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Sparring matches & championships

Whilst it is the improviser who’s put in the spotlight, several other essential players ensure sparring matches and championships run smoothly.

Championships throughout the seven provinces

The Basque Country National Championship 2009
the Basque Country National Championship 2009 (ICB - Maite Deliart)

  • Xi-La-Ba Northern Basque Country Championship (since 2008)
  • Championship of Navarre (since 1936)
  • Championship of Gipuzkoa (since 1959)
  • Championship of Alava
  • Championship of Biscay

Representatives from each province then take part in the Basque Country National Championship which is held every four years. This exceptional event brings together 13 000 improvisation enthusiasts  at the Bilbao Exhibition Centre in Barakaldo.

Organisation of sparring matches

Both the expression of improvisation and the audience’s interest can be seen through the sparring matches and championships where improvisers show their strong minds, humour, poetry and profundity. There are also many other people involved behind the scenes who play an essential role in organising these events.

The judges

The judges
The judges. The Basque Country National Championship 2009 (ICB - Maite Deliart)
Sitting apart and in a line at a table, the judges, concentrated, mark the performance of the improvisers after each exercise. And competition is synonymous with classification! This is the contradiction of improvisation because , as Jon Sarasua highlights: "improvisation and competition do not go hand in hand". This is why some improvisers don’t take part in championships  and prefer friendly sparring matches without a competitive sprit. However, the Basques do like challenges, and competitions attract audiences and make improvisation visible.

Moderators and leaders

The subject preparator generally works in a group which is responsible for choosing a sparring leader.

The moderator Joana Itzaina
The moderator Joana Itzaina (ICB - Jakes Larre)
The website of the moderator Unai Elizasu,, is a reference on the matter since it provides many different subjects and offers advice, namely with regard to the structure and formulation of subjects.

The subjects given to improvisers are very important since they directly influence their inspiration and the verses they improvise.

The sparring leader presents the match, directs it and ensures it runs smoothly. He or she therefore plays an essential role.

Joana Itzaina was part of the group which prepared the subjects at the 2009 Basque Country National Championship. She led at the quarter finals in Ustaritz. The Basque Cultural Institute has collected her story.

Bertsozale Elkartea (Federation of Improvisation Enthusiasts) organises training courses for future preparators and leaders because the "profession" of improviser is something that requires training.

Directory of Basque versified improvisers


Improvisers,  improvisation contest leaders, judges, contest organisers, improvisation competitions and championships, courses and improvisation resources, in the directory of The Basque Cultural Institute.