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Chessboxing: ultimate test of brains and brawn or a ‘freak show’?

Participants typically compete over 11 rounds in total with six alternating rounds of chess and five of boxing, each lasting just three minutes.

Victory is achieved via knockout or checkmate. If neither occurs by the end of the bout, the winner will be determined on points scored in the ring.

London Chessboxing, which has been hosting live chessboxing events in the UK since 2016, will stream the sport’s first pay-per-view event across several online platforms next Sunday.

The chess games are real, the boxing is real, there is no staging, we don’t prepare the fighters, there is no scripting so it is a genuine sport. It deserves to become an Olympic sport.

Gavin Paterson, chief financial officer

Gavin Paterson, the organisation’s chief financial officer, says chess purists should embrace chessboxing as a novel way of encouraging newcomers.

“Chessboxing makes chess sexy, I think it definitely benefits chess as it gives it a profile that is more appealing to younger people and to women,” he said. “The chess games are real, the boxing is real, there is no staging, we don’t prepare the fighters, there is no scripting so it is a genuine sport. It deserves to become an Olympic sport.”

However, with cabaret acts performing between fights and competitors given wrestling-style theatrical personas, its promotional antics have drawn criticism from chess purists. Next Sunday’s headline acts will see Daniel “The Tax Man” Mayfield fight Richard “Razor” Frazer while Gearoid “Sex Appeal” Veale will take on Jon “The Brick” Wood.

A player makes his move during a bout of chessboxing.

A player makes his move during a bout of chessboxing.Credit:Getty Images

Justin Horton, a chess player and writer for the influential Streatham & Brixton Chess Blog, said: “Chessboxing is a freak show. Sports normally have clubs, professional performers, proper organising bodies, that sort of thing. Chessboxing has none of these.

“Rather than aim for the highest standards, as a real sport does, they combine bad chess and worse boxing.

“Basically the whole thing is a hoax, and nothing the gang does should be taken seriously in any way.”

In 2014, Terry Marsh, the undefeated former world champion boxer, became the first professional boxer to compete in chessboxing, maintaining his perfect record over three bouts.

A keen amateur chess player since childhood, Marsh said: “A lot of people unfamiliar with boxing would see it as brute force and ignorance which it isn’t, there is subtlety in boxing. At superficial level it looks like two extremes and that never the two shall meet but I think there would be a space for it and an appreciation for it.”

The Telegraph, London

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