“In boxing, it’s action-reaction. In chess, you have to think before you act. The fusion of the two is huge!” Enthuses Kamel Boudjahlat, a fan of chessboxing, a born hybrid sport from the imagination of designer Enki Bilal.
At 39, this educator by profession is preparing to enter the Cabaret Sauvage ring on Saturday evening to chain hooks and uppercuts, but also to advance his pawns and blow up his knights.
“When I discovered chessboxing, I found it magical, magical,” Kamel told AFP.
The roots of the discipline date back to 1992, when the French comic book author Enki Bilal invented for his album “Froid équateur”, the last opus of the Nikopol Trilogy, a sport combining physical strength and intelligence with boxing and chess.
Then a little over ten years later, the fictitious sport becomes very real thanks to the Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh, a fan of the futuristic universe of the designer, who organizes a first fight and builds the official rules of the discipline.
– “Gentlemen who want to do battle” –
According to the rules, a chessboxing match is divided into eleven rounds of three minutes alternating between six rounds of chess and five rounds of boxing. The fight is usually won either by knockout or checkmate.
“It’s a sport for gentlemen who want to do battle,” sums up Guillaume Salançon, president of the French Chessboxing Federation. “And it breaks the stereotype of the fat kid who plays chess and the bully who fights boxing.”
When he discovered the discipline on social networks, Kamel Boudjahlat immediately thought it was made for him. “Basically, I come from boxing. Child, teenager, I was a little roughed up so I went to boxing a bit like a survival mechanism,” he explains. “I also played chess but it remained in the family sphere.”
According to him, chessboxing, thanks to the back and forth between work of the body and the mind, makes it possible to shape complete men and women. “In our society, you have to be as strong physically as you are intellectually to face the challenges of life,” he says. Today, he often uses chessboxing in his job as an educator when he works in schools or prisons.
– Thinking, strategy and investment –
But in addition to being complementary, the two disciplines are very similar, believe the practitioners. Like chess, boxing requires thought, strategy and placement.
“It has always seemed logical to me because I have always compared chess to combat sports”, explains Jules-Alois Julien, 26, who is fighting for the world title in the under 85 kg category on Saturday. “It takes a lot of the same characteristics. The two are a fight in the end.”
And the more violent of the two is not necessarily the one you think of. “There is a real psychological violence in chess. It requires patience, rigor, otherwise you lose the thread. You have to be lucid. You can sit for hours on a chair moving pieces of wood and you can lose everything in a second.”
But with chessboxing, the frustration of chess can be vented through boxing. “We can fuck potatoes, it feels good,” he appreciates.
On Saturday, some 800 people are expected at the Cabaret Sauvage to attend the show, which will be broadcast on the Twitch platform. Among them, Enki Bilal, who became the godfather of the discipline, but also great chess masters like Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Jules Moussard or the president of the French Chess Federation Eloi Relange.
“Chess has seen in us a potential to capture new audiences, they support us 200%”, welcomes Guillaume Salançon, who estimates at “about fifteen” the number of clubs in France. “Boxing not yet but I think things will get done,” he hopes. “The community is growing little by little.”