Chess Boxing: A Different Kind Of Saturday NightSeptember 12, 2011
My mate Ola, the one who finds the maddest things to do in Londinium, sent a text a few weeks ago asking if I wanted to go to a Chess Boxing night at the Scala in Kings Cross. That is totally insane, was my first response – I’m in! So what is Chess Boxing, you may ask dear reader? Well, it does exactly what it says on the tin. The opponents play a game of chess, followed by a round of boxing, alternating until there’s either a checkmate in chess, or a knockout/retirement/referee decision in the boxing: whichever comes first.
So there I was on Saturday night, queuing outside the Scala with Ola, waiting to get in. Our eyes brimmed with salted water as we remembered our (separate) experiences of the Scala when it was a cinema featuring all-nighters and martial arts specials. They were great times, but that was then. We were here now for a night of boxing and chess: activities totally alien to me. Once we were frisked, had our food and water removed and got our overpriced drinks (£6.20 for a half cider and a pint of Guinness, would you please?) we made our way to the ring. And that’s where we stayed for the next few hours as the boxers entered the ring where the table was set, played chess, then when the bell rang, the table and chess board were removed, the gloves were put on and the fighting began.
I had high hopes for the first opponents. I assumed the chess was exciting, judging by the reaction of the crowd. Alas, the boxers weren’t exactly giving out much when it came to the punching. But there was a winner, so fair play to them.
These ones are girls: apparently the first for Chess Boxing. I hoped they’d have more go in them than the first set. They did – marginally.
The following set was much better. The chess was more skilful (I’m taking the cue from the audience here) and the boxing was truly exciting. We had also moved to the ringside by then, making for (slightly) better photographs from my crappy camera phone. My prize for making it to the front of the crowd was to be interviewed by their camera crew!
The next opponents were hailed as the big hitters of the evening – in every sense. One was a six foot eleven American and the other was a six-foot London-based Dutchman. The big American looked stoned, but worse, I felt he didn’t want to be there at all. Look at that photo and tell me I’m not right.
The Dutchman, on the other hand couldn’t wait to get started. He was probably channelling Rutger Hauer.
The chess was OK, but it was the boxing that got really tasty. As big as the American was, he didn’t stand a chance. The Dutchman really went for it. So much so that the compare and others on the sidelines looked really worried and the referee had to go in and remonstrate with him. Needless to say, he won the fight and the belt.
There was an interval where we were entertained by… well, I don’t know what. I think the girls held by a woman and a man were supposed to be instruments, because they were strapped up to some gizmo that sounded like a Theremin as soon as they were touched. The man in particular was playing his ‘instrument’ very well, if you know what I mean. The audience were left nonplussed.
The last opponents were pretty good. Not much more to say here.
There was a final entertainment featuring a girl with lots of hula hoops. In spite of the music cutting out so many times that she had to do her turn with a different soundtrack altogether, she did very well. She was a true professional and much better than the previous pretentious nonsense.
The verdict? There were times when it was in danger of becoming a pantomime and I think the half time entertainment they put on was wrong for the type of event it was, but overall, I would say it was a good night out and one that made me want to go and see a proper boxing match and learn more about chess. I’d call that a result.