Checkmates and knockouts in Chicago chessboxing club

By Lindsey Woods

Chicago will soon be the new home to the second U.S.-based chessboxing club—a club meant to recruit and train athletes in both chess and boxing—in order to compete in the European-born sport.

George Krasnopolskiy, the founder of the up-and-coming club, discovered the sport when he read an article about chessboxing clubs in Europe. It inspired him to bring the sport to an American audience with a club of his own.

“You know, the U.S. is a pretty great place, and I like the competitive nature of it, and I feel like representing your own country in a sport such as this would be pretty cool,” Krasnopolskiy said.

Chessboxing originated in Berlin in 2003, when an idea from the graphic novel “Froid Équateur” (French for “Cold Equator”) was adapted into real play. In the novel, characters held an 11-round boxing match and a four-hour chess match simultaneously. The sport gained popularity in Europe and currently has international clubs in London, Berlin, France and Siberia, with the World Chessboxing Organisation arranging fights and events.

The game has been adapted from the 11-round, four-hour graphic novel concept, to an actual event, with six four-minute rounds of chess alternating with five two-minute rounds of boxing. Winning requires a checkmate or a knock-out—whichever comes first. During the chess rounds, players wear headphones to block out audience members shouting possible moves. Players can also be disqualified if they take too much time during the chess portion of the game.

The Chicago club will aim to introduce people to the sport and train them in both chess and boxing.

Krasnopolskiy, who also runs an after school program for children who want to learn chess, said chessboxing gives people the best of both–the intellectual and physical aspects of athletics.

“I would say it’s the true test of brain and brawn,” Krasnopolskiy said. “I think that’s the real unique aspect of it. You can’t say it’s all purely mental or purely physical. You really have to be able to do both.”

The Chicago club is still in its early stages and is looking for a gym space and sponsors. Dmitriy Pisarev, the club’s cofounder and webmaster, said it plans on utilizing his experience in Internet marketing to attract people to the club. Pisarev also said the club has high hopes of expanding to 1,000 members—including spectators, sponsors and players—by the end of 2011.

“We have a lot of big dreams. Now we just need the funding for it,” Pisarev said.

The club will be one of two organizations in North America that specializes in chessboxing. The other club was founded in Los Angeles in Jan. 2010 by Andrew Mcgregor, a chess boxing player who competed

in London.

The LA Chessboxing Club is largely aimed at using chessboxing matches as fundraisers for various charities, according to McGregor. It also trains weekly at local gyms. He hopes that by January 2012, he’ll to have his own gym and training facility for the club.

McGregor learned of the sport from a flier in Eastern Europe and decided to start his own club when he came back to the U.S. Like Krasnopolskiy, he has a chess background and said learning the boxing part of the sport helped him grow as a person.

“Learning how to box was a pretty healing thing for me because I was doing war photography in the Congo and was pretty shell-shocked from that,” McGregor said.

Coming from a chess background, McGregor said chessboxing eliminates stigmas from both sports and allows athletes to become more relatable, which contributes to the appeal of the sport.

“If you’re a chess master, you’re competing against a machine,” he said. “But if you take that creepy individual who studies to beat a machine all day and make him an athlete, it makes him human and vulnerable and approachable. Same with a boxer. If you have the boxer do a math problem, it makes him approachable.”

McGregor hopes the LA Chessboxing Club will eventually be able to expand to teach children and teenagers how to play the sport. He also wants to set up celebrity chessboxing matches to benefit

nonprofit organizations.

The Chicago club is also wants to hold charity events, Pisarev said. They are interested in attracting people from less fortunate circumstances to help them “gain control of their lives.”

“[When] thinking about the game of chess, there are choices and consequences,” he said. “Same with boxing. It gives people an opportunity to control and channel their anger in a productive way.”

Krasnopolskiy echoed these sentiments, saying that belonging to the chessboxing community can be a good way for people to manage their emotions.

“It’s like an underground fight club for chess players,” he said.

For more information on the Chicago club, head to its website, LA Chessboxing Club information can also be found on its website,