Chessboxing - Hemispheres - April 2013

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Jab, Uppercut, Checkmate

Wrought with concentration two chess players face off in a tense match. Time stands still as one ponders the table, then with a deft, calculated move, he grabs his opponent's bishop, exhaling with relief as the move is complete.

Moments pass and the players leave the table, one then throws  a lethal left hook to the other's head. Stunned he reels back, regains his footing and responds with a flurry of blows, a stabbing jab then a blistering  uppercut, and hook .

No it's not a vintage Monty Python sketch, but a new phenomenon called chess boxing, a hybrid sport that combines chess with boxing in alternating rounds.

Established in London in 1978 when it was introduced to the Greenwich Boys Club, the sport of chess boxing has since seen 15 international tournaments since 2008. Nowadays it has a big following globally   with competitions in Los Angeles, Berlin, Tokyo, Amsterdam, France Iceland and Russia.

After an allotted 12 minute period, the aforementioned bout, like many others sees both competitors return to the boxing ring for another 12 minute round. There are three of these along with three 12 minute chess playing rounds.

Like many kickboxing competitions, the match above isn't staged in a sweaty suburban gym, but inside the salubrious surrounds of a downtown Los Angeles nightclub,  rented for the night to a group called LA Mindshare  an organization that describes itself as "a mecca for intellectuals, artists, scientists and other progressive characters to broaden their perspective and find community."

In addition to hosting regular chess boxing events, Mindshare hosts weekly "salons," that explore a range of topics and dynamics, from short films and lectures about the electric car, abseiling or beekeeping through to  workshops such as  "Urban Homesteading," that help fellow mindshare members, "Get back to the pleasures of a DIY lifestyle, without having to flee the city limits."

Back to the action and Los Angeles based chess boxer, Arlington Forbes, a software engineer by day, says he sees multitasking  as the new Athletic frontier. Arlie takes a gulp from his Gatorade as he exits the ring and readies himself for another chess round.

Despite his athletic frame Arlie sweats profusely and shows evidence of  a hurt nose, blood trickling from his left nostril. It's the harsh reality of facing an opponent one foot taller and ten years his junior, John Richie, a 28 year old medical student from UCLA. "I'm giving this my all, says Arlie, though my superior chess skills aren't helping right now." – Arlie lost the match.


Written by Craig Stephens

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