Winning the ChessBoxing Asian Championships and World Cup - Nongsha Angom
The gold medal winner in both, the World Cup, and the recently concluded Asian championship, Angom Nongsha Singh, is a man with many titles under his belt. He is also the broadcast manager for Chessbase for many years now. Although the journey was not a bed of roses for him, his perseverance and dedication led him to win laurels in many fields. We had the chance to interview the man after his recent win in the Asian championship and got to know a lot about ChessBoxing, his journey, future plans, and more.
For our readers, who might not immediately know what ChessBoxing is or its rules, let us give a brief introduction.
ChessBoxing, is an up-and-coming and popular sport, which was made by combining two different games: chess and boxing. A ChessBoxing match usually contains five rounds, stretching to seven rounds in the final match. Chessboxing is governed by the World Chessboxing Association and the World Chess Boxing Organisation.
Interview with Nongsha Angom.
IM Sagar Shah (SS):How and when did you decide to get into Chess Boxing?
Nongsha Angom (NA): The first time I came to know about Chessboxing was in the year 2018. It was a post regarding the 7th National Chessboxing Championship that I came across on a social media platform. However, it was only in the year 2020 that I decided to get into the sport.
SS: What is it about the sport that attracted you?
NA: The hybrid format, requirement of diverse skill sets, and its unique nature. I have been a martial arts enthusiast throughout my life and chess has always been a part of my life. So, it was natural for me to try the sport sooner or later.
SS: How did you train and get better at chess?
NA: I got help from Vikramjit Sir, Rahul Singh, and Arne Bracker for the preparation. The later helped me by making the ChessBase courses available. Training mostly included solving puzzles and playing practice matches.
SS: How did you train and get better at boxing?
NA: I was already an active Wushu player so boxing was a part of it. However, I got myself enrolled in a Boxing club "GTC Boxing Centre" to prepare specifically for the event. NIS Coach Riju Patar ma'am offered her help and guided me by making sure that I trained at least 3 times a day. The morning session was based on conditioning and stamina, the afternoon session was for strength building and the evening session was mainly sparring fights.
SS: Can you explain our readers the rules of chess boxing in brief. What according to you is more important - chess or boxing?
NA: Certainly! We know that the sport combines alternating rounds of chess and boxing. A chessboxing match typically consists of 5 rounds, with three rounds of chess and two rounds of boxing. However, the final match consists of 7 rounds, with four rounds of chess and three rounds of boxing. The rounds alternate between the two disciplines, starting and ending with a chess round. Chess rounds follow the rules of traditional chess. Participants have 4 and half minutes to play all the chess rounds and each round consists of 3 minutes, be it chess or boxing with 1 minute of break for transition. Boxing rounds follow the rules of standard boxing and the match can be won by knockout (a boxer is unable to continue), technical knockout (referee stops the fight due to safety concerns), illegal moves, checkmate, flagged in the chess timer or by a judge's decision based on a combination of points from chess and boxing rounds.
Regarding what is more important, well the significance of chess or boxing can be subjective and depends on individual perspectives. However, it's worth noting that both chess and boxing play integral roles in the sport, and proficiency in both is essential to succeed in chessboxing. The importance of each discipline may vary depending on factors like individual strengths, match circumstances, and personal strategies. In chessboxing, finding a balance between the mental acuity of chess and the physical prowess of boxing is crucial to achieving success. Participants must be competent in both aspects to excel in this unique sport.
SS: Can you tell us about your gold medal winning victory at World Cup? Where and when it was held and who were the players you defeated.
NA: The World Cup was held in The Circle Club, Kolkata. Winning the final Gold medal bout was very unreal. It was the toughest fight for me compared to all the bouts I played in the event. My opponent was Jimmy Joy from Canada who is also an International handball player, he landed all the way from Croatia to take part in the event. During the second round of boxing, we exchanged a lot of punches and for a moment I thought I won the round as my opponent was bleeding due to a cut in his lips. However, the fight was resumed after a quick stop and I got punched on the left side of my forehead, resulting in a quick blackout for a second. I absorbed it quickly to get back and stick to my strategy. He blundered his bishop during the 3rd round of chess and I was able to capitalize on it and convert it later.
SS: Can you tell us about your gold medal winning victory at the recently concluded Asian Championships?
NA: I was carrying a small injury from my World Cup fights, and also I was very low in energy before the fight. However, I knew that it was a now or never moment. My opponent was the reigning World Championship silver medallist and also 6 times National Gold medallist Ayush Kundar. I have seen him fighting earlier and also had a conversation in the opening ceremony without knowing that we were in the same division. I knew that if I can balance my mental state and get in the zone then I can do it. Meditation and talking with my coach before the round really helped me and I won the match by checkmate which was also the last match of the event.
SS: What is your feeling about the state of chessboxing and what do you see as the future of the sport?
NA: Chessboxing has gained attention and popularity since its inception. While it is still a relatively niche sport, it has attracted a dedicated community of enthusiasts and participants. Chessboxing events, championships, and clubs have emerged in various parts of the world, showcasing the sport's growth and appeal. With over 20 registered countries now the future of chessboxing holds potential for further development and expansion. The unique combination of mental and physical challenges offered by chessboxing, coupled with the growing interest in unconventional sports, suggests that chessboxing has the potential to continue its growth and become more prominent in the sporting landscape in the years to come.
SS: You work as a broadcast manager for ChessBase. How has that role helped you to pursue your improvement in chessboxing?
NA: A lot! First of all, I sit before the screen for 6 straight hours 5 days a week, looking at 1000 chessboards each day. Since my shift starts from 12:30 I get the first half and also the second half of the day for preparation. The 2 off days a week are an add-on. Being a family member of ChessBase I get access to all the Chess materials available which is very helpful and the main thing is the team I am working with. They are very supportive. To sum it up, it was difficult to make it through without the support of ChessBase.
SS: To whom would you like to dedicate these victories? And who are the people who have helped you in your journey?
NA: I would like to dedicate this win to my mom who passed away in 2018 and my dad who passed away recently in January 2023. I was lucky enough to come across a lot of great minds and people in the process. Sagar Sir for showing me the path and giving me this career opportunity. He has a huge role in my second innings. I still remember our conversation from Goa in 2019. While walking during one late evening he asked me about my purpose and martial arts at length. At that point I was clueless but now it is making sense. There are mentors like Dr. Anupam Deka, Anku Sir, Shakil Sir, Riju Ma'am, Rahul Singh, Viramjit Sir, Chingkhei Sir, my friend Shahid Ahmed, Padmini Rout and so many more who have always been there when I needed them, without even asking for. I am grateful to each and every one of them.
SS: What are your future plans in ChessBoxing? And what is your advice to budding talents who want to take up this sport?
NA: My next target is to play at the World Championship in Italy from 28th October 2023. I need to seek for sponsors to support my participation in the event.
For budding talents, I would like to give my advice on 7 points:
1. Develop a strong foundation in both chess and boxing.
2. Find a supportive chessboxing community or club to train with.
3. Engage in regular cross-training to improve physical fitness and mental agility.
4. Seek guidance from experienced chessboxers or trainers.
5. Participate in amateur events to gain experience and exposure.
6. Prioritize rest and recovery to avoid burnout or injuries.
7. Enjoy the process and have fun while challenging yourself.