Could you imagine Garry Kasparov or Vishy Anand enter the boxing ring? Or, Mohammad Ali or Mike Tyson engrossed over a board of 64 black and white squares? Impossible as it may sound, a game called chess boxing that requires the players to alternate between a game of chess and a bout of boxing for several rounds is catching on at such a rate that under a tent in south Kolkata, a team is being selected for representing the country in the world championships in Moscow from November 28.
“This is the first international tournament of this sport and we will send a three-member team from India,” said Montu Das, founder-president, Chess Boxing Federation of India (CBFI).
The sport combines chess, arguably the most thinking game and boxing that is considered the most aggressive. The rather bizarre combination was born in Germany in 2003. Cartoonist Enki Bilal thought of this game, which later featured in his graphic novel Froid Equateur.
Despite its strange nature, there are 90 registered players in Bengal right now. Across the country, the number is around 300. States such as Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur have taken to this game seriously.
Interestingly, around 20% of these players are women. While the youngest player is 14, the oldest member of CBFI is aged 27. So far, those who are coming to join (and also the coaches) are more of a boxer than a chess player.
Das, 40, was himself a prominent kickboxer, who won international medals.
“As a kickboxer, I used to surf the net to know about the development of martial art across the globe. This is how I came across the World Chess Boxing Association in Berlin. I got in touch with them, and finally they gave me the permission to set up the Chess Boxing Organisation of India on May 20, 2011, in Kolkata,” said Das.
“This sport will go a long way in changing the perception of boxers, who have traditionally been regarded as rough and tough. Many now view us as smart and tough as opposed to the previous image,” remarked Tuhin Nandi, a medallist in the recently concluded national championships in Salem, Andhra Pradesh.
The trials for the selection of the national team will take place on Sunday at Bhawanipore Boxing Club in South Kolkata.
“There will be three series and Moscow will hold the first of these. The next two will be in Amsterdam and Berlin,” said Montu Das.
The sport in growing is popularity in countries such as Iran, Germany, Russia, China, France and the Netherlands.
“To take the sport along the professional route, the world championship organisers will pay a match fee of Euro 1,500 per head for each match. Apart from this, there will be prize money for winners and best players,” said Das.