The World Chess Hall of Fame features a variety of chess sets throughout the year. These will highlight different chess sets in our own collection as well as chess sets owned by “friends” and chess lovers who have special stories to accompany their sets.
January’s “Featured Chess Set” is loaned to us by Saint Louis native Phil Natta. With a fascination for the game of chess and a love of collecting sets, Phil is a great friend to the World Chess Hall of Fame as well as one of our enthusiastic Gallery Attendants. After discovering one of these pieces in a house where he moved, he sought to locate the entire set. Searching antique shops, online sellers, and using friends to help seek them out, he has amassed all 32 pieces created between 1971 and 1978.
Produced by the Wheaton Glass Company of Millville, New Jersey, this complete set was a collector’s dream in the 1970s. Perhaps by coincidence, Avon began selling these after-shave and cologne-filled gifts during the time that chess became extremely popular due to Bobby Fischer’s win over Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship. A board was created in 1976 and was only awarded as a bonus to high-selling Avon Reps. In a 1973 Avon Representative Catalogue, the seller earned 15 bonus points for every bottle sold and the incentive read, “The Queen Decanter makes a winning gift for Father’s Day. In Öland or Tai Winds Aftershave, The Queen is Avon’s third decanter. Tell customers, ‘At a moderate $2.99, The Queen is smart strategy for a man who likes chess, or decanters or aftershave.”
Our “Featured Chess Set” in February was donated to the World Chess Hall of Fame by Saint Louis County residents Bud and Marlene Dale. The pieces, comprised of wood and masonry anchors, were a product of Ackerman Johnson Fastening Systems, Inc. of Addison, Illinois, where Mr. Dale was a sales representative for a number of years. Hand-crafted sets and boards like this one were presented as Christmas presents to the sales representatives by the company president, Gerald Hagel.
Ackerman Johnson Fastening Systems was purchased by Simpson Strong Tie Co., Inc. in 1995.
This month’s featured chess set was donated to the World Chess Hall of Fame by Dr. George and Vivian Dean. The Deans have been collecting chess sets together for over fifty years. Their collection numbers over 1000, and contains sets from many of the countries they have visited in their travels. The World Chess Hall of Fame showed many of the exquisite pieces from their collection in the exhibition Chess Masterpieces: Highlights from the Dr. George and Vivian Dean Collection, which was on view from September 9, 2011–February 12, 2012. The Deans also donated a Paul Morphy presentation style set to the World Chess Hall of Fame. It is currently on view in Power in Check: Chess and the American Presidency, open through April 21, 2013.
This lovely Islamic set features simple bands of decoration comprised of circles, dots, and lines. The abstract forms of the pieces evoke the soaring spires, minarets, and massive domes sometimes found in Islamic architecture. The avoidance of figural representation conforms to the belief that artists should avoid making figurative artwork, as creating forms was the work of Allah.
April’s featured chess set has been loaned to the World Chess Hall of Fame by a private collector. It was purchased at Rothschild’s Antiques, a store that operated for 43 years at a location at the intersection of McPherson and Euclid, near the World Chess Hall of Fame’s home in the Central West End in Saint Louis. The store received fame for its celebrity shoppers and being named the best antiques store in the country in 1974 by Esquire. Though the location at Euclid and MacPherson has closed, Rothschild’s is reopening at a new location in the Central West End.
This charming ceramic Renaissance-style chess set was created as a promotional item for a wine company in Florence, Italy. It features a regal court of figures led by a king with his hand raised, and a rearing horse as the knight. At the base of each piece is a space where liquor distributors could affix labels promoting their brand—this set features a sticker for D & D Wholesale Liquors in Reno, Nevada, but others sets have advertisements for companies in other states.