5 out of 5 stars
(2user reviews)
courtesy Royal Albert Hall

The unlikeliest combination since Nell McAndrew 'married' Dale Winton is called 'chessboxing' – a hybrid sport where opponents square up in the ring and across the board in 11 alternate rounds of boxing and chess. Winners are crowned by a knockout or checkmate. Competitors spend three minutes attempting to punch each other's brains out, before the gloves come off and they get down and dirty over a chessboard for four minutes. If there's no checkmate after 11 rounds, victory goes to the fighter with the most points in the boxing ring.

It sounds mind-bogglingly bizarre, but then, chessboxing did originate in a comic strip crafted by Serbian-French writer Enki Bilal. In 2003, it was brought to life by Dutch performance artist Iepe Rubingh who hosted the first match in a church in front of 800 people. It proved so popular that a cult sport was born. Tim Woolgar founded The Chess Boxing Organisation in the UK four years ago. The former TV exec, who used to compete himself, says that many London chessboxers are City workers, used to a gladiatorial environment and in need of a place to vent. But it attracts men and women from all spheres and ages (perhaps lured by the opportunity to punch a banker). Woolgar told Time Out how he came across the sport and brought it to the capital: 'My two main hobbies are boxing and chess. Just by chance I came across chessboxing on the internet. There was a competition that week in Berlin, so I jumped on a plane to see it. I found it totally fascinating and decided to start up a club in London.'

From such small beginnings, chessboxing has fast become a popular spectator sport. It has to be seen to be believed, but fortunately for you, some of the world's finest fighters are in the capital for four hardcore bouts taking place at the 499-capacity Loading Bay at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday. Tickets are still available to see the UK's Number One heavyweight Andy 'The Rock' Costello (a former junior chess champion turned cage fighter) take on Matt Follain, a martial arts instructor from Somerset. The line-up also includes Germany's Tim 'CSI' Bendfeldt, Mike 'The Bedfordshire Bull' Botteley, Lithuanian Vladimir Agasaryan and Jose Sachez Amen from Costa Rica.

But spare a moment for the original thinking man's boxer – if we were the monocled Chris Eubank sitting at home in our jodhpurs, we'd be on the phone to our agent asking why we weren't the poster boy for this tantalising alternative to your traditional fight knight, instead of appearing on reality TV.


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