First Night: European Chess Boxing, Boston Dome, North London

4.00

Pawns, punches and a sport that mixes brain with brawn

Muhammad Ali's "phantom punch" may have been enough to floor Sonny Liston in the first round in 1965. But belligerents at an event in London last night might have done better to study chess genius Emanuel Lasker's masterclass of 1889.

The fights got under way with the slightly bemused audience urged: "Let's get reeeeaaaaady ... for chess boxing". (At least one person shouted out "to rumble," to their eternal embarrassment).

Gianluca "Il Dottore" Sirci was crowned European Heavyweight Chess Boxing champion, beating his opponent, British heavyweight Andy "The Rock" Costello in the ninth round (a chess round) after the British heavyweight resigned with a check-mate looming.

When the gloves were put on, The Rock landed more punches on the larger Italian. But it was Il Dottore's chess game that told and Costello was left needing a knockout which would never come.

Chess boxing was invented initially as a joke by Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh who was in attendance last night. The protagonists engage in four minutes of rapid chess before putting on their gloves and fighting for three minutes, a process they repeat for 11 rounds. Contestants can either win by beating their opponent at chess or by knocking him out.

Andy Costello has had three bouts before tonight, suffering two defeats – both down to disqualifications during the boxing rounds – and one victory thanks to a check-mate.

The 42-year-old professional cage-fighter said: "One disqualification was for a low blow against tonight's opponent and I really hoped to take revenge for that. The other was against Wolfram von Stauffenberg – the only surviving relative of the man who tried to assassinate Hitler. I fought him in Berlin so I never stood a chance."

The undercard saw Mexican Hector Gomez defeated by Dutchman Hubert van Melick in the ninth round (a chess round). Gomez showed the better moves in the early boxing rounds and landed a few hooks before van Melick could get a single jab in. But the Dutchman's superior chess game made the difference as his opponent's allotted time for his moves simply ran out, resulting in automatic defeat.

Tim Woolgar, who founded the The Chess Boxing Organisation in August 2008 to help promote what is is reputedly the fastest growing hybrid sport in Britain, explained that the group works with young people from its Islington club, teaching them to embrace both disciplines.

"A lot of them gain a confidence from it which they would not otherwise have had," he said. "If you get a guy to box, it teaches him self-respect. But if you get teach him something like chess as well, you teach him a whole new set of skills. And those are skills which can be put to practical use when it comes to finding jobs."

Last month, the organisation became a registered charity, and all proceeds from last night's event were donated to it. The club has 30 members of which around 10 are women. Tim Woolgar said: "This is about teaching people to engage their minds. Chess boxers need to maintain concentration at all times. You can imagine if you are being punched in the face, it would probably be quite difficult to maintain concentration enough to immediately start playing chess, but that's what we have to do. Participants have a great sense of achievement."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot