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June 18, 2006

Chess Piece Design after the Jaques-Staunton Hatchet Job

Filed under: Chess Design — Baron Turner @ 7:28 pm

It’s all very well having a prescribed design such as Staunton to work with. Sure - we all know where we are,  we all know which one is the pawn and which the bishop, and the queen has her head-dress, etc., but it has all kinda done away with the amazing artistic display of pre-staunton times. Then, if a religious theme were requested - no problem. If a battle theme, same again. Different periods of history gave way to wonderful representative chess as art. Now what do we have? The queen has to look like, well, a queen, with a coronet - the pawn has it’s prescribed shape, the bishop it’s mitre and the rook it’s ballistrade.

Here Mr Horsey - let’s make you all special! Yep, that’s about it. The knight is the one figure for artistic expression. But it aint so bad huh? We have mane’s waving in the wind, we define their eyes, show the teeth, carve the rippling muscles and torso of the animal. What was that you say? You wanna see some examples? Sure - how about these - respectively, the Ultimate Knight, the Royal Shock, the Earl Anthony, the Bronte and the Bridled Knight?

Ultimate Knight Chess Set    Royal Shock Chess Set    Earl Anthony Chess Set    Bronte Chess Set    Bridled Knight Chess Set
All in all, still enough room for significant expression and to know where we are during the game too, which piece is which. Have any favourites?

Customers in my online chess store generally look most at the knight and it is probably the single chess piece that makes or breaks the sale. However, it’s also true to say that we display the knight most - it’s usually the thumbnail introducing the chess set, so we’re herding them toward that design and quality ‘deciding factor’. The reality is that customers should also look at the other chess pieces in the set too. The proportion of the pawn is often a give away that all effort has been invested in the knight with other pieces neglected. The balance and feel of the rook is of high importance. I’ve seen chess set designs with 4″ Kings and little squat pawns that add nothing to the set. The height proportion among all pieces should look right. This can’t always be conveyed in photographs, so a conversation with the chess retailer always helps.

Now, if only having a cool knight design and proportioned pieces could improve my game!





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