Russian Chess Set

Red side pieces

Purchased and added to the collection in 1981, this hand painted chess set was created by a "cottage industry group" near Gorki, Russia. The set may have been produced a few years before it was acquired for the collection. The total set contains 32 pieces, and the board, and is typical of a European chess set.

While most standard European chess sets with machine crafted chess pieces have one side painted or stained red, and the opposing side painted or stained black, or left the natural color of the wood - this Russian set features a red side and a yellow side. The painted costumes of the set are typical of some aspects of traditional dress of the 19th century or earlier.

The board which is 56cm square and 4cm thick is made of wood and covered with a grass like fabric. To create the 8x8 playing matrix, the grass fabric alternates with the base wood of the board. The underside of the board is lined with blue felt. The board is in two equal hinged parts that fold together to hold the chess pieces between the sides. A double hook closure secures the two sides with the pieces inside.

Russian Red PiecesUpon examination, it is apparent that the pieces from both sides are identical, only the major color of the costume has been changed. Each varies in height. The shortest piece at eight centimeters is the pawn, while the tallest piece is the king at sixteen centimeters high. However, the base of all pieces is 4.5cm in diameter. Each piece has been "carved" from a block of wood, and because of the uniformity, it is assumed that although each piece is hand painted, the "carving" may have been accomplished using a machine. Each chess piece may then be composed of more than one piece of wood glued to another piece of wood, weighted at the base, covered with a piece of felt on the bottom. and then hand painted.

Russian Yellow Pieces

While the thirty-two standard chess pieces follow the pattern of the European chess set, there is a type of whimsy or humor in the creation of the pieces - a humor related to the folk culture that inspired the pieces. For example in most European chess sets, the pawns are stylized foot solders. In this set, the pawns are in the shape of the Russian "matrioshka" doll. The following are some close-up photographs of the pieces illustrating their detailed decorations.

Russian Red Pieces

Russian Yellos Pieces

Last update February 24, 2010