Capturing Imagination: Pop Culture and Chess

Capturing Imagination: Pop Culture and Chess showcases 16 popular culture-inspired chess sets and related artifacts from the collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). With characters from fictional locations as varied as the fantastical land of Middle-earth and the prehistoric town of Bedrock, the sets show how creators have reinterpreted the game’s familiar pieces. Chess, with its two opposing sides and iconic pieces, lends itself well to telling stories about good and evil, as in the Marvel Characters set on view here. However, many of the others simply offer a chance to see beloved characters as royalty or pawns.

On view at The Lambert Gallery at St. Louis Lambert International Airport from May 17-November 4, 2018.

Sets Featured in the Exhibition

Sababa Toys/Sanrio, Hello Kitty Chess Game in Deluxe Collector Tin, 2004

Sababa Toys


Hello Kitty Chess Game in Deluxe Collector Tin


King size: 2 in.

Board: 3 5/16 x 12 x 12 in.

PVC pieces and tin board

Collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame

©1976, 2004 Sanrio Co., Ltd.

Made in honor of Hello Kitty’s 30th anniversary, this set features the titular character and her friends as adorable pieces, complete with rocking horse knights that actually wobble. As part of the anniversary celebration, Hello Kitty partnered with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to share profits from a line of anniversary products to benefit girls’ education programs around the world and to teach about gender discrimination in education. Designer Yuko Yamaguchi created Hello Kitty in 1974. The character soon appeared on a wide variety of consumer products, but her popularity exploded in the 1980s, when Sanrio made a concerted effort to adapt her appearance to market to older children.

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