Mind Game

An unusual sport’s rapid growth in India

01 April 2017
The Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh invented chess boxing in 2003, inspired by an imaginary sport illustrated in a 1992 graphic novel by the French cartoonist Enki Bilal.
miguel villagran / ap photo

On a Sunday morning in late December, inside a small gym room in a modest three-storey building in Kolkata, Jayashree Adhikary, an eleventh-grade student, moved around briskly in red boxing headgear. She rained a flurry of punches on her opponent, Taniya Das, who looked small and timid in comparison. Taniya dodged and ducked to avoid getting hit, waiting for the right moment to launch a counter-attack. Just as her moment came, and she struck, Jayashree got behind Taniya and folded herself on her opponent’s back, trying to whirl her over. The referee’s whistle blew right at this moment, indicating the end of the fourth round.

In a moment, coaches and juniors rushed to the players with water to keep them hydrated, helped them take off their boxing gear and get into robes, and put on zero-noise headphones. In less than a minute, the players rushed to a tidy corner of the gym, where a chessboard with a game in progress was waiting. Another indication came from the referee, and the fifth round began. Jayashree, who was playing white, struggled to remember what moves she had played in the previous round of chess. She had only 20 seconds to make a move, else she would be penalised for wasting time.

Taniya proved smarter on the chessboard. She made some quick moves using a couple of pawns and a knight, and soon, Jayashree was cornered. Jayashree was taking more time with her moves, clearly anxious to get back into the boxing ring for the next round, where she must have been hoping to knock Taniya out. Just before the allotted three minutes for this round were over, Taniya checkmated Jayashree. As the practice match came to an end, other players, who were watching the two battle it out, applauded the chess boxers.

Swati Sanyal Tarafdar is a journalist and creative writer, who is easily intrigued by selflessness and positivity. She writes about topics ranging from decorative wrapping papers to climate change. Her website is www.swatisanyal.com, and she is on Twitter as @Swati_Sanyal_T.

Keywords: boxing sport Chess Boxing Chess