Through the Featured Chess Set project, the World Chess Hall of Fame showcases a variety of chess sets throughout the year. These include highlights from the institution’s collection as well as chess sets owned by Saint Louis metropolitan area 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.
Ryan Morgan loaned January 2016’s Featured Chess Set to the World Chess Hall of Fame. Morgan learned to play chess from a childhood friend, but began playing the game more regularly after enlisting in the Navy. There the game served as a means of passing time. Morgan soon started a collection of chess sets from the locales where he traveled.
In the course of his service aboard the USS Oak Hill during the Operation Enduring Freedom deployment, Ryan Morgan purchased this set. He located it in a local market in Manama, Bahrain, on June 17, 2002. This was the first port of call after three months straight of being on the water. During this stop, he was determined to find a set to add to his collection, as he realized that it might be his last chance to purchase another addition before returning home.
February’s Featured Chess Set is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). In this playful decorative set, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse lead armies of beloved Disney characters. Donald Duck wears a jester’s hat as the bishop, an allusion to how the piece was once known as the fool in France. Goofy represents the knight, while Daisy Duck tops a castle turret as the rook and Pluto appears as the pawns. Mickey Mouse made his debut in the 1928 film Steamboat Willie, and has since become one of the best-known cartoon characters worldwide.
Muffy VanderBear and Hoppy VanderHare play a game of chess using a whimsical set, which features anthropomorphic animals. On Muffy’s side, the characters hold acorns, listed as signs of strength on the packaging, while Hoppy’s have carrots representing fortune. The North American Bear Co., Inc., a producer of collectible teddy bears and dolls founded in 1978, created the set as well as the charming players.
Created by cartoonist Charles Schulz, the comic strip Peanuts ran in newspapers for nearly 50 years from October 2, 1950, to its last on February 13, 2000. Peanuts followed the adventures of Charlie Brown and the “Peanuts gang.” This set alludes to a few of the famous characters’ attributes. Charlie Brown is dressed in baseball gear, a reference to his management of a baseball team that included his friend Lucy and that had a lopsided losing record. Linus holds his security blanket while Sally clutches a valentine for that says “sweet baboo,” her nickname for her crush, Linus.
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, their 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.
Made in Geislingen, Germany, this ivory chess set depicts bust-length views of members of a royal court. Each figure is pictured atop a decorative petalled base, and four wear fashionable fabric hats. These pieces were once more brightly colored, which is evidenced by the traces of stain in the grooves carved in horses’ manes and the figures’ clothing. Due to stylistic similarities with those created in the ivory-carving center of Dieppe, France, sets of this style were once believed to have been created there.
June’s Featured Chess Set is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame, a donation from Barbara and Bill Fordney. Bill is a longtime member of Chess Collectors International and has been the organization’s treasurer since 1996. Inspired by his lifelong love of woodworking, a hobby he shares with his wife Barbara, Fordney now focuses on obtaining turned wooden sets, though his collection also includes sets of other types, like this ceramic Playing Cards Chess Set.
This chess set is inspired by playing cards, which like chess pieces feature a royal court, though here a mischievous jester takes the place of the rook. Duncan Ceramic Products, Inc. (now iLoveToCreate) designed the set. Founded by Erma Duncan, an artist with a passion for ceramics, the company was incorporated in 1955. At the time this set was designed, the company sold ceramic products for hobbyists, including molds, and established a national training program for ceramics teachers. Perhaps due to the rising popularity of chess in the United States during the era, the company copyrighted at least six designs for chess sets between 1965 and 1973. Hobbyists could customize the sets with paint or colorful glazes.
July’s Featured Chess Set is shown courtesy of April Baker. Baker is an artist who learned to play chess from her father as a young girl, and she enjoys teaching the game to others. Inspired by a visit to the World Chess Hall of Fame, Baker created a series of chess sets, which includes the one on display here. Having suffered from a broken wrist that prevented her from painting, she chose to use industrial materials like the ones used to compose this set, as she could easily roll them together despite her injury.
Created from a variety of metal fasteners, Royal Parts evokes the forms of traditional chess pieces as well as the attributes of the figures they represent. The knight piece includes a threaded insert, usually utilized for plumbing, which reminded Baker of the texture of chainmail. Where possible, Baker used parts manufactured in the United States. She also took special care to source materials that would not be harmful to players or the environment.
August’s Featured Chess Set is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame. Since its creation in 1986, the WCHOF has endeavored to highlight the history and cultural significance of the game of chess. The WCHOF collection is diverse, including sets once owned by legendary players, mass-produced sets with lively pop culture themes, antique ivory sets, travel sets, as well as early computer chess sets. Through these artifacts, the WCHOF illustrates how chess has evolved through the course of its over 1500-year history.
Rooks represented by umbrellas evoke the sun and heat of summer, while the soda bottles offer the promise of refreshment in this fun set produced by The Coca-Cola Company. In it, Coca-Cola opposes Coca-Cola Light (Diet Coke). The latter beverage was launched in the United States on July 9, 1982. This chess set is one of several produced by The Coca-Cola Company in the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame. Others include a simple wooden set created for members of the military during World War II and a holiday-themed chess set featuring Santa Claus and polar bears.
In September 2016, the World Chess Hall of Fame (WHCOF) celebrates its fifth year in Saint Louis with the opening of three exhibitions. The WCHOF has a long history, spreading over 30 years and four locations. Founded in 1986, it was originally known as the United States Chess Hall of Fame, and its first physical location opened two years later in New Windsor, New York. This chess set, board, and clock date from the first induction ceremony for the United States Chess Hall of Fame.
Rivals and fellow members of the first group of people inducted to the United States Chess Hall of Fame, Reuben Fine and Samuel Reshevsky played a game with this set and board in honor of the first inauguration ceremony. This celebration was held at the 1986 U.S. Open Chess Championship in Somerset, New Jersey. Fine and Reshevsky frequently competed against each other during the United States Chess Championships of the 1930s and 1940s, and this game represented their first meeting over the board in many years.
October’s Featured Chess Set is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame. Since its creation in 1986, the WCHOF has endeavored to highlight the history and cultural significance of the game of chess. The WCHOF collection is diverse, including sets once owned by legendary players, mass-produced sets with lively pop culture themes, antique ivory sets, travel sets, as well as early computer chess sets. Through these artifacts, the WCHOF illustrates how chess has evolved through the course of its over 1500-year history.
Witches, cats, ghosts, bats, and other spooky creatures creep across the board in this Halloween-themed set. The unique handmade game has wooden Staunton-style pieces, which have been partially or fully covered in clay and painted. The board has also been hand painted, and each of its squares bears a different eerie image including a witch’s cauldron, a demon, and a dancing skeleton.
Leslie E. Wylie created November’s Featured Chess Set. The set, modeled after one once owned by George Washington, is one of a number of recreations of sets possessed by famous individuals that Wylie has made. His sets blend his passions for woodworking and chess, which he has played since the age of eight. Wylie has made pieces as diverse as a replica of a 600 CE shatranj set and a 20th century-set designed by artist Max Ernst. Along with the sets, Wylie makes their boards, in this case from a recycled frame from a thrift store.
George Washington, the first American president, lent his name to the famous style of chess set on view here. Though the style existed before his presidency, the fame of his personal set, which serves as the model for this one, led it to be renamed. Washington enjoyed chess, and the artist John Trumbull once drew a pen and ink sketch of him with General Israel Putnam in military uniform, seated at a circular table, playing the game.