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The Making of Chess Sets

Many people possessed of a creative bent, aspiring craftsmen, have learned how to make chess pieces and chess sets. The artist has a wide choice of medium, some preferring ceramic and resins while others like metal working. Even exotic materials such as bone and rock can be fashioned into beautiful and decorative chess pieces.

Naturally the most popular chess sets are made of wood. Today the majority of chess pieces are mass produced in factories using expensive wood turning equipment, modern tools far beyond the reach of most woodworkers. But really all that is needed to make your own chess set is wood and a sharp knife, right? There is much to be said for primitive methods; forget about fancy electric tools!

At ChessCentral we encourage craftsmanship. If you’d like to make a fine wooden chess set from scratch we recommend the Moroccan Bow Lathe – a must for any basic tool kit. Check out the following amazing chess video to learn more about this important device for making chess pieces:

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Talking Electronic Chess Set – Not for Kids!

Do you get lonely studying the chess board at night by yourself? Do you wish you had a “sounding board” to discuss what move is best? Do you have an extra $30,000 lying around gathering dust?

Those desolate nights are now over. Artist Barbara Kruger, best known for her captioned photographs, has the solution. With an amazing 96 microprocessors she has developed a chess set that has each piece talk and interact with you as you move it about the board.

Although difficult to hear, here is a breakdown of what is said in this video…
#1 – Don’t even Think About it
#2 – Why Prolong The Pain
#3 – (Inaudible)
#4 – You’re good…
#5 – Don’t argue with me…
#6 (heavy Breathing)
#7 – C’mon…

Of course you can always go a less expensive route and purchase Fritz 12 a chess playing software program. Fritz will chat you up and razz you continually (if you let him). Another cheaper alternative electronic chess set is the Talking Chess Trainer. It doesn’t say much, but can talk in several languages.

In any case, $30,000 can put an end to those lonely chess nights!

Earn Customer Rewards at ChessCentral!

At ChessCentral, we appreciate our loyal customers. And we’re going to prove it…

Starting immediately, your chess purchases made at ChessCentral earn instant Reward Points for you. Every ten dollars you spend with us earns 10 Reward Points, and 100 Reward Points equals $10 worth of credit. What does that mean in plain non-mathematical English? It’s simple: each $10 of your purchase price earns you $1 worth of ChessCentral Reward Points to use as you please toward ChessCentral products.

In short, 10% of your purchase price is rewarded back to you as our way of saying “Thanks!” for your loyalty. We appreciate your business and hope you’ll keep coming back to ChessCentral for all your chess needs: chess pieces, chess boards, chess sets, electronic chess computers, chess software, chess books, and chess downloads. The more you shop ChessCentral, the more Reward Points you’ll earn.

And, for first time customers, you start earning Reward Points with your very first purchase from ChessCentral.

Thanks again for your support and patronage! Stop by and shop ChessCentral today!

Have fun! — Steve

ChessCentral congratulates winner of 2010 North Carolina Grand Prix

ChessCentral, the leader in cutting-edge chess, was a proud sponsor of this year’s North Carolina Grand Prix. Players earned Grand Prix points by competing successfully in tournaments sponsored by the North Carolina Chess Association, with the year’s events culminating with the North Carolina Open (held Labor Day weekend in Charlotte, NC).

When the smoke cleared at the end of the weekend, the 2010 Grand Prix winner was Ronald Simpson. Mr. Simpson’s prizes were the Templar Chess Set and the matching Wenge and Maple board, both furnished by ChessCentral.

Tournament organizer Gary Newsom characterized the North Carolina Open as featuring “an aggressive new format which combines a very reasonable entry fee with $10,000 in guaranteed cash prizes”. The event was pure excitement right up to the final round in which IM Bryan Smith won as Black against Jon Schroer to take clear first and a $1,200 cash prize.

ChessCentral has announced that they will again sponsor the North Carolina Grand Prix in 2011.

All of us at ChessCentral extend our congratulations to this year’s Grand Prix winner Ronald Simpson as well as to IM Smith. Well done, gentlemen!

Have fun! — Steve

A Rubinstein “swindle” – the answer

In our last blog post we looked at most of a game by the great Akiba Rubinstein, stopping at the point at which he was about to pop off a really sweet little combination. I also said that a “chess engine wouldn’t find it” (or words to that effect); that now appears to have been a misstatement. My good friend (and longtime partner in chess crime) Jeroen van Dorp informs me that Rybka3 does indeed find Rubinstein’s solution, so I stand corrected. I’d tried the position in Rybka4, Fritz12, Shredder12, plus Crafty and a selection of other Winboard/UCI engines, and none of them found Rubinstein’s solution.

That actually makes this a better position for us to admire, because it shows us two things: first, that Marotti had painted himself into a corner, and second, that Rubinstein had enough on the ball to spot his opportunity.

To really get our heads around this position, we’ll need to discover how it comes about. So break out your analysis sets and follow along with the fun!

Rubinstein,Akiba – Marotti,Davide [B38]
London BCF Congress London (7), 1922

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 g6 5.c4 Bg7 6.Be3 d6 7.Nc3 Nf6 8.f3 Bd7 9.Qd2 Nxd4 10.Bxd4 0-0 11.Be2 Ne8 12.0-0 f5 13.exf5 gxf5 14.Rfe1 e5 15.Bf2 Bc6 16.Rad1 Rf6 17.c5 Rg6 18.Bc4+ Kh8 19.Bf7 Rh6 20.f4 Qe7 21.Bd5 e4 22.Bxc6 bxc6 23.cxd6 Rxd6 24.Qe2 Rg6 25.Qc4 Nc7 26.Rd2 Rg8 27.g3 Ne8 28.Nd1 Qh4

The Queen is quite safe, of course, because the g3-pawn is pinned by the Rook on g6. The f4-pawn is now hanging, though, and if 29…Qxf4 then the d2-Rook is attacked (and undefended).

