesitate on almost every move.

Fans gasp at the big screen over top of the ring, hands crossed over their mouths, shaking heads in unison. Classic material.

Now I just want to see them wear those puffy red gloves while calling checkmate.

Sean Sweeney is a regular contributor to The Greasy Pole.