Chess Sets

Chess sets are often chosen as a wonderful way to help decorate a room – usually by people who don’t play chess. Chess sets are more than just an ornament; they are something special passed on from generations to generations. However, I would agree that they do look superb, especially as they can be made from so many different materials such as glass, ivory, marble, wood, and depict many ages of history. But where did all begin?

Where did it all begin

The Isle of Lewis (pronounced Lews) is in the northernmost of the Outer Hebrides gives its name to oldest known chess set. In 1831 a stone building was uncovered following the erosion of a sea bank and the famous discovery was made.

The original chess set from the Isle of Lewis has 78 pieces in all, carved in Morse ivory (Walrus tusk) which is thought to belong to eight or more incomplete chess sets. Experts are unanimous in declaring them the most astonishing collection of ancient chessmen in existence. The British Museum now houses 67 of these. The remainder is in the Edinburgh National Museum.

The details of the armor and costume were used by experts at the British Museum to estimate the age of the chessmen to be from the later part of the twelfth Century (1150-1170 AD). The most unusual feature of the set is the Rooks, which take the form of foot officers rather than towers – a common theme in early Icelandic chess sets, where they were called “Centurions.” This suggests that the chessmen might have been carved in Iceland and carried to Lewis.

Who set the standard for the modern chess set

Howard Staunton (1810-1874) dominated British chess as a player, journalist, author, and organizer in the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1835 Nathaniel Cook designed and named a chess set for Howard Staunton. Staunton’s promotion of the set as the standard led to it being known as the Staunton pattern and is still used as the standard in tournaments today. Inspired by the Great Exhibition held in London 1851, Howard Staunton conceived the original idea of holding a chess tournament at which all the best players in Europe would be assembled.

Back to the present day

How do you buy a chess set (pieces and board) that will meet your needs? A chess set and board should reflect your personal style and taste, as well as fit your budget. Think about the coloring and wood type of the dark pieces in your chess set and the dark playing squares of your chess board, and then match them accordingly. Many factors combine to determine the cost of a chess set, including: Type of Wood Used in Chess Sets and Chess Boards. As mentioned you can have chess sets in many different materials and of course there are the many travel sets you can also buy. But for me nothing can beat a traditional wooden chess set.

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