WCBA Attack

Q. Are there any restrictions on becoming a chessboxer?
A. Anyone can start chessboxing and can take part in competition once they have achieved a basic level of competence in chess and boxing. Chessboxing is open to women and men of all ages.

Q. How do you win at chessboxing?
A. There are several ways to win;

1 Checkmate.
2 Time penalty. Your opponent runs out of time on his or her chess clock.
3 KO
5 Disqualification – your opponent is guilty of cheating.
6 Points decision. In the event of a drawn game (by stalemate or repetition of the position) the decision is made on boxing points scored. If a draw occurs at any point prior to the final round, there will be one more round of boxing to conclude the bout.

Q. Would a great boxer be able to win easily against a strong chessplayer who couldn’t box at all, for example, if Mike Tyson fought against Garry Kasparov, who would win?
A. This is an impossible situation because chesboxers (like regular boxers), are matched according to their respective abilities, weight and experience.

Q. Is it possible to stall for time by making chess moves very slowly or not at all?
A. Time-wasting is discouraged by the arbiter (chess referee) who constantly assesses the position on the chess-board. If the arbiter judges that a player is time-wasting he has the option to impose a ten-second time limit, during which the player must move or be disqualified.

Q. When did chessboxing first start?
A.  The first known chessboxing club was set up in London in 1978 by amateur boxer and club chessplayer James Robinson.  Robinson conceived of the idea of chessboxing together with his brother Stewart at the Samuel Montagu Boys Club in Greenwich and the idea was reported in the local press at the time, generating widespread interest.


James (right) and Stewart Robinson, chessboxing pioneers, London 1978

The following year in 1979 the concept of  chessboxing was brought to a wider audience with the release of the Chinese kung-fu movie “The Mystery Of Chessboxing”.  Although the Greenwich Chessboxing Club eventually closed in 1982 when the Robinsons moved away from the area, chessboxing has subsquently cropped up in various diverse manifestations including a comic book, Le Froid Equateur by Enki Bilal, as performance art and in the music of the Wu-Tang clan who, inspired by the 1979 film, included the track Da Mysytery Of Chessboxing on their debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).  

By 2008 independent chessboxing clubs had sprung up around the world and international tournaments began to be staged in various cities including London, Berlin, Krasnoyarsk and Los Angeles.

Q. What are the weight categories in chessboxing?
A:  Weight categories  are listed below.

Weight Limit
English Italiano Español русский KG Pounds
Straw Paglia Paja первая наилегчайшая 49 108
Fly Mosca Mosca наилегчайшая 52 114.6
Bantam Gallo Gallo легчайшая 56 123.5
Feather Piuma Pluma легкая 60 132.3
Light Leggeri Lijero первая полусредняя 64 141.1
Welter Welter Wélter полусредняя 69 152.1
Middle Medi Medio/Mediano средняя 75 165.3
Super Middle Mediomassimi Supermedio/Supermediano полутяжелая 81 178.6
Light Heavy Massimi leggeri Semi-pesado тяжелая 91 200.6
Heavy Massimi Pesado супертяжелая >91 >200.6

Q. Do you have to be an expert chess player to take part?

A.  No you don’t have to be an expert player to enjoy competitive chessboxing.  Chess ability is graded by Elo points (after the Hungarian chess master Arpad Elo who devised the system) and most chessboxing champions have achieved an Elo rating of 1700 or above.   Most chessboxers begin at a much lower level but once they have grasped the basic strategies and tactics most move up the ratings ladder fairly quickly.   In order to categorise the various abilities of chessplayer we have devised an 8-tier system based on Elo points.  Provided both chessboxers are in the same tier, neither will have an overwhelming chess-playing advantage.

Chess Categories:

Tier 1: Players up to 1000 Elo (Beginners)

Tier 2: 1001 – 1200 Elo (Social players)

Tier 3: 1201 – 1400 Elo (Advanced social players)

Tier 4: 1401- 1600 Elo (Weak Club Players)

Tier 5: 1601 – 1800 Elo (Average  Club Players)

Tier 6 1801- 2000 Elo (Strong Club Players)

Tier 7: 2001 – 2300 Elo (Nationally Ranked Players)

Tier 8: 2301 Elo –> and above (Internationally Ranked Players)