What Is Chess Boxing and How to Play It?

Chess allows us to showcase our strategic thinking, sharpened memory, and problem-solving skills. But what if you wanted a sport that goes beyond that? One that challenges your physical strength, too? It’s time you learn about chess boxing!

What is chess boxing, you ask?

Chess boxing combines boxing and chess, pitting you against a competitor in a battle of wits and fists. The game alternates between blitz chess and boxing rounds until one player wins through checkmate, knockout, or points.

This game might be the new chess challenge you’re looking for. We’ll tell you what chess boxing is all about and how to play it so you can start playing this exciting sport!

What Is Chess Boxing?

Chess boxing merges the worlds of boxing and chess. Artist Iepe Rubingh organized the first-ever chess boxing competition in 2003. His idea came from the 1992 French graphic novel Froid Équateur by Enki Bilal, which featured a chess boxing world championship.

In Bilal’s conception of the sport, it started with a 12-round boxing match followed by a chess game. Rubingh had an idea to make the game more exciting for viewers by making chess and boxing equally able to determine the game’s outcome.

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He balanced the significance of both sports by alternating the rounds of chess and boxing. Then, he continued to refine chess boxing with detailed rules and regulations, making it the competitive sport we know today.

How to Win in Chess Boxing?

Thanks to Rubingh’s game structure, you can win a chess boxing game in two ways. You can either win through a chess victory or a boxing victory.

1. Chess Victory

Traditional chess rules apply to chess boxing. You can win in the chess rounds by checkmate or if your opponent forfeits.

Another way you can win is if your opponent exceeds the time limit for making a move.

2. Boxing Victory

You can win in boxing if you score higher than your opponent according to the judges’ decision. Otherwise, you win if your opponent can no longer continue the boxing match (stoppage) because of a knockout or other reasons.

What Do You Need to Play Chess Boxing?

We don’t recommend you try and play chess boxing at home. Though beginners can play chess freely, boxing makes the game more complicated.

For safety, both players should know how to box. Furthermore, referees and judges should be present during the game. Referees regulate the game, and judges determine the winner based on the players’ performances.

You should meet the following eligibility criteria to play in official games:

  • Elo rating of at least 1800
  • At least 50 amateur bouts in boxing or other martial arts

If you’re planning to play chess boxing, you’ll also need this equipment:

  • Chessboard
  • Chess clock
  • Boxing ring
  • Boxing gloves
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How to Play Chess Boxing?

The game is divided into 11 rounds, with six rounds dedicated to chess and five rounds dedicated to boxing. It starts with a 4-minute round of blitz chess.

Each player has 12 minutes on their clock for the entire match, which means they have to manage their time wisely and not use too much time in each round. If a player runs out of time on their clock, they lose the match by a time penalty.

The chess round is followed by a 3-minute round of boxing. You follow standard boxing rules and try to win by knocking out your opponent or scoring more points by landing more punches.

The game continues as the players alternate between rounds of chess and boxing, progressing through all 11 rounds or until someone wins.

What Are the Rules of Chess Boxing?

Following rules are important to ensure fair play during the match. Here are the important rules of the game again with additional ones you should remember when playing chess boxing:

  • You can win from either the chess or boxing rounds.
  • You must be over 17 years old to participate in official matches.
  • Six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing will be done unless the game is stopped because someone won in the previous round.
  • The chess game is timed for 12 minutes per player.
  • You can’t stall during the chess game. If the referee sees that you’re stalling, you’ll lose ten seconds on your chess clock.
  • Players wear gloves during boxing matches.
  • Players wear headphones during chess rounds to avoid hearing coaching from the audience.
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Are There Weight Classes in Chess Boxing?

Like in regular boxing competitions, there are weight classes in chess boxing to ensure fairness. Here are the weight classes followed in official chess boxing games:

Men Over 17 Years Old

  • Lightweight: Maximum of 154.3 lbs
  • Middleweight: Maximum of 176.4 lbs
  • Light heavyweight: Maximum of 198.4 lbs
  • Heavyweight: Over 198.4 lbs

Women Over 17 Years Old

  • Lightweight: Maximum of 121.3 lbs
  • Middleweight: Maximum of 143.3 lbs
  • Light heavyweight: Maximum of 165.3 lbs
  • Heavyweight: Over 165.3 lbs

How to Get Started in Chess Boxing?

If you’re an aspiring chess boxer, knowing the rules of chess boxing is a good place to start. From there, you can start training in both chess and boxing to meet the eligibility criteria to join official games.

Specifically, you need to have an Elo rating of 1800. You also need to play at least 50 amateur boxing bouts before you can compete in a chess boxing competition.

You can also watch chess boxing games to get a sense of how they’re usually played and what strategies the players use.

Additionally, you can join chess boxing clubs or gyms. In these clubs, other chess boxers gather to learn from coaches and instructors.

Here are some well-known chess boxing clubs and gyms:

  • The Chess Boxing Club Berlin
  • The London Chess Boxing
  • The Chess Boxing Organization of India
  • The Chess Boxing Club of Los Angeles


Looking for a new chess challenge? Chess boxing might be the next chess variant you’re looking for. With boxing in the mix, you may even develop a love and expertise in a whole new sport.

Chess boxing isn’t for everyone, but it can be an exciting and rewarding sport for those willing to rise to the challenge!