Category Archive 'Chess'

04 Mar 2016

Not Your Usual Chess

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31 May 2014

Black Shoggoth to Shoggoth Four

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CthulhuChess

Monsters Domesticated‘s second unique Cthulhu Mythos chess set, described thusly:

This is a complete set of thirty-two hand-sculpted chess pieces, in a Lovecraftian vein. My first set made some (lucky?) fellow a very peculiar xmas present; this one is more madly elaborate still, and will strain the sanity of the stoutest soul.

A wholly hand-made labor of lunatic love, these pieces feature indescribable forces of madness and the grotesque. This might be the only way you can manipulate these alien deities without your own destruction being inevitable. If play with these pieces does, in fact, cost you your very reason, however, Monsters Domesticated can accept no responsibility.

We consider the black pieces to be the Cthulhoid forces, with dread Cthulhu itself as king, and menacing Dagon as swift and malevolent queen, and the mouldering green pieces to be led by Yog-Sothoth as king, in all its gibbering madness, and primordial Ubbo-Sathla as queen. Of course, you’re the cultist, so you’re entitled to assign whatever mythos iconography you like. The interpretations, fortunately for all life in this dimension, are loose.

The bishops of each side are mad alien priests, the knights grotesque mounts with vile curved spines, the rooks writhe horribly within their blasted towers. The black pawns are sinister, writhing spawn of dread Cthulhu, and the green pawns mocking little tentacular skulls.

Each piece was sculpted by hand and is absolutely unique. There is no mold, and this set will never be reproduced. (Although holders of a copy of the true Necronomicon might be able to convince these atrocities to reproduce themselves.)

This chess set is the perfect abomination for the Dark Strategist in your life. Get it before it lurches into sentience and destroys its creator.

Hat tip to James Harberson.

09 Apr 2013

Where the Stauton Chess Set Came From

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Smithsonian’s Design Decoded explains the architectural origin of today’s standard Staunton-style chess men.

Prior to 1849, there was no such thing as a “normal chess set.” At least not like we think of it today. Over the centuries that chess had been played, innumerable varieties of sets of pieces were created, with regional differences in designation and appearance. As the game proliferated throughout southern Europe in the early 11th century, the rules began to evolve, the movement of the pieces were formalized, and the pieces themselves were drastically transformed from their origins in 6th century India. Originally conceived of as a field of battle, the symbolic meaning of the game changed as it gained popularity in Europe, and the pieces became stand-ins for a royal court instead of an army. Thus, the original chessmen, known as counselor, infantry, cavalry, elephants, and chariots, became the queen, pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, respectively. By the 19th century, chess clubs and competitions began to appear all around the world, it became necessary to use a standardized set that would enable players from different cultures to compete without getting confused.

In 1849, that challenge would be met by the “Staunton” Chess Set.

The Staunton chess pieces are the ones we know and love today, the ones we simply think of as chess pieces. Prior to its invention, there were a wide variety of popular styles in England, such as The St George, The English Barleycorn, and the Northern Upright. To say nothing of the regional and cultural variations. But the Staunton quickly would surpass them all. Howard Staunton was a chess authority who organized many tournaments and clubs in London, and was widely considered to be one of the best players in the world. Despite its name, the iconic set was not designed by Howard Staunton.

According to the most widely told origin story, the Staunton set was designed by architect Nathan Cook, who looked at a variety of popular chess sets and distilled their common traits while also, more importantly, looking at the city around him. Victorian London’s Neoclassical architecture had been influenced by a renewed interest in the ruins of ancient Greece and Rome, which captured the popular imagination after the rediscovery of Pompeii in the 18th century. The work of architects like Christopher Wren, William Chambers, John Soane, and many others inspired the column-like, tripartite division of king, queen, and bishop. A row of Staunton pawns evokes Italianate balustrades enclosing of stairways and balconies.

I like the Lewes chessmen best.


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