29.Ne3

Although Rubinstein drops a pawn, the Knight serves a useful dual purpose: after …Qxf4 it blocks an attack on the d2-Rook, plus the Knight is now poised to get into the action. 29.Be3 might have been played instead, but the d1-Knight then would have nowhere useful to go.

29…Qxf4 30.Qf7

Rubinstein decides to mix it up and turn the game into a dogfight. The f5-pawn is attacked twice (by White’s Queen and Knight).

30…Bh6

The losing move, believe it or not, and the one which sets up everything which follows. Had Black played …Bf6 (where the Bishop would have been guarded by the e8-Knight) White would have needed to come up with a new plan.

31.Rd8 Qe5 32.Nxf5

Rubinstein levels the material balance but, more important, his forces are now poised for attack.

32…Rf6

This is where the light bulb popped “on” in Rubinstein’s head, so hard that I’m amazed Marotti didn’t hear an audible “click” from across the table. What follows is based on the idea that the Black Queen, Rook, and King are all on the same diagonal.

33.Nxh6 Rf8

The position from our last blog post. Had Marotti played 33…Rxh6 instead, Rubinstein would have fired off 34.Bd4, pinning the Queen.

Position after 33...Rf8

Here’s where it gets really, really cool. Marotti as Black is completely sunk here, but Rubinstein still needs to fire the killing torpedo and has his choice of tubes. Most chess engines will find 34.Rxe8 here, with the continuation 34…Qxe8 35.Qxe8 Rxe8 36.Bd4 (pinning the f6-Rook instead of the Queen, with the same idea as in the actual game) Kg7 37.Ng4 which retreats the Knight but piles up on the f6-Rook. If Black defends it with …Ref8 he loses the e4-pawn. Either way, he’s down a fair bit of material.

But instead, Rubinstein opts to win this one with style:

34.Qxf8+!  Rxf8 35.Bd4

and Marotti quits on the spot. The best he has here is the forced 35…Qxd4+ (otherwise he loses his Queen for nothing), then 36.Rxd4 and White is just plain winning being as he’s up a Rook.

Games like this are the reason I’m an Akiba Rubinstein fan — win or lose, he often did it spectacularly.

What??!!?? You don’t have an analysis set??? ChessCentral offers this chess analysis set with roll-up vinyl mini-board, which is the same analysis set I use when I’m on the go.

Have fun! — Steve

Chess Sets as Collectible Art

Chess is one of the oldest games of skill in the world – and likely has more collectible items than any other game. Chess seems to have spread from India into ancient Persia in the 6th century, but did not arrive in Britain until the 12th century. The famous Isle of Lewis chess set is the earliest known chess set, dating from the 1100s.

Originally, four military divisions defended the monarch: the infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots – as seen in ChessCentral’s Charlemagne chess set. Over time the pieces were changed to fit the British feudal system and they became pawns, Knights, Bishops and Rooks.

It wasn’t until the release of the Staunton chess set design in 1849 by sports and games maker Jaques of London that chess pieces became known in the form we recognize today.

Staunton Chess Set from Jaques of London

Luke Honey, chess consultant for the London auction house Bonhams, states that Knights are the most important figures to scrutinize when assessing a set. Their shape means that they cannot be turned by machine, but require a skilled craftsman.

Luke says, “One of the great attractions of chess is there is such a variety of styles and ages from which to choose. Always go for the rarest and finest carved pieces you can afford, making sure to do your homework before buying.”

Antique Style Chess Set

A carved chess set should also be judged by the quality of the pawns. A master carver usually focused on the King and Queen, and the Knights, Bishops and Rooks were made by experienced workers. Pawns were often polished off by apprentices. Therefore, if you come across a superbly made pawn it indicates that the master carver may have completed the whole set.

He believes that 19th century chess sets are a great place to start collecting. Popular patterns such as Washington, the Edinburgh Upright, Calvert and Dublin are all available from $1,500 if complete and in good condition.

The Staunton chess sets are ideal for modern players because they are so recognizable. They were named after the 19th Century English chess pioneer Howard Staunton, and fine sets start at about $450 – but can sell for more than $3,500 in top condition.

Visit ChessCentral for collectible chess sets. You will find limited edition Jaques of London chess sets unique chess sets as well as themed chess sets.


Your Opinion Could Win a $25 Gift Certificate

ChessCentral invites you to win a gift certificate – simply by reviewing chess products! Each week we will give away a gift certificate worth $25 at ChessCentral’s store. To qualify simply write a thoughtful review of any product offered at www.ChessCentral.com, and each week one lucky reviewer will receive a $25 gift certificate.

At the bottom of each product page is a link. If no one has yet written a review, the link will appear as follows:

If another customer has already written a review of that product, you will see this link instead:

Clicking either link will take you to a page where you can write your product review. Just fill out the information and press the “Submit review” button. Note that you can remain anonymous if you wish, but please include at least your ChessCentral customer number (if you don’t wish to use your name) in case you win the weekly prize! No purchase is necessary – you merely review your favorite chess products.

Each weekly contest will begin at 12:01 a.m. ET on Sunday morning and run through Midnight ET the following Saturday night. Any review submitted between those hours will qualify for that week’s drawing. Prize winners are excluded from winning another prize for four weeks following their victory. You can submit as many reviews as you would like each week. Every thoughtful review will be counted for in the drawing, so the more reviews, the better your chances!

So head on over to ChessCentral and start reviewing! You could be this week’s winner!