Chessboxing: fighting on and off the board

Once upon a time, in a castle far far away, kings and queens found themselves clashing. During Luna festival 2024, the air buzzed with fairytale whispers, and every corner held a story waiting to unfold. Our story starts on the Luna field, where students of the 13 different cultural student associations within Scala and beyond, came to combine energy and provide enjoyment for the spectators in the form of: chessboxing!

For this year’s Lunafest, a yearly cultural event that is organised by the student culture associations (part of Scala, the umbrella for student culture associations) in Eindhoven, Noesis, the chess association, and Impact, the boxing association, teamed up to bring the biggest up and coming variant of chess to life. It was a result of (literal) blood, sweat and tears from mostly our secretary Ege Okay, the board and the kind people over at Impact, who helped us tremendously. 

Chessboxing is a hybrid sport that combines two traditional disciplines. Namely (and obviously), chess and boxing. It is, in fact, the ultimate test of mind and body, where both moves and punches reverberate through you during multiple rounds. We put our own spin on it, where the combatants would play alternating rounds of (first) 1 minute of boxing and then 2 minutes of chess until one wins by (technical) knockout, checkmate or, finally, by letting the opponent’s flag fall — to prevent draws from happening (too often). 

The event was opened with a show match between two experienced boxing players. Landing and dodging punch after punch, it seemed like we were going to reach a final climax. Unfortunately, like in the professional chess scene, many games, like this one, peter out into a draw. Nonetheless, the match was very exciting and left the people begging for more. 

The three stages of chessboxing; where the middle one makes you regret life decisions.

From 14:30 to 20:00 people battled it out non-stop. One of the key takeaways from this event was undoubtedly that “boxing is very tiring” as most of us had little to no experience boxing. Funnily enough, those that did, did not have much more experience playing chess. 

To my surprise, Ege asked me (Simon) to step into the ring with him. Though not my intention that morning, I agreed. We fought it out like everything was on the line and there was nothing to lose. Humorous what testosterone and the idea of honour and glory can do to a mind. Losing was not in our DNA that day. 

After a most gruelling and debilitating match, yet only two rounds, I went home with the win in the end, by checkmating his king with the help of two bishops and a pawn. It cannot be stated enough, however, that Ege fought like a champ and I, at multiple times during the boxing rounds, thought that I wouldn’t make it to the next chess round, either due to fatigue or serious damage to my tissues. 

As for the chess, you already know a sharp Sicilian was played. Surprisingly though (or maybe not for you), playing chess is way harder when you’ve collected many shocks to the face and body. Luckily, as you get more experienced at the game, you can play the opening (and parts of the middle game) on autopilot. This definitely saved me. 

You know what they say: “It’s about the journey and not the destination”. The event and the fights were very satisfying and as soon as the players shook hands — sometimes in a gesture of sportsmanship — they knew that the true victory lay not in the outcome of the game, but in the bonds of friendship forged right next to and across the chessboard. Also, I, once again, would like to reiterate my gratitude towards the organisation and all the people involved. It would not have been possible without you, and a shame if it hadn’t took place. 

After visits from multiple (maybe all) the boards of Scala, including matches including Footloose and Doppio board members, we started concluding the evening with the sun beginning to set and Noesis having organised one of its best-ever events. 

Incidentally, chessboxing was not the only fun event that took place that day. Many associations presented themselves and combined with others to provide an unforgettable day. Be sure to check the other association’s websites to see what they had to offer.

No fight can start without a proper weigh-in (in pounds for some unknown reason).

Not even Wervingsdagen — only there for an announcement — could resist the urge to participate. 

Two champions, board members of Noesis, but most importantly, friends, getting ready for their big game.