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.
Falconry Chess Set, 2007
King Size: 4 3/8 in.
Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame, gift of John and Vicki Swift
Vicki and John Swift generously donated this month’s Featured Chess Set to the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame. The pair met while John was the director of the Webster Groves YMCA, and they married 46 years ago. Vicki embraced John’s love of the sport of falconry, or hunting with birds of prey. Their shared passion for the sport has led them to collect falconry-related artwork like this chess set. The Swifts donated a second copy of this set to The Archives of Falconry in Boise, Idaho.
Artist Al Ross celebrates the history of falconry in this regal pewter chess set. Noble kings, queens, bishops, and pawns are depicted as falconers, while knights bear shields featuring images of bird of prey. A raptor perches atop a rook. Ross, an artist who created works with a variety of wildlife subjects, specializes in depicting birds of prey. His own experiences as a falconer since age 13 inspire these sculptures.
Duncan Ceramic Products
Ceramic Chess Set and Homemade Board, mid-1970s
Glazed ceramic and hand-cut fabric
Board: 30 x 30 in.
King size: 8 in.
Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame, gift of Bobbie Glass
Bobbie Glass donated February’s Featured Chess Set to the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). Glass received the exuberantly colored set as a gift from a friend while in high school. The set, along with its accompanying hot pink and bright red shag carpet board, is part of the collection of the WCHOF, which features a diverse array of sets from across centuries and around the world, illustrating how chess has evolved over the course of its over 1500-year history.
This set, drawing its theme from medieval courts, was created using molds designed by Duncan Ceramic Products, Inc. (now iLoveToCreate). 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.
The Husky Machine, November 2016
Machined and anodized aluminum, wood
King Size: 4 1/2 in.
Board: 21 1/2 x 21 1/2 in.
Collection of Husky Corporation
March’s Featured Set is on loan to the World Chess Hall of Fame courtesy of Husky Corporation. Husky has manufactured fuel dispensing equipment for 65 years and is based in Pacific, Missouri, which is in the Saint Louis metropolitan area. This set was designed with the same equipment and from identical materials used to create their fuel dispensing hardware. It was a commemorative gift for the 2016 shareholders of Husky Corporation.
This set repurposes industrial materials to create a set that is both charming and serves as a showcase for the products of its manufacturer. In the words of John C. Sever, Product Design Engineer for Husky Corporation, “One of my favorite features of this chess set is that each piece has some miniature machine functionality: the knight swivels on a live ball bearing race, the rook is spring loaded and can be ‘squashed’ by hand, the bishops incorporate an active thread that lets the player adjust their heights, and the pawns all include an external pipe thread that can be mated to the internal threads included in all the other pieces.”
Edward Lasker Chess Set, early 20th century
Boxwood, oak, birch, and walnut
King size: 3 1/4 in.
Board: 12 3/4 x 12 3/4 in.
Box: 7 7/8 x 5 x 2 1/2 in.
Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame
April’s Featured Chess Set is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). Since its creation in 1986, the WCHOF has endeavored to highlight the history and cultural significance of the game of chess. The WCHOF’s collection is diverse and includes sets once owned by legendary players, mass-produced sets with lively pop culture themes, antique ivory sets, travel sets, as well as chess computers. Through these artifacts, the WCHOF illustrates how chess has evolved through its over 1500-year history.
This simple chess set once belonged to Edward Lasker, the newest inductee to the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame. In 1914, Edward Lasker emigrated from Germany to the United States, where he soon became one of America’s top early 20th-century players. Lasker won five U.S. Open Chess Championships (1916, 1917, 1919, 1920, 1921), which were then known as the Western Open. In 1923, he challenged Frank Marshall to a match for the U.S. Chess Championship and narrowly lost, 8.5-9.5. Lasker also popularized chess through his books, which included Chess for Fun & Chess for Blood (1942).
Robo-Action Chessbot Toy Chess Set (Hero vs. Monster)
King size: 2 ⅜ in. (red), 2 ½ in. (black)
Chessbot Monster: 5 x 3 9/16 in.
Chessbot Hero: 5 ⅝ x 4 3/16 in.
3D printed plastic
Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame
Joe Larson, known online as the “3D Printing Professor,” created May’s Featured Chess Set, which is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame. As a child, Larson had a dollar store chess set with plastic injection molded pieces with felt on their bases. When the felt fell off of the bottom of the pawns, he discovered he could fit the tops and bases of the pieces together. The concept of a chess set with interlocking pieces would eventually influence the creation of Larson’s Robo-Action Chessbot Toy Chess Set (Hero vs. Monster).
In 2012, Joe Larson became fascinated with the field of 3D printing. He entered a series of design contests with printers as the award, and finally won one in a contest sponsored by Makerbot and Tinkercad. Larson says, “I made a sketch on the bus of a Voltron-like robot with the pieces of a chess set forming its body. Then I set to work implementing that design in 3D. It took a week, and many design changes, but finally I had a chess set like no other. I won the contest and my first 3D printer.” The set is comprised of interlocking pieces that form battling robots when assembled.
Dogs vs. Cats
King size: Dog 1 7/16 x 1 13/16 x 1 ¼ in., Cat 1 ⅞ x 2 ⅛ x ⅞ in.
Board: 18 ¼ x 17 ⅞ in.
Collection of Westchester Elementary
This month’s featured chess set is being shown courtesy of Westchester Elementary School in Kirkwood, Missouri. The school’s third grade classes use the game of chess as a means of learning about systems, or groups of interrelated parts that form a complex whole. Every year, each of the students learns how to play chess, and they take a field trip to the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis. Following the field trip, each student created his or her own chess set.
An important family event—the adoption of a pet—inspired Westchester Elementary student Claire T. to create this adorable chess set. Each of the pieces represents a different breed, color, or fur pattern of cat or dog.
- King: Golden Retriever
- Queen: Goldendoodle
- Bishop: Labrador
- Knight: German Shepherd
- Rook: Husky
- Pawn: Cocker Spaniel
- King: Calico
- Queen: Siamese
- Bishop: Rag Doll
- Knight: Red Tabby
- Rook: German Short Hair
- Pawn: Tabby
Hand Carved Chess Set
King size: 1 3⁄8 in.
Board: 7 9⁄16 x 7 9⁄16 x ½ in.
Collection of Emily Allred
July’s Featured Chess Set is on loan from the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame’s Assistant Curator Emily Allred. She has worked at the institution since 2013 and has curated or co-curated a number of exhibitions including Prized and Played: Highlights from the Jon Crumiller Collection; Jacqueline Piatigorsky: Patron, Player, Pioneer; A Memorable Life: A Glimpse into the Complex Mind of Bobby Fischer; Living Like Kings: The Unexpected Collision of Chess and Hip Hop; Battle on the Board: Chess during World War II; Her Turn: Revolutionary Women of Chess; and the current exhibition Open Files II: Celebrating 5 Years of Collecting.
The World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF) often collaborates with Chess Collectors International, an organization founded in 1984 and dedicated to the study and promulgation of the art and history of chess artifacts. Since the WCHOF’s founding in 2011, the museum has hosted two meetings of the organization’s Western Hemisphere group. Their passion for collecting has inspired WCHOF staff, and many, like Allred, have started their own collections. Allred’s sister bought this set while on a trip to Mexico, and gave it to her as a Christmas gift. The board for the souvenir set has an inscription with the name of its country of origin.