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June 3, 2006

What’s so special about the Isle of Lewis Chess Set?

Filed under: Chess Design — Baron Turner @ 10:04 pm

What is it about the Isle of Lewis chess set that gives it the aura of wonderment resulting in it representing a significant chunk of chess sales? It’s not Staunton and can’t be used in tournament play. It’s kinda confusing which piece is which with some exceptions. There are many excellent chess sets available that fulfil the purpose and many chess pieces that give an element of luxury to the product. But so many customers just prefer the Isle of Lewis chess design - go figure!

The history of the Lewis design is probably the answer. As a result of its historicity, the design is shown in the British Museum.

You could extend the question to general theme chess sets - can’t play chess with them very easily, but they look great on display. But the Isle of Lewis chess set appears to bridge the divide between sets that are rarely used for playing the game and sets which are only ever brought out in order to play the game. The pieces are at least fairly distinguishable from each other and the game can be played - if not as easily as with Staunton.

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