In every chessboxing fight – in addition to the boxing referee – you will see a chess referee, who makes sure that the chess is played according to the rules. We are proud to announce that Pekka Simula has accepted this very important role.
How long have you practiced chess and what brought you to it?
My father taught me to play when I was around six. I guess I practiced enough with my parents to do pretty well at my school's chess champs when I was eight. That gave me the courage to join my school's chess club, greetings to Juha Montonen! Later I then joined the local real club, MatSK. I was a pretty active player for some ten years but since my graduation 20+ years ago it's been sporadic.
What is the difficult in being the chess referee?
Honestly, this is my first go as a chess referee, so we will see. The referee's role is somewhat easier in chessboxing compared to a regular chess tournament as you can focus on just one game at a time, instead of dozens of games simultaneously. In a chess tournament, once the referee is called for, it can be difficult to figure out what actually happened in that specific game. The biggest challenge for me as a chessboxing referee might be that while I'm used to watching chess games thinking "what would I do next", now I'll need to focus on "do the rules require me to interfere." In chessboxing, the referee's role is more active than in regular chess. For instance, the referee shall warn a player for playing too slowly. Even the chess referee can give a player the ten-count!
How on earth did you end up as the chess referee in a fight night?
I know the main organiser, Tero Weckroth, who happened to know I've played chess. He asked me if I was interested in this kind of an event. How could one say no to such a unique opportunity.
How well are you familiar with boxing?
Practically not at all. I took a couple of friendly rounds in the army with someone who instructed and advised me. I was surprised about how tough it was physically (not meaning the punches I received).
What do you think of chess and boxing in the same combination sport?
Chessboxing is an excellent combination, as it helps to remove the stereotypes associated in both sports. Boxers are not brainless mountains of muscle, and chess players are not skinny nerds.
What do you think of the current state of chess in Finland?
Chess has never been big in Finland. It's probably still not possible to be a professional chess player in Finland, and in order to reach the top internationally would requires immensely hard work just like in any sport.
What are your expectations for chess level in the forthcoming event?
We will see total misses also on the chess board. An experienced chess player could criticise the misses in the chess game by saying "I'd beat them left-handed" but one should not underestimate the impact of physical exhaustion on the ability to think clearly. This is well known to all of us who do orienteering. When the fighters get tired in the later rounds they will have to focus on avoiding mistakes on the chess board and forget about complex tactics. One big mistake and you immediately lose the entire match. In short, such critics could answered: Try it yourself, get in the ring!
Do you want to add something?
Some years back we tried chessrunning with Jari Ihonen, based on the same idea as chessboxing, by adding rounds of running in between the chess moves. It would be fun to evolve that idea further. In that first attempt our rules emphasised too much on the running, or at least I felt so because Jari was in an excellent shape. I'd still hope to give it another shot with further tuned rules.
Interviewed by Tero Weckroth
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