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Chess Set Review Archive: Mark of Westminster Tournament Series Chess Pieces

John LeVasseur

Introduction

     Abbey Chess Products, a U.S. based chess products manufacturer, has gained a reputation in recent years for producing very high-end chessmen, under The Mark of Westminster brand name. The quality, packaging, and inherent collectible value of these chess sets have made them a hot item for collectors and players of taste. So much so, we have had difficulty keeping the three high-end series (SuperGrand, Grand & Premier) in stock at all times. This is primarily due to the small numbers produced by this company. They produce small numbers to help insure high quality.

     Due to popular demand The Mark of Westminster now includes the newest line of chessmen added specifically for the tournament and club player. The new Mark of Westminster Tournament Series is an excellent high quality and relatively low cost collection of chessmen. It allows tournament and club players (and any person who appreciates a well crafted set), the chance to purchase heavily weighted, well carved, tournament size chess pieces, from a reputable manufacturer at a price that won't force you to mortgage your home.

The Details

     The Tournament series chess sets comes in two sizes. The first has a king height of 3.125" and a base diameter of 1.435" . The larger has a King height of 4" and a base diameter of 1.75". The weights vary depending one the wood type. For a more in depth look at weights and dimensions, you can refer to the charts below. The chessman are available in four "flavors" which include Ebony, Rosewood, Sheesham and a very unusual painted satin black finish.      Here are a few things to note when looking at these chessmen. Even though the actual height of the smaller chess set is 3.125", the set is described in its name as 3.25". This is an odd inconsistency in naming, but remember the height is actually 3.125". You will also notice one singular difference between the 3.25" and the 4" inch chessmen. That being the angle of the bishops miter cut. On the 3.25" the cut is perfectly vertical, where on the 4" it is cut on a 20 degree angle.

   These feature a leather pad on the bottom of each chess piece, which generally lasts much longer than cloth felt. It also increases the inherent "stickiness" (a technical term) of the pieces to the board. The advantage of this is when the board gets bumped the pieces will not slide out of position. Those of you who favor the traditional billiard cloth "smooth glide effect" (another technical term here) may not like this at first, but try it some time. Since few players actually slide pieces across a chess board, and instead pick up and place pieces down, I feel this "gliding on air" thing is something that is over emphasized by many. For this reason, and the its longevity, I prefer and recommend leather for the bottoms of chess pieces.
 The sets include a very nice knight design, although not as refined as their higher end sets, it still is better than most sets of comparable price. It is designed in the "Angry War Horse" style (yet another technical term), which is characteristic to the idea of chess being a game based on war. If your interested on the different types of knight designs and their relevance to the game and their origins, read the article Knight Designs: A Study of Chess Piece Design and Origins.

  The weight of the individual chess pieces are dependant upon the particular wood type. The weights shown are for the dark side pieces. The boxwood (white side) chess pieces are slightly lighter than their darker counterparts in the Rosewood and Ebony sets. In the Satin and Sheesham the weights are matched. This is typical for most chessmen, except very high-end chess sets where pieces are hand matched in their weighting, which is a very labor intensive and therefore expensive. It would be impossible to do this type of weight matching in a chess set in this price range.

Conclusion

     This chess set is clearly designed for the club and tournament player who wants something a little nicer than the typical plastic set. The price range is appropriate and certainly not astronomically expensive for a set of this quality. Now while this chess set is not their SuperGrand series nor exhibits the supreme quality that goes with it, it still shows the quality and carving style of a Mark of Westminster product. These chessmen are a cut above other sets in this price point.

Rating: A-

 

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