I’d like to conclude the first part of my chess sets from around the world series with a little bit about Eastern Europe. I think that many of us think of Russia and Slavic nations when we think about chess and that is with good reason. Eastern Europe has a rich tradition with chess, and some of the world’s greatest chess players grew up in this region.
Surprisingly, it’s been over a decade since we imported any items from Russia itself – instead a huge array of chess products come from Poland, many with that distinct Eastern European design.
As I said, Poland deserves some extra special attention because they have not only a wide range of chess products, but they have the very popular line of folding sets that have a distinct Eastern European styling:
There are a number of these sets in several different sizes. Traditionally these folding sets have names such as Ambassador, Consul, and Senator – These actually come from several different manufacturers, but the design is always fairly similar. Some are stained colors like blue and green, while others are more traditional brown or black stains. You can see the distinctive flair in the boards – each set has elaborate carvings on the edging along with the algebraic notation. The chess pieces are distinctive as well – not only is the kings crown hollowed out, but most noticeably the king has a cross made from the wood of the other side. The same goes for the Queen, who has several balls of the opposite color. This styling makes this a great chess set choice for someone looking for a traditional, yet unique and different chess set. It also does not hurt that they are all affordable (under 100.00), and are considered of significantly better quality than many of their Chinese counterparts. (Many folding chess sets originate from China and Taiwan).
They also have more traditional chess sets, folding magnetic chess sets, simple affordable staunton chess pieces, and a wood chess board with notation. They also manufacture checkers both in the western style (which uses a traditional chessboard) and European Checkers. This checkerboard is a ten by ten grid, meaning 100 squares and thus a more involved and complicated game play.
While we import from several different Polish manufacturers, we get these chess sets from a company called Wegiel. This is one of the first companies I tracked down when I started working at Your Move Chess back in 1996. We were currently getting the “Ambassador” style chess sets from a distributor, but we knew they originated in Poland. I took the symbol on the dress box and sent it off to the Polish Consulate in an effort to track them down. We’ve been importing them ever since!
There are a few other interesting items we import from Poland.
The first I would like to talk about is an inlaid chess board manufacturer, Mat-Wojciech Babiuch. They have a great selection of both high gloss and no gloss inlaid chess boards in familiar woods such as Walnut, and exotic woods such as Padouk and Wengue. These boards are of a much higher quality than other inlaid boards, which often are imported from India. They also have a great assortment of styles – not only traditional square and rounded corners, but also more elaborate stepped corners. These boards come in both executive (1 3/4″ squares) and tournament (2 1/4″ squares) size, and they are also one of the only manufacturers were you can find full solid block chessboards in a ‘butcher block’ style.
Finally, Poland is also the home of Biasov – an absolutely fantastic chess table manufacturer.
High Quality chess tables are somewhat difficult to come across, and many of the chess tables available are from China. The problem with buying chess tables is that it is so specialized, it is often just as good, or better, to buy a regular table and then just put a chess set on top. This is because regular tables are made in the tens of thousands, while chess tables are made in much smaller quantities.
Biasov has a number of really awesome chess tables. They range from classic designs (such as the “Tal” or “Fidel” styles, to more fancy tables that convert from a regular “table” to a chess table (The Biasov and Akiba). The playing surface actually rotates out, meaning your chess table can also be a dining table, end table, or even a card table. They come in a number of great finishes and even have a multi-game table. It’s really a cool system and there is much more I could say about them, so I will write more about them further on a later date.
I think that is more than enough for now. obviously, this is just touching the surface. Germany has been known for some of the high quality chess clocks, but also manufacturers some of those outdoor chess sets you see at resorts from time to time. Other countries have their own offerings, but I can only write so much!
This concludes the first portion of my series on chess sets from around the world. Obviously, there are a lot more places to cover, so stay tuned. In the second portion of this series i’ll discuss chess sets from Asia and Southeast Asian, such as hand carved chess pieces from India, marble chess sets from Pakistan, huge outdoor teak chess pieces from Indonesia, and the variety of offerings from China and Taiwan.
Hey, I told you a lot of countries were involved in the chess industry, didn’t I?!
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me an email or put a comment down below.