Wednesday, October 08, 2014

The Great Chessboxing Swindle: said goodbye to the circus

There's another chessboxing event in London this Saturday. You can look up the details yourselves - you won't miss much if you don't. Basically it's the same clowns in the same ring as it usually is.

Well, not quite the same. The same except one. One in particular.

They've been keeping quiet about it at the Swindle but they wouldn't be the first novelty act for whom the wheels came off when they went on tour. It all went wrong last August in Exeter when the freak show turned out to be more than normally freaky.

As we've commented here before, a proper sport doesn't usually feature the promoter fighting his fortysomething mate, as has been the case on any number of occasions at the chessboxing circus, like the one on display below.

Nor, for that matter, do the competitors normally serve as timekeepers. But those are relatively small details set next to the rather bigger matter than timekeepers do not normally clobber the referees and break their jaws.

So Tim and Andy aren't really mates any more. Andy and Rajko, even less.

As it happens Andy Costello has managed to avoid prison for this particular assault. I confess I was under the impression he'd actually been sent down* but apparently not. I guess I'm surprised given that it's not the first time. Still, Andy will have been relieved and who can blame him.

I imagine he'll now become a non-person as far as the chessboxing circus is concerned, but those of us disinclined to convenient amnesia are well aware that he was no marginal figure but a central player in the show - as witness the clip above. And if the part he played was a disreputable part, then that's because it's a disreputable show.

I mean who's surprised? Nobody is surprised. That's the kind of show it is. And that's why the ludicrous events in Exeter, with a timekeeper breaking the referee's jaw, should have marked the end not just of Andy Costello's time in chessboxing, but of the whole pitiful farce.

[*Thanks to the news desk at the Exeter Express and Echo for helping me out on this]
[Thanks also to Angus French and Gerard Killoran]

[Chessboxing index]


AngusF said...

Presumably, since he is standing to be the ECF's FIDE Delegate, Malcolm Pein will be attending the ECF AGM this Saturday in Birmingham in preference to the Chess Boxing in London.

Jonathan Rogers said...

I share Justin's surprise that the prison sentence was suspended. Normally this happens only when there is a particular need to show mercy, eg where the defendant is the sole carer of young children, and even then most judges would probably refuse to suspend the sentence for an offence of violence. Bizarre!

Anonymous said...

The Wisdom of Salomonsen ...

Judge Erik Salomonsen: "He may have been annoying, who knows?"

Heh. Its pretty safe to assume that Rajko was being annoying.

ejh said...

No doubt, but even so, a broken jaw is pretty rough in any circumstances.

The real point is that the chessboxing circus, Ratko and all, knew very well that Andy had form in this regard but it didn't stop him being a major part of their act. Nor, after the Exeter events, did they trouble themselves to announce that anybody was suspended pending the outcome of the court case, as any proper sport would have done. Let alone one that's supposed to be a cross between Magnus Carlsen and Denzil Washington in Ghost Dog.

Im not terribly disappointed that Andy didn't go down, since I'm not a great advocate of banging people up. That doesn't mean I wasn't surprised.

By the way, could I remind commentors that entirely anonymous contributions are not encouraged?

Andrew Gelman said...

What irritates me about chess boxing is how, even if it were a legit sport, it has no logic to it. It's just an arbitrary mix of two different sports with no real connection between them.

In contrast, chess running (Turing's "around the house chess") has a strong internal logic: the running takes the place of the chess clock. The faster you run, the less time your opponent has to think, etc.

I get annoyed because whenever I bring up chess running, someone will say, "Oh yeah, that's like chess boxing, I've heard of that, hahaha"--completely missing the point!

Rob Thompson said...

I feel like I should go some way to defending Chess Boxing in general, though obviously Andy's latest conduct was unacceptable.

I'm originally from Devon, and have boxed at Andy's club. I even gave him some chess coaching after sessions. Through all of this, I had no suggestion that he remained someone who would commit these offences. He was open about his past, and had appeared to move on and rebuild his life.

I am generally of the opinion that once a person has served punishment for their crime, it should be considered accounted for and not something to be an eternal black mark. In this context, I don't think it was ridiculous for Andy to be involved in chessboxing.

ejh said...

For sure, the issue for me is what chessboxing is much more than whether Andy Costello should be working for them or anybody else. Man's gotta eat.

Comment Moderator said...

[We've received the following comment which we have slightly edited - CM.]

Hi Justin - it's Andy Costello

With regard to the sentence the guidelines put me on the border of a custodial. In my favour was the fact that a single blow was struck under provocation. (Raijko was screeching and prodding me with a chastising finger when I lashed out in a moment of madness.

I think that you're clutching at straws with a few of your points. I did fight a demo with Tim - carrying him through it - after a bout was cancelled at late notice. That happens a lot at fight shows.

As you point out, I have previous. But if that should preclude a chap from participating in an activity as inconsequential as Chessboxing then there wouldn't be much left in this world for him to do, would there?

I bitterly regret the incident, but some of my remorse has been negated by Tim and Raijkos subsequent behaviour.

[We've deleted a small section here since we don't have access to the facts concerned - CM.]

With regard to the sport itself it has two merits:
1) It offers a practitioner coming from one or other of the disciplines the opportunity to balance himself out. A lot of chess players lack confidence in their physicality, and conversely some 'meatheads' lack confidence in their intellect.

2) As a spectator sport it's funny. Funny in the same sense that a monty python sketch is funny. I suspect that that was always the intention: comedy with a straight face. It works as a live event in front of a friendly audience, but that's pretty much the extent of its potential.

It hasn't caught on. Soon it will no longer be a 'novelty' story in the media. When they tire of it I suspect that Tim will too. Ieper - the Dutchman who invented Chessboxing - has already moved on.

It's been fun, but Chessboxing was a distraction from mixed martial arts - the more serious sport where I earn my living. It was time to move on, although I would have preferred to have done so under different circumstances.

The Great Chessboxing Swindle was hilarious and infuriating in equal measure, and I always enjoyed its astute commentary.