Antique Chess Sets
Antique chess sets can be great collectors items. The material and design will play a part in a sets value but so will its age and quality. If you're thinking about buying an antique chess set its worthing learning a but of chess history.
The game of chess and use of chess game pieces is thought to have originated in India around the 6th or 7th century AD when the history of chess began. Various chess game piece styles have been designed throughout history and often vary from region to region. Mediums such as wood, metal, glass, stone, as well as bone and ivory have been used to carve pieces and create these new styles.
It is believed that the original chess pieces from ancient India were similar to the ancient Indian Army faced by Alexander the Great around 327 BC. The Indian army was divided into 4 divisions.
- Foot Soldiers
This ancient army may well have influenced the very first styles of chess pieces. Sassanian King of Kings, Khusros II of 600 BC said " If a ruler does not understand chess, how can he rule over a kingdom?".
The oldest found authenticated pieces are made of Ivory and consist of a Shah, Vizier, War Elephants, Mounted Knights, and Soldiers. Is it possible that the first chess sets were designed to mimic ancient Indian battles?
After chess originated it spread to the Arabic middle east as well as northern Africa. During the seventh to eighth century Islam adopted chess and used their own style chess pieces. Names in English are as follows...
- Armed Horsemen
- Foot Soldier
When Islam adapted the games they changed the shapes of the pieces. The carving of figurines was discouraged at that time by Islam and therefore pieces were carved in block-like forms with no figurine characteristics. Wood and Bone were popular materials used for pieces. Elephant Ivory was also a popular material used for carving pieces.
It was then brought to Spain by Islam around the 9th century. It also was spreading to central Asia at that time. A couple of centuries later it began appearing in the British Isles, Norway, and Indonesia. As chess moved from area to area, each culture adapted it as their own by changing form and style.
The earliest versions of chess did not use the exact same rules as we have today and modern chess history probably does not start until Islam brought it to Europe.
Around the 10th or 11th century it is thought that the Isle of Lewis chess pieces appeared in Christian Europe. These were believed to be designed by the Norsemen of Norway and were made from walrus tusk ivory.
This is when the names were changed to represent the names found in a royal court. The names of the list of all chess pieces in English are six in total.
- Rook ( Represented by a Berserker Soldier in Lewis Style)
- Pawn (Represented by Soldier in Lewis Style)
These names stuck and are most commonly used. However, the style of the pieces themselves can vary from set to set. For example, the rook from the Lewis chess set is a form of foot soldier and does not look like the castle found in the Staunton style. Many people are familiar with the Isle of Lewis style especially after their appearance in the Harry Potter series.
The Charlemagne chess pieces originated in Italy and were created from African Ivory. Unlike the Isle of Lewis set, this set still uses elephants and chariots, however, it does use a queen instead of a vizier.
Both the Isle of Lewis and Charlemagne sets replaced the vizier with a queen. This queen is still used today.
In the 15th century during the Renaissance in Italy people began modifying the rules of chess. The pawn was allowed to move two squares on its first move. The bishop could now move the entire length of the diagonal. The queen was given free reign over the board instead of being restricted to one diagonal space. This was a major milestone because the rules of chess had not changed significantly since its arrival in Europe.
During the next five centuries conventional chess sets were very simple and made by working on lathes. The king and queen during this period were really only distinguished by height which keeps with the Islamic tradition. The bishop is shown as a shield. No knights remain and are more simply represented. The pawns look similar to a thimble and the rooks carry a strange bird-like shape. The Embriachi chessmen are an example of this style and made from bone and horn on a lathe.
In the 1700s English chess pieces began to change. By the mid-1700s the rook became a castle, the knight a horse's head, the bishop was given a miter, the queen was given a coronet, and the king was given a crown. Sets were made from bone with one side being stained black.
In the mid 1800s the standard Staunton chess pieces came into the picture. Endorsed by Howard Staunton, the set was made of boxwood and ebony. Chess continued to spread to other areas such as Germany and Russia and each culture designed pieces in their own style but Staunton set the standard and is still used today for tournament play. In fact, these sets are now the standard for tournament play. Next to the Isle of Lewis pieces, Staunton chess pieces are probably the most known style.
Chess piece names are now standard but that has not always been the case. The names of chess pieces have varied throughout history.
Names will vary from set to set especially when looking at theme sets and this can make the game more enjoyable. However, modern chess pieces can be mapped to their standardized piece name so that when you mention the name rook, for example, everyone know what you're talking about regardless of the specific set being used.
In modern times decorative chess sets have also become popular. They not only make playing chess more enjoyable but can also make a great decoratation for a coffee table, book shelf, wall table, or a number of other places in your home. There are many types of chess sets for sale but great chess sets are made of good quality material that will last a lifetime and can be passed down to children, grandchildren, or friends
Decorative chess game sets are designed in different materials, styles, and quality. Selecting one is kind of like looking for a piece of furniture or an art piece. High quality chess sets even have the possibility of going up in value over time.
Finding the perfect chess set is an enjoyable experience and there's not much to it once you know the basics. Wooden sets are traditional choices but sets also come in marble, glass, brass, leather, or even camel bone. Typically, the set material is personal taste..
A chess piece can be natural, single, double, or tripled weighted. Single weighted pieces can be as light as 15 grams and triple weighted pieces can be as heavy as 115 grams. If the pieces are naturally weighted then it depends on the material used for the pieces.
If you want a more standard and tournament regulation set then Staunton chess sets are the style standard. A tournament chess set also requires the pieces to be a specific size in relation to the board but in general, the piece and board relationship are personal taste.
Traditional wooden sets using standard pieces are perfect for many players. More advanced enthusiasts and collectors may be interested in heavier pieces with more detail that are hand carved or hand painted. Theme Chess Sets or novelty chess sets are also a fun option.
Although many sets used today still used old styles from hundreds of years ago, styles such as Art Deco and Theme sets are popular as well. Today sets exist in many styles, themes, and materials.
There's a good quality chess set out there for everyone regardless of your budget. Sets can easily be purchased online and then delivered directly to your door. It's safe, easy, and convenient.
Chess is is a game of history, art, and strategy. Few games can incorporate all of these characteristics in the same way that chess seems to do so naturally.