A superb series of bouts at York Hall saw the international Chessboxing season open at full throttle. Heavyweights Dan Chandler from London and Lars “Lazarus” Bjorknas from Finland provided the headline bout which went the full 11 rounds with the lighter Chandler using his extra mobility to edge the boxing side of the contest. On the chess board the advantage was firmly with the man from Helsinki up until round 9 when he inexplicably blundered a rook, failing to live up to his nickname in a most emphatic style. Indeed it was truly a “Lazarus-like” return from the dead for Chandler who duly converted the victory with 30 seconds to go in the final round.
The first bout of the night was another eleven rounder this time between old enemies Matt “Crazy Arms” Read and Chris “The General” Levy. This crowd pleasing battle was total war from the first bell with neither man willing to take a backward step. Blows were traded to the point of exhaustion in every round and yet somehow these two experienced competitors produced a memorable chess game full of excitement and verve. The General opened up a material advantage and by the final round was two pieces up. However his Kingside pawns were gone and Read was a full minute ahead on the clock. The bout ended in controversy with Levy claiming victory and Crazy Arms protesting that an illegal move had been made in the dying seconds of the time scramble. Video evidence on the night proved inconclusive and the arbiter awarded the win to Levy – levelling the score between these two and setting up the mouth-watering prospect of a final decider later in the year.
Sandwiched between these two exciting bouts was perhaps the best fight of the night in terms of boxing style at least with Lewis McLellan going against the Bristolian Mark Reed. Both men were in superb shape and boxed in sharp clinical bursts. It was practically impossible to separate them on points but McLellan was the first to make an error on the chessboard enabling Reed to gain decisive material. McLellan was unable to alter the direction of the bout from that moment and was finally checkmated in round 9. A fantastic debut from both chessboxers who were roundly applauded by a knowledgeable crowd. We will undoubtedly see more from both fighters in the future.