I’m always trying to be creative with my sessions and come up with new ideas. This is not really a new idea, it is not really my idea either. Chess Boxing has been around for a while now. It is a sport that involves 11 x 3 minute rounds (Chess, Boxing, Chess, Boxing, Chess, Boxing, Chess, Boxing, Chess, Boxing, Chess). The contest is won by one of the athletes if they get a checkmate in a chess round or win by a stoppage, knock out or TKO during a boxing round. There are two other ways of winning. One is if the contest goes the distance than the athlete in the lead on boxing points wins. The other way is if the opponent runs out of time in chess. Each contestant has 9 minutes in total to make their chess moves, so if one contestant can make chess moves quickly, it means the other could potentially run out of time in the first 4 chess rounds.
I was fascinated by this combination of a physical martial art and an exclusively mental contest and came up with an adaptation replacing boxing with wrestling. There is a big difference between boxing and wrestling that impacts on the scoring system. Basically the first pin or submission will win the contest but there are no other scores, so if the contest goes the distance, it will be a draw.
Between coming up with this idea and actually being able to do my first Chess Wrestling match, it took a while to find an opponent on the session wrestling scene who could play chess. Eventually, I found out that She Hulk has played chess and so we agreed to have a match the next time she was in the UK or I was in her country. Chess is bigger in She-Hulk’s country than it is here in the UK so I was a bit wary of my opponent but still confident in my own chess ability. She did give me one condition which is that she would be playing as white. So for the next month or so she practiced on a chess app while I practiced playing as black on my computer. I figured that I would need to get a checkmate before She-Hulk got a submission. Each round being three minutes gave me a chance if I could hold out until the end. The date and venue were set – 21st September 2016 at MWM’s new Camden venue.
Chess Round 1
We travelled, met, changed and I set up the chess pieces and the chess clock was set to 9 minutes each. She-Hulk wore a sports bra and knee length gym bottoms. I was in athletics shorts and short sleeved light t-shirt. We wasted little time making our initial chess moves. I was hoping She-Hulk would stall and have to think for a while about at least one of her moves but she was quick thinking. We were both planning our options before the opponent had made their next move to try and cut down on thinking time. I did manage to put She-Hulk in check, with my Queen moving diagonally onto the left wing. However, She-Hulk threatened my Queen with a protected Pawn and I had to retreat.
Wrestling Round 1
No pieces were taken in the first three minutes. I stayed on my knees as long as I could backing off She-Hulk to use up as much of the three minutes as I could. She pounced and got me on my back and I pulled her in close to prevent her getting any leverage on my body. She tried a neck crank but I managed to move into a more comfortable position (relatively!) and held out for the three minutes, but had spent most of the round on my back.
Chess Round 2
We noticeably slowed up our moves in this round only making three moves each compared with six each in the first Chess round. I think She-Hulk was trying to distract me lying on her front with her feet crossed up in the air. Still no pieces were taken by either of us but our pieces were advancing up the board towards each other and there were a couple of squares becoming strategically important with a number of pieces ready to attack. As in the first round, it was She-Hulk’s turn to move as we approached the end of the round but she elected to run a few seconds off her clock and save the move for the next round rather than rush a move now.
Wrestling Round 2
She-Hulk was wise to me wasting time from the start of the round and she went straight for me looking to position me for a submission from the start of this round. She was on top and looking for an arm bar, but I could see what she was planning and made sure she did not roll over with my arm pulled between her legs. There was a scrappy effort to get me with a kimoura but the position was not set up cleanly and I was able to struggle out of it. She-Hulk tried a triangle, but I knew the clock was running out and stubbornly held on, adjusting position to make sure I could survive. The round ended and it was back to the chess.
Chess Round 3
She-Hulk was now totally concentrated on the chess board and took nearly a minute to make the first move of the round. I opted for quick moves so that more of this three minutes would come off her clock than off mine. Her last move of the round was the key move, as her knight moved to a position where it could take my Queen. For some reason I simply did not see that my Queen was in danger. In case you are unaware, the Queen in Chess is the most powerful piece on the board. I moved my Bishop instead. She-Hulk could have taken my Queen there and then but she hesitated and just looked at the board. I still did not realise the mistake I had made and even if I did, it was too late to save my Queen now. I guess She-Hulk thought there was some good reason why I might have been sacrificing my Queen. Maybe she felt I could checkmate her and win the game if she took my Queen instead of preventing a checkmate. I actually was not even in a position to put her in check. I guess a combination of being light headed from her triangle and making hasty moves in this round led to my mistake. She-Hulk let the clock run until the end of the round needing to be absolutely sure before taking the Queen.
Wrestling Round 3
She-Hulk could have won the contest in this round. She was on top, in the full mount and had options for an elbow lock or an Americana. She could have even moved up in position for a head scissors. She was content to keep everything under control in this round. She actually wanted the distinction of taking my Queen in the next chess round and so did not finish me off here. She was moving from position to position, almost for practice, just to know that she could put me into position to apply various holds, but without fully applying the holds. The round ended and I must admit I got a lot further than I thought I would and was still in this.
Chess Round 4
She-Hulk studied the board, smiled at me, reached for her knight and removed my Queen from the board. That totally threw me. Now I was in chess survival mode having to use up some of my remaining clock to prevent her swapping pieces with me now that she was clearly in the lead on the chess board. I took her Knight, she took one of my Knights and I took one of her Bishops, but she was a Queen to a Bishop in the lead and with good board position. The round ended with the first pieces being taken and me pondering on the error I made not moving my Queen to safety.
Wrestling Round 4
It took less than a minute for She-Hulk to finish off the contest, taking me to the mats and pulling me into a triangle and squeezing it home tight, it was perfectly executed and with a full to minutes of the round to go I was never going to be able to hold out. I tapped and She-Hulk raised her arms in victory. She had got the better of me on the chess board and made me submit on the mats. It was an excellent performance.
Despite being comprehensively beaten, I was very pleased. This session went much better than I thought. I could have been beaten in the first three minutes of wrestling. It could have turned out that She-Hulk did not have a clue about chess. In the end it was very exciting and the format gave me more of a chance on the mats and a real chance on the chess board. However, She-Hulk did the business, she was well prepared. A big thank you for She-Hulk for helping me live out this experience and to Cam for arranging the match at the MWM studio. I’m going to do more of these matches as well as think up some other crazy session types.
I’m Living the Dream