Botvinnik Nobles (Botvinae Nobilis); 32 weighted tournament chessmen without board, Russian, wood, amber vs. dark walnut, antiqued, artistically restored, c.1960
Height: King 11cm, weight 38g, base width 4.5cm; Queen 9.7cm, wt 35g, bw 4cm, Bishop 8.7cm 30g, Knight 7.8 cm 30g, Rook 6.5cm 30g, Pawns 6cm 25g
W: Lush Russian blue felt pads B: same
Characterized by the flat-topped mitres of the bishops, these intriguing chessmen belong to the Botvinnik-Flohr (BF) pattern of Soviet chess sets, so-named after a similar design that was used in the Moscow International Tournament of 1935 where Mikhail Botvinnik and Salo Flohr tied for 1st place, just ahead of the great Emanuel Lasker and the Cuban legend, Capablanca, who placed 3rd and 4th respectively
I say ‘intriguing’ as the knights of this set differ slightly from the iconic BFI and BFII patterns (see our galleries for earlier examples) as they are carved in a very similar fashion to the classic ‘Valdai Nobles ’family of chessmen – hence, my playful moniker. The set came to me in poor condition, but the upper torso of the white knights retained much of their original patina, therefore all of the light pieces were stripped back and matched to these two handsome specimens using a 1962 Valdai set for reference too, as the glazy, honey-gold patina of the BF knights is pretty much identical to the varnish (shellac) used on the later ‘golden-yellow’ Valdai sets that were produced en masse during the 1960s.
The set was dated “1950s” by the seller, but due to the similarities with the 1960s Valdai sets – the cut of the knight, the varnishes used, the same blue cloth pads – I think it was probably
manufactured in Valdai (as were other BF sets) for tournament play in the early 60s, but I’ll say 1955-1965 to be safe. All pieces have their original weights, which feel very pleasant to play with. I’ve replaced all the lost/wrong finials and had some fun with the opposing
colour schemes to help distinguish the bishop from the queen (a common complaint regarding this Soviet pattern). The finish has a high sheen. If this isn’t to your liking I can tone it down for you quite easily. Just let me know prior to purchase and I can run through options.
All of our chess pieces are UV resistant and ideal for display as well as casual/blitz play and both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent bronze 2021 ‘Power’ signature of the artist on their bases.
Botvinae Nobilis also comes with our unique ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which will be posted on separately once we tally up how many listings passed through our galleries in 2021 – “All good things …” as the wise man once said.
Ref Code: BN21