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.
Our first “featured” set belongs to Saint Louis residents, Terrie and Martin Schweig and was a gift given to them by A.R. Gopal-Ayengar, whom they became friends with when he worked as a Kettering Research Fellow at the Barnard Skin and Cancer Hospital of Washington University from 1945-47. After his tenure at WUSTL, Dr. Gopal-Ayengar returned to India where he was appointed as Chief Research Cytologist at the Tata Memorial Hospital. In the early 1950s, Indian students who worked with Dr. Gopal-Ayengar came to Saint Louis to attend Washington University brought this chess set on his behalf as a gift to the Schweigs. Martin said that he used to occasionally play with the set, and eventually had it displayed at his home under a glass case.
This set is in the probable style of early Indian chess sets—elaborate and realistic in depicting the components of an Indian army. A rajah, with driver, was perched atop the tallest elephant with his “mantri,” or advisor, on an elephant to his left. This elephant was later replaced in European sets by a queen. These were typically flanked by elephants (later to become bishops), though in this case, they are camels with drummers; cavalrymen (later to become knights); and chariots or elephants, (later to become rooks or “castles”). A frontline of eight foot soldiers (pawns) completed each side.
This charming Christmas-themed set was donated to the World Chess Hall of Fame by Bernice and Floyd Sarisohn. It was created by Frank Mancuso, a member of the Chess Collectors International and was given as a gift to Floyd when he visited Mr. Mancuso’s home in California 20 years ago. Each piece is signed and dated by the artist. It’s vintage-looking shape and colors could make any “player” feel the nostalgia from holidays past.
Floyd Sarisohn is an executive member of Chess Collectors International, a group dedicated to the study and celebration of chess sets both ancient and modern. The group holds annual meetings in various cities around the world visiting private collections and museums. The Sarisohns have a large collection of chess sets and have graciously donated many of them to the World Chess Hall of Fame over the years. In the exhibitions Everybody’s Game: Chess in Popular Culture and Power in Check: Chess and the American Presidency, several of the sets shown once belonged to the Sarisohns. In addition, four sets in Power in Check are on loan from their current collection. His wife, Bernice, inspired their desire for collecting.