Pawns & Passports: Chess Sets from Around the Globe
In September of 2021, the WCHOF will celebrate our tenth anniversary in Saint Louis. When the institution moved from Miami to Saint Louis, it already boasted a collection of over 163 chess sets. However, through the generosity of numerous donors as well as some purchases, it has increased to include over 1200 sets from over 65 countries. Since our opening, we have hosted numerous exhibitions blending chess with art, history, and popular culture. Among these have been many shows featuring chess sets from our collection and those from lenders around the United States and the world. Pawns & Passports: Chess Sets from Around the Globe includes highlights from the diverse chess set collection of the World Chess Hall of Fame (WCHOF). Through this display, we hope to give visitors the opportunity to “travel” around the world from our gal-lery. We also would like to highlight the stories these sets tell, both through their imagery and the stories of how they traveled from their places of origin to our location in Saint Louis.
Since chess’s creation, people of different regions have transformed the pieces to reflect their own cultures and history. While the pieces originally reflected units in the Indian military, replete with chariots, cavalry, elephants, and military advisors, European chess set creators later included pieces like bishops and queens, reflective of their own political structures. In 1849, the Staunton-style chess set was introduced to the public. Though it has since become the standard set for tournament play around the world, people still create sets with unique imagery. Some are meant more for display rather than for play and their appearances draw from stories, history, or local artistic traditions. The sets on view in Pawns & Passports have diverse stories. Many are local variations on playing sets, while others are pieces produced as souvenirs. We invite you to learn more about them through this selection of activities.
Connection to WCHOF Mission:
The WCHOF is dedicated to interpreting the game of chess and its continuing cultural and artistic significance. Chess, with its opposing sides and rich history, has proven an attractive arena for artists and creators to explore different imagery and stories. As chess has spread around the world, it has attracted the attention of artists and creators who have made sets that incorporate themes and stories from their own cultures.
- A chess set created by artist Kati Zorn
- A Danish chess set dating from the late 18th to mid 19th century, one of the oldest in the WCHOF collection.
- A Russian chess set created from ancient mammoth ivory.
- An elegant Chinese puzzle ball set, featuring carefully carved concentric spheres.
There will be an opening reception on Thursday, June 3, 2021 from 5:00-8:00 p.m. More details and photos coming soon!
6/9/2021: St. Louis Magazine — Top 5 events in St. Louis this weekend: June 11–13 - Pawns & Passports at the World Chess Hall of Fame
6/8/2021: The Ultimate Fan — WORLD CHESS HALL OF FAME CELEBRATES FOOD IN NEW EXHIBIT
6/8/2021: SportsMedia Report — World Chess HOF Debuts Food and Drink Exhibits
6/8/2021: St. Louis Sports Day — St. Louis’ World Chess Hall of Fame Announces New Exhibitions
6/3/2021: Branson Tri Lakes News — New World Chess Hall of Fame Exhibitions Celebrate Chess Prodigies, Chess from Around the World and Food and Drink-Themed Sets
6/3/2021: Cherokee Tribune & Ledger-News — Pawns & Passports: Chess Sets from Around the Globe will be open to the public at the World Chess Hall of Fame until January 30, 2022.