Mens Sana in Corpore Kayoed

From my old friend P.M. “Nick” Nicholes, who lives with his family in magnificent isolation in Lennep, Montana (pop. about 10) along the Musselshell River, at the foot of the Crazy Mountains, comes word of a brand-new way to measure oneself in both brain and brawn: chessboxing.

A chessboxing match is, like both chess and boxing, strictly one-on-one. The contestants alternate between pummeling one another in the ring and grappling at the chessboard. Here’s how it works:

In a chessboxing fight two opponents play alternating rounds of chess and boxing. The contest starts with a round of chess, followed by a boxing round, followed by another round of chess and so on. In every round of chess the FIDE rules for a ´Blitz game´ apply, in every boxing round the AIBA rules apply with the following extensions and modifications: In a contest there shall be 11 rounds, 6 rounds of chess, 5 rounds of boxing. A round of chess takes 4 minutes. Each competitor has 12 minutes on the chess timer. As soon as the time runs out the game is over.

A round of boxing takes 2 minutes. Between rounds there is a 1 minute pause, during which competitors change their gear. The contest is decided by: checkmate (chess round), exceeding the time limit (chess round), retirement of an opponent (chess or boxing round), KO (boxing round), or referee decision (boxing round). If the chess game ends in a stalement, the opponent with the higher score in boxing wins. If there is an equal score, the opponent with the black pieces wins.

There are some great opportunities here to feel really, really bad about yourself. Imagine this dispiriting scenario: in full view of a jeering audience, your opponent outplays you with a subtle five-move combination and you lose a piece, and then you get up in the ring and he knocks you flat on your ass.

It seems to me that these rules favor, in an asymmetrical pairing, the superior pugilist over the better chessplayer: if you are, say, Mike Tyson, going up against the neurasthenic chess genius Aron Nimzovitch, you slow-play the opening chess round (after all, the round is 4 minutes, and you have 12 on the clock), then pulverize him in the first round of boxing.

So if you are going to take this up you’d better be as handy with your fists as your forks.

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