The Ultimate Alpha Male Sport

It’s the perfect combination of brains, brawn and strategy. Two opponents step into the ring and they begin an 11 round match alternating between 3 minutes of playing chess and 3 minutes of boxing. You can win either by KO, TKO, or checkmate (or you run out of time). Invented by Enki Bilal, a French comic book artist and developed by (the late) Iepe Rubingh, a Dutch performance artist, this new wave sport started in Berlin in early 2003 and later made its way to the UK.

Former TV journalist Tim Woolgar wanted to do something more with his life so he started a London club for a team. With a slow start, but determined to make chessboxing work, he was able to get people excited about the sport and would eventually travel around Europe helping other clubs get off their feet.

Both sports are taken completely seriously. There are rules and etiquette. Tim and Iepe saw a desire from the public to make something entertaining and they ran with it. As of 2020 there are clubs all over Europe, Asia and North America. It just goes to show that if you want to make your mark on the world, you can accomplish it by bringing people together in the name of entertainment that is both stimulating and competitive at the same time.

Director David Bitton dives head first into a fascinating world that takes two completely opposite worlds and melds them together into one exciting bout of blood, sweat and contemplation, showing how both chess and boxing require the desire to win while trying to stay one step ahead of their challenger. Sparing for 3 minutes at a time then having to stop, sit and think about which piece to move in order to make the King surrender takes such concentration especially with adrenaline pumping through you.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Melbourne Documentary Film Festival will screen BY ROOK OR LEFT HOOK: THE STORY OF CHESSBOXING online and in cinemas. Tickets and more info can be found HERE

Reviewed online (screener provided by Melbourne Documentary Film Festival), July 10, 2021. Rating: TBC. Running time: 103 min.

PRODUCTION: An Anonymous Pineapple Productions film. Producer: David Bitton. Executive producer: Ed Cunningham.

CREW: Director/writer/editing: David Bitton. Cinematography: Scott Baker, Joe Baron, Shane Geddes. Music: Matthew Reid.

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