Features Friday, March 27, 2015 - 05:30
Siddhartha Mishra | The News Minute | March 18, 2015 | 2:49 p.m. IST  Imagine this. You have just gone toe-to-toe, and exchanged punches with your opponent in a boxing ring. Tired and sore, you then sit down, stare them down across a  table and engage them in a game of chess. No, this not a theatre of the absurd recreation out of a David Lynch movie. This is “chess boxing”. “It’s hyper-intense one moment, and then drops to an absolute low, and then you have to focus”, Shailesh Tripathi, currently India’s number one chess boxer, told The News Minute. Montu Das a kickboxer in his prime, and now founder and president of the Chess Boxing Organisation of India said: “It’s the only sport that literally combines mind and body.” An image of men boxing on a chessboard in a 1992 comic book, “The Nikopol Trilogy”, inspired Dutch artist Lepe Rubingh to compete in the first chess boxing bout in Amsterdam in 2003. This novel idea turned into a sport on the world stage with Germany, Great Britain, Russia and lately India showing interest. So it goes like this; a total of eleven rounds alternate with six rounds of chess and five of boxing. Three-minute boxing rounds and four-minute chess rounds with a minute’s break to take your gloves off. The winner is decided by knockout, checkmate, or on the referee’s call. “A seminar in Kolkata in 2013 taught me the rules of the sport”, said Tripathi who was then a boxer from Dahisar, Mumbai. A call from Jitendra Sharma, a friend who is now heading the Maharasthra Chess Boxing association, convinced him to go to Kolkata and try. “But to apply them (the rules) in practice during the competition is another ball game” said the 29 year old who admits chess was never his forte but he was “rather good” at it. The competition he speaks of in July 2013 in Kolkata was the first National Chess Boxing Championship, which eventually sent Tripathi to the World Championship in Moscow in November that year. “There were two of us from Maharashtra and a lot of guys from Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jharkhand”, he said. The sport was new to him though, yet he found a way around it. “Sometimes, after a lot of intense boxing you tend to lose the plot a bit and your punches get a bit wayward”, Tripathi said, “And chess helps me relax a bit”. With a newfound friend in the game and his boxing credentials intact, he was chosen to be India’s first on the world stage. “I was a bit nervous about chess but practiced with Montu Das”, Tripathi said, adding that he was a tad bit intimidated by the Russians who supposedly excelled at both disciplines. “In the nationals I was absolutely sure I’d win but there I was a bit unsure”, he said. “After the first few trial matches though, I found myself doing surprisingly well.” Leonid Chernobaev of Belarus, who won in Tripathi’s weight category, ended the dream though. “I lost by technical knockout”, he said. “The competition that was organised was of the stature of a proper international boxing bout.”Since coming back, Tripathi regained his number one crown last September in Kolkata, which has turned into a hotbed of sorts for the sport in India courtesy of the CBOI established by Das there. “Competition has increased”, Tripathi said. This is music to Das’ ears, who has been trying to find a place for the sport. After getting permission from the World Chess Boxing Association he setup the CBOI in Kolkata in May 2011. “Training is disciplined”, Das said. “Boxing then chess, shadow-boxing then chess, focus-pads then chess”, he said, almost mimicking the sudden adrenalin rushes and calm the sport goes through. Getting official recognition though has been a bit of a problem with the sport needing enough people interested for the government to take it seriously. Das seemed confident that that recognition would come their way “in a year or two’s time”. “Close to 1,100 boys and girls have officially signed up with us”, he said, adding that athletes above the age of ten from as many as 12 states have registered. “Boys and girls from states as far as West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra are with us”, Das said. The sport also has a lot of girls as takers as many as “300 to 400”, further underlining the heterogeneity. Sport in India, which is widely accepted to be dominated by cricket, is throwing up the likes of this “hybrid sport” as Tripathi puts it. This “hybrid”, as is in the case of cars, may be the way of the future. Images Courtesy: National Chess Boxing Championship Facebook page  Tweet Follow @thenewsminute

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