For many players, the wildest chess variant they will ever try is speed chess. Some amateur-but-serious players actually wear ties to matches, presumably for some good reason. Almost the whole of this crowd would argue that the rules of chess, which have hardly changed at all since about the year 1800, define the only kind of chess there is, perfectly, and anyone who tries to alter them is little more than a barbarian.
However, our monkey-like nature impels us to always look for something new, better, and perhaps more enjoyable. Kids, visionaries and lunatics have all tried different variants of the game of chess over the years, and why not? If it isn’t fun to play, after all, none of us would be doing it. Unusual board shapes, made-up pieces and certainly Chess960 are all interesting, but there are at least two other ways people have taken the classic game to a new level.
Have you ever felt like beating the living daylights out of your opponent? Don’t feel too guilty, many people have this experience. In fact, there’s now an entire sport dedicated to this, complete with annual world championships.
In chess boxing, you’re allowed to take revenge for a cleverly captured pawn by whacking your opponent in the face. As in normal boxing, each round lasts 3 minutes, with chess and boxing rounds alternating – talk about thinking under pressure. You can win by knocking out your opponent or hurting him badly enough for the referee to stop the fight, a checkmate or resignation, or having him run out of time (each player gets only 9 minutes total for the chess portion).
Amateur boxing rules apply, meaning that padded helmets are worn, but it is still very much a full-contact sport. During the chess rounds, which take place in the center of the ring, players wear special headphones to prevent the crowd from distracting them.
Chess boxing is certainly not for everyone: not only do you need to be physically fit and proficient at both chess and fighting, you have to train yourself to switch between an adrenaline-fueled frenzy and intense concentration within seconds. The ladies, or a few of them at least, will be glad to know that female chess boxing competitions are also held.
Chess Massages and Spa Treatments
Most of us will agree that thinking a few moves ahead is much easier when you’re relaxed. Yet, in a competition setting at least, everything from the lighting to being on the clock works against maintaining a tranquil frame of mind.
Hours of sitting still constricts blood flow, few people enjoy being at the center of a crowd, and the stress inherent in taking part in an activity where the only probable outcomes are winning or losing all contribute to muscular tension.
Vladimir Kramnik specifically gave credit to his massage therapist, and some of these professionals actually accompany national teams. Massages during actual play aren’t currently allowed, but the rules don’t seem to forbid a player dragging the best massage chair he can afford to a tournament, as long as it works silently.
Several spas, meanwhile, have embraced the idea that combining two relaxing activities is a good idea. Particularly in Hungary and the rest of Eastern Europe, it’s common for people to play chess while soaking in hot springs. This, ladies and gentlemen, is how it’s meant to be played!