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 our own collection as well as chess sets owned by friends and chess lovers who have special stories to accompany their sets.
May’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 set is part of the museum’s permanent collection.
This colorful set was created by Etsy seller Liz Fischer of Forest Gnome Studios. Originally from rural Washington but now residing in Texas, Fischer creates handmade game pieces and quilted board games. Her mother was a quilter, and she taught Fischer to sew. Her first project was a quilted checkerboard. After her mother’s passing in 2016, Fischer designed art pieces in her old art studio.
Made of resin pieces cast from hand sculpted models, this chess set resembles common mushroom types found in forests. They include: button mushrooms (pawns), chanterelles (rooks), honey fungus (knights), morels (bishops), toadstools (queens), and amanitas (kings).The two sides represent warm and cool colors. The board is made from upcycled fabric.
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 set is part of the museum’s permanent collection
Hopping on to the board are these adorable 3D printed pink and purple chess pieces disguised as bunny rabbits. This chess set provides an egg-cellent opportunity to play the old game with a fun and new shape. The pieces are topped by crowns resembling the tops of traditional chess pieces.
Becca Crooks of TrixtrDesign created this chess set. During the earlier part of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crooks searched for a new hobby and stumbled upon 3D printing chess sets. Crooks’ first creation was a snowman chess set inspired by her mother’s love of snowmen. The set received positive reactions, and Crooks started designing more sets such as the teddy bear, pumpkin, and Christmas tree-themed sets that are a part of the WCHOF’s collection. Crooks sells her creative sets on Etsy.
March’s Featured chess set is a loan from Nick Schleicher, the exhibitions manager at the World Chess Hall of Fame. He became interested in chess after seeing his dad, uncles, and grandfather play the game. Schleicher then received this chess computer as a Christmas gift when he was in his early teens. He enjoyed the futuristic aesthetic of the board, and he has fond memories of taking it on road trips. Though this is a chess computer, Schleicher used it mainly like a regular set and often used it to play chess with his cousin.
The Saitek Kasparov Alchemist is named for legendary World Chess Champion Garry Kasparov, who endorsed the talking chess computer. The computer functioned either as a teacher, with numerous levels at varying levels of difficulty, or as a referee during a game with two human players. Eric Winkler, a Swiss technologist, founded Saitek (then called SciCys) in 1979 as a maker of chess computers. In 1994, Saitek was the world’s largest manufacturer of chess computers.
February’s Featured Chess Set is a loan from glass artist, Katherine Gardner. Known for her glass artistry at the Saint Louis Renaissance Faire, Gardner created a one of a kind glass chess set that attracts much attention as it becomes luminous when sunlight strikes it. Since age 14, Gardner has been designing glass artwork. She taught herself many unique techniques that she uses today in her glass artistry. Gardner has been invited to the Corning Museum of Art to explain the techniques she used to create this month’s featured set.
Opal, symbolizing love and passion, is fitting for February’s featured chess set. Gardner was curious about how light affects the opal glass and experimented with colors that would compliment the opal in the sunlight. This is because opal glass, when illuminated, mimics the appearance of opal stone. One side of the chess set features two shades of purple and on the other side is a harmonious blue. The board is also made of multicolored glass. Gardner created pieces that have forms similar to traditional chess sets, not wanting to take away from the sophistication and deep intellect of the game.
January’s Featured Chess Set is a loan from Vietnam War Veteran Louis Semon, who created the set. During his time in the Air Force in 1968, Semon was stationed in Hurlbelt Field, Florida, waiting for deployment. Of making the set, he says, “While waiting [for deployment] I always wanted to make my own chess set. Fortunately there was a hobby shop on base. I bought the supplies and molds and the tools and equipment and the kilns were available to the service members. Fifty-three years later, I still use the chess set and it’s been on display on my coffee table ever since.”
This hand-crafted ceramic Gothic-style chess set features pieces made from plaster of Paris and glazed green and white. The chessboard is made from green and white linoleum tile that complements the colors of the pieces. Louis Semon created the set 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.