Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

Discover the weird and wacky world of chess boxing, the fusion sport which creates an improbable pas de deux. Guest writer Adam Daniel Mezei meets Iepe Rubingh, the Dutch performance artist who is the enthusiastic promoter of chess boxing.

article summary —

We have come across some quirky sports in our time. Take Orkney’s peculiar version of rugby, called ‘The Kirkwall Ba’ on which we reported in hidden europe 6. Some time we want to check out elephant polo, zorbing and bossaball. The latter was big in Belgium during the summer, as the country succumbed to a passing craze for a sport that blends beach volleyball and trampolining. Add some loud music, and two teams of three to five players can have a wild afternoon. Bossaball is not the only fusion sport to hit the European circuit. Guest contributor Adam Daniel Mezei has been exploring the strange world of chess boxing.

He is a man of many names. But for now Iepe (pronounced 'e-pay') Rubingh, a thirty-two year old Dutch modern artist who calls the Mitte neighbourhood of Berlin his home, prefers to be called Iepe BT Rubingh.

Iepe is very intent on telling me that 'Iepe BT' is radically different from plain old 'Iepe'. And more besides... Iepe BT leans forward, and in a conspiratorial manner confides that Iepe BT is an entirely different man from Iepe The Joker Rubingh - yet another of the monikers by which Rubingh goes. Being an artist demands a plethora of personalities with names to match. It was Iepe The Joker who contrived to bring Berlin's traffic to a halt on a busy Friday evening in October 1999, by entangling a crowded intersection with sticky tape. Lots and lots of it. A few months later, he played the same trick in Tokyo, another intervention in the cityscape in the name of performance art.

Bemused, I recline into my ergonomically designed chair in Iepe's Berlin studio to ponder those two seemingly inconsequential letters - a B and a T - at the centre of his name. Looking over the young entrepreneurial artist's resumé of bizarre accomplishments following graduation from a Dutch university in the unlikely discipline of history, I realize this is no laughing matter. Iepe may spring a prank, but he is not a man to laugh at. This ultra fit and very engaging man is serious.

Iepe Rubingh is the force behind an intriguing new sport. Chess boxing! If you believe BT's view of life, all Europe will soon be going crazy about the game that might be won with a sharp left hook, and, if that fails, then there's still the option of a few crafty moves with a rook.

Hailed by its devotees as the 'biathlon of the 21st century', chess boxing melds the twin sports of boxing and chess in a "strong of body, stronger of mind" pas de deux.

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Adam Daniel Mezei is a Prague based writer and freelance journalist. Born in Canada, Adam has published two volumes of short stories: We are the New Auroras and We are the New Bohemians (both published by iUniverse). His work has also appeared in The New Statesman and The Prague Post. One of Adam’s short stories won the 2006 British Czech & Slovak Association’s essay prize.

This article was published in hidden europe 11.