All About Alan
Hello and welcome to the Chess Schach. Thank you for stopping by!
Collecting, restoring and re-inventing old chess sets has been a passion of mine for over 30 years. What started out as an enjoyable hobby soon turned into an obsession that over time has gradually evolved into a small, family-run, e-commerce business that offers ‘one-of-a-kind’ chess sets to chess enthusiasts and art collectors throughout the world.
Here you will find many interesting vintage sets that have caught my eye over the years – and my wife assures me that I have a natural ‘third’ eye that homes in on unusual and interesting chess sets! These come in all shapes and sizes and each one is treated as a totally unique (and quite personal) work of art. Where required, finials have been replaced and damaged pieces have been meticulously repaired, however, if these minor ‘battle scars’ add to the overall character of a set they are left untouched, in which case this is plainly stated in the set description and highlighted in individual photographs of each item.
To be clear, I lay no claim as to being a professional restorer of chess sets, nor do I attempt to religiously restore sets back to their original state – there are many other talented artisans who offer such services online. First and foremost I consider myself a mixed-media artist and have worked in this capacity in the decorative arts field, both residential and commercial, since the early 80s. During these years I have acquired a detailed knowledge – the ‘tricks’ of the trade, if you like – of wood reparation, wood staining, finishing and French polishing, using various combinations of waxes, gels, oils, lacquer, glazes, inks and shellac – and even tinted boot-polish! All of which proved immensely useful when applied to the decidedly smaller work surface of a wooden chess piece.
The vintage sets featured in THE GALLERY are by no means perfect in shape and form like many ‘modern’ reproductions. In many cases, they were turned on an antiquated and over-worked lathe, or in the case of the knights, often hand-carved by disinterested prison labourers – and perhaps even children!1See the article ‘GUKAG KNIGHTS’ on the ALL ABOUT CHESS page. In my mind, however, these vintage sets are unfinished symphonies, mini-masterpieces in the rough that are simply in need of some fine-tuning, not unlike the classic 50’s automobile in Stephen King’s book, Christine (New York, 1983), a beat-up Plymouth that came back to life (quite literally!) once it was given a much needed ‘makeover’ (for want of a better word) by its new owner. And to be quite honest, most of these old battered warriors have also been given a second chance at life, and it will be a very difficult task indeed to let some of them go, as many a long hour has been spent replaying the old classic gambit games of Morphy, Chigorin and Marshall with each and every one of them, my way of acquiring a ‘feel’ for the pieces before deciding on which direction to take them artistically – and sometimes I feel like the pieces speak to me themselves, as crazy as that may sound!
Ultimately, however, they are just simple wooden playing pieces – albeit damned attractive ones! – and my greatest wish is that they find a good home and are enjoyed by you the customer as much as I enjoyed my time working and playing with them.
Email me at thechessschach (at) gmail.com
reg: Domus Habsburgiae (Fortress of the Hawk)
“Wow, what a beautiful set! Alan’s work is just outstanding. All of the pieces are wonderful, but the knights are just incredible.”