Thomas Cazeneuve was dripping with sweat as he got ready to deliver a checkmate against Xhemshid “Jim” Vogliqi. Normally, a chess match doesn't leave one gasping for breath. But this wasn't just a chess encounter. A few minutes ago, the two combatants had been furiously throwing punches at each other.
And had Vogliqi survived Cazeneuve's attack on the chess board, the two would have resumed the punch fest in the ring a few minutes later. For, they were playing chessboxing, a sport which is a hybrid of chess and boxing.
France's first official chessboxing event, which consisted of three fights, was held in Paris on Saturday night. The event was attended by hundreds of fans, who were as loudly cheering a jab or a punch as a move of a knight or a bishop.
A chessboxing bout consists of 11 rounds, of which six are of chess while five are of boxing. Each round of boxing and chess is of three minutes. Players get nine minutes each for chess over six rounds. A winner is determined either by knockout, by judges' decision (in boxing), by checkmate or by time (for chess).
Chessboxing bouts take place in the same boxing ring with the chess board getting either set up or removed during the interval between the rounds.
While Cazeneuve's 44-move win in chess gave him the win over Vogliqi in the sub 75 kg category, the thrilling encounter between Kevin Guedj and Paul Ducher in the sub 70 kg category saw Ducher stage an impressive comeback.
In their chess battle, Guedj was up a queen and a few moves away from a win. However, the bell saved Ducher who, in the subsequent boxing round, peppered Guedj with a flurry of punches to emerge victorious with a technical knock-out.
The third fight too was decided in the boxing bout as Jules-Alois Julien dominated Oleksander Zozulia in what turned out to be a one sided contest.
Comics and chess
The origins of chessboxing can be traced to 1992 when the French artist Enki Bilal introduced the concept in the comic book 'Froid Equator'. Bilal's idea was put into practice by Iepe Rubingh who played and won the first ever chessboxing match which was held in Amsterdam in 2003. Both Bilal and Rubingh were among the attendees of the event.
Speaking about chessboxing, Rubing narrated how he brought the sport to life. “I read Bilal's comic 'Froid Equator' when I was 16. At that time, I was playing chess and liked boxing. And later, with a friend who was into boxing and with whom I used to play chess, we decided to take the idea of the comic and do a chessboxing match.”