I had some great feedback on my post on Chess Sets made in America, and even found a few new manufacturers that offer unique and unusual chess items – so I might very well need to update that post in the future!
In the meantime, since I wrote about chess sets here in the States, I thought it would be worth writing a little bit about where the chess sets we do have come from. Here’s a quick hint: Not all of them come from China!
This week’s question: Where do Chess Sets come from / Are certain chess sets from certain countries or regions?
I like to travel, and it’s always amazed me on how it appears that every country I go to has their own flavors of popular chess set styles. Sometimes I would go and buy a unique chess set, other times take photos with them. I’ve certainly come to appreciate how widespread the love for chess as both a game and decorative item chess can be.
Because there are so many places, I can only touch on a few. Today i’m going to write a little bit about what chess sets come out of England and the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom
The UK is known for one of the most well known chess sets of all time; The Isle of Lewis chess set. While those chess pieces probably deserve an entire post on their own, that is not the focus of this particular article so I’ll simply leave with a plug that it is a great piece of chess history, and if you ever find yourself in London it’s worth checking them out.
There are a ton of reproductions of this famous chess set. While they come in numerous sizes and materials, the best reproductions are still made over in Britain by two major manufacturers: Studio Anne Carlton and Mascott Direct. These manufacturers do not only make reproductions, but actually made a wide range of thematic chess pieces, both painted and unpainted.
Altogether, these two companies account for dozens of chessmen designs, ranging from famous battles and wars to other historical themes as well as chess sets based on literature, fantasy, sports, regional influences, and more.
These chess pieces were some of the first widespread designs made out of crushed marble and resin, or “Crushed Stone”. Later this became synonymous with “Polystone”, where a mold is used to make a thematic chess set with stone like quality.
The theme chess pieces from England may be more expensive than their Chinese counterparts, but they are also often larger, and the painted sets have incredible detail:
Spain has long been a leading supplier of chess boards and remains one of the most popular venues for a huge range of high quality chess boards. The veneer chessboards made there are second to none and come in a huge number of sizes, styles and woods.
There are a few great things about veneer chess boards that have made them so popular. For one, you can get several different wood types and they all cost the same price – so you can get a chess board in Mahogany, Walnut, Macassar, Wengue, Teak, or even lacquered in various colors – and unlike chess pieces there are not massive differences in price.
Secondly, veneers virtually never warp in the same way that some inlaid chess boards do. Many people prefer inlaid boards due to the thicker real wood used, and they certainly do have some appeal on their own – however, veneers do not expand and contract the way other woods sometimes do, meaning a lot less cracking when we have major temperature shifts! In the end, the purchasing decision of veneer versus inlaid is a complicated one, which I can perhaps review later.
Below are just some of the various styles of chess boards we get from Spain – some are simple, like the “Executive” style. Others are quite modern (the Pyramid Style). They also have High-Gloss erable boards in green, red, grey, and blue. Those chess boards are a fantastic match for theme chess pieces.
Next time we’ll head to the Mediterranean and discuss the various chess sets coming out of Italy and Greece, such as brass, alabaster, and theme metal chess sets and chess boards.
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email or put a comment down below.