Europe's latest craze: Chessboxing

Chessboxing is a sport where competitors alternate playing chess and boxing, until there is a knock out or a check mate.

(CBS News) LONDON - Chessboxing is a hot new sport in Europe that is largely unknown on this side of the pond.

It involves 34 men, 64 squares and one ring -- and you have to see it to believe it.

CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips is in London is giving viewers a closer look at the game.

On one side of the ring, there's Andy "The Rock" Costello. You wouldn't want to be his punching bag.

On the other side of the ring, there's Nikolai "The Siberian Express" Sazhin, who never met a blini he didn't like.

They're both a new kind of fighter.

They don't just try to knock each others' brains out: They also use what's left of their brains. The two men will battle it out over the chess board, wearing headphones so they can't hear the crowd shouting moves. Then they'll box each other in the ring.

Chessboxing is 11 alternate rounds. It's three minutes of chess, followed by three minutes of boxing. You can either win by a knock out or by check mate, which ever comes first.

"I think the contrast of seeing two people playing chess and then hitting each other, either of them in isolation wouldn't be comedic," Costello said. "But when they're alternated it is (pretty funny)."

However, he stated it isn't funny when you're the one fighting. Costello is a 6-foot, two-inch, 210-pound former cop. He was also a child chess prodigy who played for his English county at the age of 10. Chessboxing is the sport he's been waiting for all his life.

"It's more fun if you're kind of doing the pounding," he said. "But there's no guarantee of that ... The pounder undoubtedly has more fun than the poundee."

The other fighter, Sazhin, is now a real estate agent in his native Siberia. He was on the Russian youth boxing team as a teenager. He's been playing chess for 10 years.

Costello and Sazhin were the headline bout on this card that drew an overflow crowd to this London venue.

This combination of sports defies the image that boxers aren't too smart -- at least not for long -- and that chess players aren't too tough. Here you better be both.

"Knight E4. Ooo that hurt," the announcer said over the speakers during the match.

That hurt Costello so much his only choice was to come out swinging. But, Sazhin was built to absorb a pounding and triumphed in the end with a checkmate.

"King, E3 and that's it!" the announcer proclaimed.

After the match, Phillips asked Costello the time-honored sports question: How do you feel?

"Disappointed," Costello said with a laugh.

The victor, Sazhin, said he felt like having a snack.

  • Mark Phillips, CBS News London correspondent
    Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips is CBS News senior foreign correspondent based in London.