Chessboxing – what you need to know

Chessboxing is a martial arts sport, combining two traditional and established sports, chess and boxing. Two competitors fight in alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The first and the last round are always chess and a round last three minutes with one minute brake in between.


The idea of Chessboxing originates from 1992 comic “Froid Équateur“ by French artist Enki Bilal. In the science fiction book two opponents use chess and boxing contests to find out which of them is the toughest guy in post- apocalyptic world. Over a decade later, inspired by Bilal’s book, a Dutch performance artist Lepe Rubingh made chessboxing into a real sport. He developed the idea further by making the chess rounds and boxing rounds alternating and organised the first bout in Berlin 2003.


Chess and boxing have been combined in popular culture in various other occasions, including a Kung-Fu movie of the 1970’s “Mystery of Chessboxing” and a comic Finnish film “Uuno Turhapuro, herra Helsingin herra.” These publications are unrelated to modern chessboxing, however.


A chessboxing fight consists of 11 rounds, 6 rounds of chess and 5 rounds of boxing. Chess and boxing rounds alternate, beginning and ending with a round of chess. Each round lasts three minutes, regardless of whether it involves chess or boxing.


As a direct result of the rules, the total amount of chess playing time is 18 minutes (6 x 3 min), making it 9 minutes each player. Since both players have 9 minutes in their chess clock to start with, the only possibility to “go the distance” in chessboxing is to spend exactly as much time as your opponent for each chess move. Otherwise, one of the contenders will run out of time, which will end the fight.


After each chess round, the exact setup is digitally recorded and then repositioned before the following chess round. The breaks in between the chess and boxing rounds usually last 60 seconds. The duration of the rounds and overall fight time in amateur chessboxing fights can change to some degree, as in for example youth tournaments and exhibition fights. In Finland, sparring fights are organized as five-round fights (three rounds of chess and two rounds of boxing) with 4 min 30 sec in the chess clock of each player.


In a chessboxing match, a competitor may win in regulation time by any of the following:

  • Knockout (boxing rounds)

  • Technical Knockout (boxing rounds)

  • Checkmate (chess rounds)

  • Exceeding of the time limit by the opponent (chess rounds)

  • Disqualification of his opponent by the referee e.g. due to inactivity due to overextended playing time (chess or boxing rounds following multiple warnings)

  • Opponent resigns (chess or boxing rounds)


In the case that neither of the chessboxers win in regulation time and the chess game ends in a draw, the fighter who is ahead on boxing points wins the chessboxing bout. In case the scoreboard is also tied, the fighter that used the black chess pieces will be named the winner. This has not yet occurred in practice.

Weight classes

In chessboxing, the weight difference between categories is five kilograms up to 90kg, above which level is the heavyweight division.

Skills in two sports

A professional chessboxer must have strong skills in both chess and boxing in order to be permitted to compete in a chessboxing fight. The current minimum requirements to fight in a Chess Boxing Global event include an Elo-rating of 1600 and a record of at least 50 amateur bouts fought in boxing or another similar martial arts.


However, in amateur level there are no formal requirements and typically a fighter is stronger in either boxing or chess, and relativery weaker in the other.


One deciding factor in chessboxing is that the fighters have to train in speed chess, where the requirements in are different than those in a classical game of chess. However the high art of chessboxing is not only the ability to master both sports but above all, being able to withstand the constant switch from a full contact sport to a thinking sport, and back.

In short words, one need to Think Fast and Hit Hard!