Concordium (Harmony); 32 heavily-weighted chess pieces without board, wood, white vs. black, antiqued, Soviet (Gorbachev Era), c.1980-1990
Height: King 9.5cm, weight 20g, base width 3.3cm; Queen 8.7cm wt 20g, Bishop 7cm 13g, Knight 6.3cm 15g, Rook 5cm 22g, Pawn 4.5cm 7g. W: burgundy felt pads B: same
Most chess collectors would freely admit that just a few months ago this inconspicuous Soviet set wasn’t even on their radar as far as a desirable addition to their collection was concerned. This situation changed drastically, however, on October 23rd, 2020 with the debut on Netflix of the runaway hit mini-series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ starring the sensational (and quietly sexy) Anya Taylor-Joy.
By now we all know the story of Beth Harmon (the obvious inspiration for the name of this set), a troubled chess prodigy who goes on to become World Champion in a fictionalized tournament staged in Moscow during the late 1960s – a match that inadvertently put this very same chess set on the chess map! Because this is the now-famous ‘Latvian’ set that the challenger Beth Harmon and the reigning Russian World Champion, Vasily Borgov, played within the final episode of the series when Harmon unleashed the Queen’s Gambit to score a nail-biting victory over the unsuspecting Soviet master. I say ‘inadvertently’ because the main reason this Latvian set got so much attention wasn’t just because it was the one they used in the final, but because the match was supposed to be played in 1968 – at least a dozen or so years before this particular “1980s” variation of the classic Latvian design was manufactured! A rare faux pas in an otherwise flawless series.
To be perfectly frank, the original 1980s design of this set is an uninspiring, simplified version of the classic 50’s Latvian pattern (see Red October or Misha’s Army in our ARCHIVE GALLERY). The version you see listed here is my own personal interpretation of the 1980s pattern with the welcome (and much needed) addition of weight. The whole set has been subtly distressed, antiqued and refinished; the original knights – lack-lustre eyesores that resemble woodworker’s blanks! (if you want my opinion) – have been artistically recreated or ‘elevated’ as my wife likes to say, taking inspiration from the classic designs of the past but still retaining a ‘modern’ feel for the 80’s pattern.
The suggestion of eyes under a furrowed brow immediately makes them more appealing, and the addition of an ever-so-slight snarl adds character to a once utterly characterless chunk of wood. The mane has also been reworked, as have the contours of the piece in general and I like to think that if artisans in the 1980s were given more time and greater freedom of expression this is most probably something very close to what they would have arrived at.* In parting, what I have endeavoured to achieve with the recreation of this set is a sense of ‘harmony’ between two very different eras in the tumultuous history of Soviet politics, art and chess set designs.
Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent bronze ‘Power’ signature of the artist on their bases and are UV resistant and ideal for display as well as blitz/casual play.
Concordium is also accompanied with a ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which are posted out separately once we tally up how many ‘Bronze Signature’ sets passed through our galleries in 2021. “All good things …” as the saying goes.
For more info on THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT see The Chess Schach’s interview with Canada’s nationwide Globe and Mail newspaper featured in our November 2020 Chessay, ‘THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT IS THE HOTTEST THING GOING!’ Just click here.
Visit our Gallery for more artistically restored vintage chess sets.