Boxing bouts where both opponents go to pieces

By Rob Virtue on October 8, 2012 1:34 PM |


After a tough day working in the office it's important to unwind.

Body, mind and soul.

Chess boxing puts the wits and fists to the ultimate test and Wharfer Bryan Woon can't get enough of the double challenge.

But it's not enough to pursue his passion in private - Bryan is putting his body on the line at his first high profile event.

In what is being dubbed the Battle of the Banks, Bryan, a capital markets associate for Citigroup, will take on Goldman Sachs' Sean Mooney in a bout at the Royal Albert Hall this weekend.

Bryan thrives on the tactical side of the sport so he's playing down his chances. But that doesn't mean he's dreading the showdown.

"When you go into the ring it doesn't matter what background you're from - you go in as equals and there's a lot of respect between the boxers," he said. "The chess, though, adds a real twist to it.

"If a guy has a clear advantage on the board he can afford to be defensive in the ring. Meanwhile, the other guy has to attack and is more likely to make a mistake."

Bryan, who is 27, took up boxing two years ago and so far in the more conventional form of pugilism he has won one and lost one.

He took to the alternative sport last March, when he was complete novice at chess.

"I had a fitness trainer who used to do some boxing moves with me and I really liked that so started doing boxing training," said Bryan. "Then I read an article on chess boxing so thought I would give it a go.

CS28982636chess boxer Bryan Woo.jpg

"I had virtually zero knowledge of chess before I began. I see it as a journey of improvement.

"There are many similarities between the two. A key difference is you can run in the boxing ring whereas on the chess board you can't."

His respect extends to his opponents' talents.

"Sean's very athletic," said Bryan. "In my past boxing fights I would have an advantage but he is an exercise machine.

"He's come along to the gym a couple of times but while he runs, I get the bus and Tube. He's a tough guy so I've been trying to step up my stamina training."

Chess boxing involves six rounds of the board game alternating with five rounds in the ring. The winner is the first person to secure a checkmate or to knock out their opponent. Unlike amateur boxing this battle of brains and brawn involves no headguards so participants have rigorous medical exams before.

"Word is spreading quickly. People keep saying to me, 'you've got to beat the Goldman guy', and I'm thinking 'how did you know that?'"

The fight, part of a four-bout event, takes place in the basement of the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday, October 10. Tickets start at £20. Go to

If you can't get tickets then you can still watch the bouts on Wednesday night on a live stream at


A fight consists of 11 rounds - six of chess and five of boxing

Each round of chess is four minutes, while each boxing round is three minutes.

Competitors have a minute between rounds to change their gear

Each competitor gets a maximum of 12 minutes overall on the chess timer

A win comes by knockout, check mate, running out of time on the board or, in the case of a tie, boxing points.