September’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 month’s featured chess set is a new donation to the collection of the WCHOF.
Created from carefully bent wire, the pieces in this set portray the pieces as elegant, energetic silhouettes. Born in Grand-Pré, Nova Scotia, at a young age Ayrton Robert Johnson moved to New York state with his family. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Agronomy at Cornell University, and he later earned a Masters of Arts in Education from the University of Rochester. After graduating, he taught high school chemistry in Ithaca, New York, until he retired in 1982. His daughter Cathy Spengler states that, “He was as much an artist by temperament as he was a scientist...Creating things was his primary pursuit and source of enjoyment outside of work, especially in retirement.” He created this unique chess set design while living for a year in Berkeley, California.