Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 13:30 UK

Boxers play chess in new UK sport

Chessboxing at Islington Boxing Club
Chessboxing championships have been held in Berlin and Amsterdam

Opponents compete over the chessboard then hit each other in the boxing ring in a combination sport being introduced to north London.

Chessboxing features alternate rounds of chess and boxing, with the winner decided by either knockout, checkmate or a judge's decision after 11 rounds.

The first UK chessboxing club has begun at Islington Boxing Club in Archway.

Founder Tim Woolgar said: "Boxing requires tactical thinking, a skill that is vital to playing chess."

We train at a high level to ensure competitors learn how to fully defend themselves
Tim Woolgar

Chessboxing originates from Berlin, where the world's first tournament was held last November. Championships have also taken place in Amsterdam and Cologne.

"I'm interested in both chess and boxing, so I went to one of the Berlin championships and thought they combined the two perfectly," said Mr Woolgar.

"Boxers need real strength of mind, which helps them compete in chess."

Competitors are given 60 seconds to remove their gloves as they leave the ring to sit or stand at the chessboard.

'Good exercise'

The UK chessboxing club opened last Saturday with seven members, aged between 24 and 37, and Mr Woolgar hopes to hold the first UK championship this summer.

"At the moment we are attracting boxers who want to play chess, but chess players who want to learn to box are also showing an interest," he said.

"Boxing is not a sport to be taken lightly, so we train at a high level to ensure competitors learn how to fully defend themselves."

Enzo Giordano, who runs the gym in Hazellville Road, believes the sport has potential.

"It's a good way to exercise your mind as well as your body," he said.

"Professional boxers learn how to switch from one frame of mind to another as they leave the ring, but it's not easy."

Mr Giordano said chessboxers would find it a challenge to match their opponent's skill in both disciplines.

"Otherwise a really good boxer, who is bad at chess, could knock everyone else out."

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