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Chess

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WHENEVER the subject of chess boxing is raised, most people immediately assume it's a joke.

What could a sport requiring brains and a good memory have in common with something so dependent on brute power and fancy footwork?

Quite a bit, it seems. In the last 10 years, chess boxing has developed a significant following around the world. Now a Canadian documentary filmmaker wants to produce the first major film on the topic.

The sport was invented in 1992 by Enki Bilal, a French graphic artist who featured it in his comic book. It took a Dutch performance artist, Iepe Rubingh, to bring it to life in 2003. Now the sport has its own federation, a world championship structure and a growing fan base.

Official matches are 11 rounds, and players alternate between playing a speed chess game and a round of boxing. Players break for one minute between rounds. Winners are decided either on the chessboard or by a knockout, whichever comes first.

The first national chess boxing championships of India were held in January, with 180 fighters from 10 states competing. The game is also popular in Britain and Germany. Competitors must be at least Class A players, though some masters and at least one grandmaster have competed in events.

Canadian filmmaker David Bitton of Montreal has spent the last three years doing interviews and shooting footage for The King's Discipline, a documentary on chess boxing. He focuses on three key figures in the chess boxing world, in Berlin, London and Los Angeles, to tell the history of the sport and to document its activities.

Bitton says that 95 per cent of the film is complete, but he now needs to go into post-production. He is using the crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help pay for music rights, stock footage and other editing costs he says will be needed to finish production.

Earlier this week, the project had 105 backers who had pledged more than $11,000. But Bitton said he needs a minimum of $35,000 to proceed. He has set a deadline of July 17 to achieve the goal.

Bitton doesn't have extensive documentary experience, but his idea might catch on with the cult crowd. He produced a previous film, called Parking Space, which is billed as a terror film about a man trying to find a parking spot. It played in 20 film festivals around the world.

To check out the project, go to Kickstarter and search for the The King's Discipline. And start working out on the punching bag in-between studying that opening theory.

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This week's problem: White to move and mate in 2 (Bettmann). Solution to last problem: White mates with 1.Nb3.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 29, 2013 D18

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