Live Pitch: How About A Story on Chess Boxing?

BPP producer Dan Pashman tries to sell the rest of the show on doing a segment about a hybrid sport that combines chess and boxing. Tomorrow, checker wrestling, perhaps?

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MIKE PESCA, host:

Every day we here at the BPP have a staff meeting and we all pitch ideas for future shows. Call it a pitch meeting, if you will. Sometimes a pitch goes over well, which means we do it on the show. Other times, the reaction in the room is more like this.

(Soundbite of crickets chirping)

PESCA: And the weird thing is no one even brought crickets to the meetings. You know, sometimes we love the pitch. Then there's this third category where the producer is like a terrier with a bone, and he won't let it go.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: That was the case with this next pitch, and so, here's producer, Dan Pashman, pitching us. Go ahead, Dan.

DAN PASHMAN: All right, guys. I've got a great pitch for the show.

MATT MARTINEZ: Mm-hm.

PASHMAN: Ready for it?

IAN CHILLAG: Mm-hm.

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

LAURA CONAWAY: Roaring to start.

PASHMAN: You ready?

CONAWAY: Yeah.

PESCA: Let's go.

PASHMAN: Chess boxing.

MARTINEZ: OK.

PESCA: Those are two words?

MARTINEZ: Yes.

PASHMAN: All right, is that cool? Can we go ahead and book that? That's pretty great. Chess boxing.

MARTINEZ: No.

CONAWAY: At least it's got two syllables.

MARTINEZ: Well, what is it?

CONAWAY: If it were boxing chess, it would be alphabetical.

PASHMAN: Wait, you guys want more? You need more than just the fact that something exists called chess boxing?

CONAWAY: Yeah.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: I got a little research here. Let me...

PESCA: What's that stuff, content? Content.

MARTINEZ: OK, all right, all right. Yeah, yeah.

PASHMAN: Let me look at my papers here, all right?

MARTINEZ: Let's go.

PASHMAN: This thing actually exists. Chess boxing, it's a hybrid sport. It combines...

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: Boxing and chess in alternating rounds. Yes, they literally play chess at a chess table in the middle of a boxing ring, in alternating rounds of punching each other in the face.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PATRICIA MCKINNEY: I'm reporting incredulity from the control room.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Wait, does the table stay there or do they have to box around it?

PASHMAN: The table is removed.

PESCA: OK.

PASHMAN: They do not - there is a World Chess Boxing Organization, whose motto is, fighting is done in the ring and wars are waged on the board.

CHILLAG: Now, I know Caitlin was working on something where people played - they played "Sorry!" and then battled judo style.

PASHMAN: Right.

CHILLAG: So, this might be a little redundant.

PASHMAN: Well, that's a spin-off.

PESCA: And then there was one where they played "Battleship," and then battled with ships.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTINEZ: Yeah.

PASHMAN: Right, that's called actual war.

PESCA: That's called war.

PASHMAN: No, but it's funny because...

MCKINNEY: We don't want to do that.

PASHMAN: The concept of this was actually envisioned in 1992 by a graphic artist named Enki Bilal.

CAITLIN KENNEY: Oh, yeah.

PASHMAN: Imagine....

PESCA: Most good sports come from the minds of graphic artists.

PASHMAN: You remember Enki Bilal, and he had a match of chess boxing. It was a major plot point in his graphic novel, "Froid Equateur."

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: Now, then Iepe Rubingh, a Dutch artist, was inspired by that...

PESCA: Oh, a Dutch artist.

PASHMAN: And he brought the concept to life in the spring of 2001, fighting under the name, Iepe the Joker.

CONAWAY: To life.

PASHMAN: Now, all the way to today, and even just in July 2008, 19-year-old Russian mathematics student, Nikolai Sahzin, won the title of world champ in chess boxing by defeating Frank Stoldt in Berlin just this - just a couple of weeks ago. Stoldt resigned in the fifth round after losing his queen.

CONAWAY: So, there's a news peg, y'all.

PASHMAN: There is. That's what I want to peg this to, but you people keep making me stall and...

CONAWAY: You just, you know...

PASHMAN: Yeah, but...

PESCA: Now, they've got a computer that can beat a guy at chess. So they have a Rock'em Sock'em Robot to do the same thing with the boxing?

PASHMAN: That might be phase two, you know, but one of your points in the meeting, Mike, and I looked into this, you said, well, they must - they're probably not good at boxing or chess, but that's actually not true. World-class chess boxers are good boxers and good chess players. For instance, this guy that won the championship has an ELO rating of 1900, while European chess boxer champion...

PESCA: Now, why is the Electric Light Orchestra giving ratings to boxers? That's really what I want to know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PASHMAN: They are chess masters.

MARTINEZ: Dan, that was a valiant pitch. As the senior supervising producer of the Bryant Park Project, I am going to give this a go ahead for the week after next.

PASHMAN: All right. Woo hoo!

(Soundbite of slide trombone)

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: Dan not picking up on the subtleties, but we want to thank Dan Pashman. That - listeners, that is so close to what literally happens in all our meetings, and then Mark says something inappropriate.

(Soundbite of laughter)

PESCA: All right, next time on the show, Ted Leo performs live in BPP studios. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

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