Chess boxing 象棋拳击

A glove and a chessboard Image copyright BBC World Service
Image caption Can an athlete be strong and smart?

Vocabulary: Boxing and chess 词汇: 拳击和象棋

Can you be brainy and brawny at the same time? The sport of chess boxing suggests you can.

The former boxing world heavyweight champion, Lennox Lewis, is keen to dismiss the idea that if you're muscular you can't be smart enough to succeed in a cerebral game like chess – a sport he's enthusiastic about. When Lewis's chess adversaries find out he used to box, they're certain they'll defeat him. "And when I beat them, they're upset", he says.

In chess boxing two competitors play alternating rounds of chess and boxing. After trying to bruise each other around the face and body, they remove a glove and continue the duel, sweating and panting, over the 64 squares of the chessboard. This continues until a winner is declared by knockout, checkmate or a points victory.

This unusual sport, which is taking off in countries as diverse as India and Germany, was created by artists. Dutch performing artist Iepe Rubingh invented it in 2003, drawing inspiration from the comic 'Cold Equator' by Enki Bilal.

The chess grandmaster Jonathan Rowson says that boxing is the sport which most closely resembles chess. "In part it's the purity of the competition," he says. "There is virtually nothing to mediate the one-to-one combat. Boxing has gloves, but there are no balls, no goalposts or racquets."

Rowson concludes that in chess, defeated players have nothing to blame other than their own lack of mental ability.

And a defeat can be crushing, according to the Russian former chess world champion Garry Kasparov. He described the boardgame as "the most violent sport there is", which aims to "destroy the adversary's ego".

Lennox Lewis doesn't go that far, but the love of chess helped him during his tough upbringing in London. He says it's all about strategy: "When someone calls you a name, you want to punch them out… but chess teaches you to think through the next moves".

So next time you see a muscular boxer, don't dismiss them as a simpleton. They might be able to hurt not only your face, but also your pride.