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.
Do you live in the Saint Louis metropolitan area and have a chess set with a great story? Submit it for inclusion in our Featured Chess Set project! This program highlights chess sets with interesting backgrounds borrowed from chess lovers and fans of the Hall of Fame. Featured chess sets are displayed for a period of one month at the World Chess Hall of Fame.
If you would like to participate in the program, send a photo and the story of the set to Emily Allred, Assistant Curator, at email@example.com.
January’s Featured Chess Set has been loaned to the World Chess Hall of Fame by Callie Pitt. She purchased it as a gift for her father, an occasional chess player, in 1999. She says, “I had no idea at the time how much chess would be a part of my life now.” Her son is enthusiastic about chess and currently takes classes and participates in tournaments at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.
Purchased at an open air market in Mali, this set is a treasured memento of Callie’s study abroad program in West Africa. She bought the set at the beginning of her trip. Consequently, Callie carried the heavy board and the fragile pieces wrapped in cloth in her backpack until her return to the United States at the end of the summer. Her father enjoyed the gorgeous hand-carved set’s decorative qualities, displaying it in his home.
Bernice and Floyd Sarisohn donated February’s featured set to the World Chess Hall of Fame. The Sarisohns share a passion for collecting chess sets, which began when Bernice gave one to Floyd as an engagement gift. In the years since, their devotion led them to be active members of Chess Collectors International, an organization founded in 1984 that brings together lovers of artistic chess sets and chess memorabilia. Their generous loans and donations have allowed the World Chess Hall of Fame to share a variety of wonderful sets with our patrons.
In this set, the kings bear scepters topped by the “hand of justice,” or a hand shown in a gesture of blessing, and the queens hold a scepter adorned with the fleur-de-lis, both symbols of the French monarchy. The pawns delicately hold roses, symbols of courtly love. Though made in the twentieth century, the set has stylistic features that date to eighteenth-century France—the substitution of fous (fools) for the bishop. The set was created in Limoges, France, a city known for its manufacture of hard-paste porcelain.
Bernice and Floyd Sarisohn donated March’s featured set to the World Chess Hall of Fame. The Sarisohns share a passion for collecting chess sets, which began when Bernice gave one to Floyd as an engagement gift. In the years since, their devotion led them to be active members of Chess Collectors International, an organization founded in 1984 that brings together lovers of artistic chess sets and chess memorabilia. Their generous loans and donations have allowed the World Chess Hall of Fame to share a variety of wonderful sets with our patrons.
This humorous chess set presents caricatures of well-known twentieth-century Russian leaders including Joseph Stalin and Vladimir Lenin, and alludes to the establishment of the Russian Federation after the Soviet Union’s fall. Each of the figures, which are shaped like Russian nesting dolls, carries a symbol of his identity. Mikhail Gorbachev, as the queen, holds the coat of arms of the Soviet Union, while Boris Yeltsin, the first president of the Russian Federation, bears a double-headed eagle, which he established as the new symbol of the nation.
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. Numbering over 1000, the collection 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.
Showing beautiful decoration and delicate weapons, this chess set depicts Chinese forces (in red) battling British forces led by King George III and Queen Charlotte. Manufactured in China for export to Great Britain, the creation of the set highlights the trade connections that developed between the nations in the early nineteenth century. The kings and queens stand atop elaborate puzzle balls, which feature concentric spheres carved in lacy openwork patterns.
May’s Featured Chess Set is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame. Since its creation in 1986, the World Chess Hall of Fame has endeavored to highlight the history and cultural significance of the game of chess. Our collection includes a number of antique and contemporary chess sets.
This game compendium, which is housed in a handsome wooden case, contains all of the materials for an afternoon of fun. Chess pieces, dominos, draughts, and playing cards are arrayed in a series of shelves and trays, ready for use in play. This compendium originally contained a board and now features some replacement pieces, evidence of its being a well-loved game set.
Mario Coronado loaned June’s Featured Chess Set to the World Chess Hall of Fame. A member of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Mario learned to play chess when he was a child. His sister Dani, who is studying art education at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, created this plaster chess set for him as a Christmas gift in 2012.
Cast in plaster from molds of familiar dolls and action figures, this chess set features the head of Luke Skywalker as the king and that of a Bratz doll as the queen. Other pieces are cast from the bodies of the toys, including a baby doll’s torso as the bishop and a chest as the rook. The pieces are pink and blue, the colors stereotypically associated with girls and boys. The artist’s memories of making her dolls date her brother’s action figures against his wishes inspired the theme for this playful set.
Representing the Revolutionary War battles of Lexington, Concord, and Yorktown, this set features Major General Lord Cornwallis leading British forces against those of the Americans, led by George Washington. Its creator, Studio Anne Carlton, was established in 1969 and is a well-known producer of a variety of themed chess sets. These include other battles, such as Waterloo, but also literary themes like Shakespeare and Sherlock Holmes.
Fourth grade students at The Saint Michael School of Clayton created August’s Featured Chess Set. The Saint Michael School of Clayton uses the Reggio Emilia approach to education, emphasizing exploration and multiple points of view, including that of the child. Each year the school chooses a theme for its curriculum; this year’s was: design, invent, play.
A visit to the World Chess Hall of Fame inspired the creation of this whimsical set. Colorful pieces depicting gods and goddesses invented by the fourth grade students at The Saint Michael School of Clayton. Each of the pawns is an attribute of the deities shown on the board. Along with the chess set, students created shadow puppets, a comic book, and bookmarks that tell the myths and stories of their characters. The students also made each of the tiles comprising the board themselves. The squares, painted in unconventional colors and patterns, can be rearranged, making the board customizable.
This month’s featured chess set was donated to the World Chess Hall of Fame by Robert Byrne, a 1994 inductee to the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. One of the few American players to qualify for the Candidates matches, Robert Byrne is also well remembered for his insightful writing as a chess columnist for the New York Times from 1972-2006. Byrne won the U.S. Open in 1960 and tied for first with Pal Benko in the 1966 competition. In 1972 he triumphed in the U.S. Chess Championship, earning a place in the 1973 Interzonal Tournament, where he took third place. He then competed in the 1974 Candidates Tournament, playing against Boris Sqassky. Between 1952 and 1978, Byrne played in nine Chess Olympiads, earning five team and two individual medals.
This set, possibly of Mexican or Filipino origin, belonged to International Master and U.S. Hall of Fame member Donald Byrne. Byrne is well-known for playing against a thirteen-year-old Bobby Fischer in the Game of the Century in 1956. A position from this game is displayed in A Memorable Life: A Glimpse into the Complex Mind of Bobby Fischer on a chess set once owned by Jack Collins. According to his brother, Grandmaster and fellow Hall of Fame member Robert Byrne, this was Donald’s favorite set. The image on the case, composed of mixed wood veneers using a technique called marquetry, depicts an unknown locale.
Marlott and Sheila Rhoades donated October’s Featured Chess Set to the World Chess Hall of Fame in memory of Gregory John Rhoades. In 1969, Gregory purchased the set in Seoul, South Korea, where he was serving in the United States Army’s Advocate General’s office. After his brother Gregory passed away in a plane crash in 1980, Marlott inherited this chess set, which served as a treasured reminder of his brother’s legacy.
Carved by hand from contrasting shades of soapstone, this chess set includes figural pieces wearing long robes. The rooks, rather than resembling European castles, are pagodas, tiered structures common in parts of Asia. Like Gregory Rhoades, many veterans serving abroad purchased sets like this one as souvenirs for themselves or gifts for friends and family. Though playable, the chess sets also served a decorative purpose.
Stay tuned for future featured chess sets!