August’s Featured Chess Set is part of the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). The donors, Dr. Jack and Anitra Sheen, were neighbors of Peter Ganine, the artist who created it. Ganine was a Russian-American sculptor who not only created fine art, but also was a well-known designer of toys and chess sets. He patented one of his best-known designs—the rubber duckie—in 1949. Two of the chess sets he designed appeared on tri-dimensional chessboards in the classic television show Star Trek: The Original Series.
These elegant sterling silver and mahogany pieces are upscale versions of those in the plastic Conqueror chess set designed by Peter Ganine. Pacific Games Company, which was based in Hollywood, California, where Ganine lived and where a vibrant chess community thrived in the mid 20th-century, produced the set. The pieces feature solemn-faced members of a royal court whose expressions recall those on the pieces in his earlier “Gothic” chess set. In interviews, Ganine said that by giving the pieces emotions and personality, he wanted to challenge the supremacy of the tournament-style Staunton set, which is the subject of the World Chess Hall of Fame’s current exhibition The Staunton Standard: Evolution of the Modern Chess Set.