The sport of chessboxing is now 20 years old.

Today is a day of two 20th anniversaries: the birth of chessboxing and the creation of the (first) WCBO, the world federation taking care of chessboxing. Both these anniversaries will be celebrated in Riccione 2023, where the 5th WCBO Chessboxing World Championships will be held. On top of these two, in Riccione, a third 20th anniversary will be celebrated: on 14th November 2003 the first Chessboxing World Championship, in match format, was fought and the prize giving ceremony in Riccione will happen on 2nd November 2023, almost 20 years later. The event in Riccione is the kind of “democratic world championships” where everyone can enrol and compete: the competition is in tournament format where the winner of the match goes on, similarly to a tennis tournament or the FIDE World Cup.

But let’s go back in time to that day 20 years ago: 13th September 2003. That evening Iepe “The Joker” Rubingh fought, in Berlin, against his friend Luis “The Lawyer” Veenstra in the first ever chessboxing event. This “experiment” wanted by Iepe Rubingh, a sort of performance art, was so successful that, as said before, just over two months later, in Amsterdam, the two would fight the first ever chessboxing world championship. And then chessboxing became a true sport, with more and more national federations and clubs being created around the world. We expect the World Championships Riccione 2023 to make a record in both number of athletes and nations represented.

We thank the film producer David Bitton for supplying us with the photos accompanying the article. David has worked over 10 years to produce a wonderful film-documentary on chessboxing: Over ten years on: the film is finally done! Interview with David Bitton.

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