Michaelis Militiae (Misha’s Militia); 32 lightly-weighted wooden chessmen without board, wood, amber vs. deep purple, Classic Soviet/Latvian (Stalin era) Chess Set, circa 1945-1960. Height: King 9.5cm, weight 17g, base width 3.6cm, Queen 8.2cm, Bishop 7.3cm, Knight 6cm, Rook 5cm, Pawn 4.2cm. W: light blue felt bases B: same
The prolific Portuguese collector, Arlindo Vieira, in his blog Xadrez Memoria (Memories of Chess) refers to these classic Latvian designs as “Tal’s favourite” and if I were forced to choose just one Soviet set to bring with me to the other side, this would certainly be the one. Vieira, of course, refers to the late World Champion, Mikhail Tal, or “Misha” as he was fondly called, the famous ‘Magician of Riga’ – and one can see why he favoured this particular design, as just to glance at them sparks a sudden urge to play chess!
The iconic ‘elbow-shaped’ knights (a slightly earlier form of the more popular “Tal” design pictured in the link below) have a rugged simplicity about them and are very comfortable in hand – even more so with this set, which has been lightly weighted lending them added substance on the field.* The simple tear-drop mitre of the bishop can only be inspired by Moscow’s Saint Basil’s Cathedral and its “towering domes shaped like the flames of a bonfire rising into the sky” (A. Ivanov, The Tsars p.100). A vivid analogy I bore in mind when layering the fiery amber hues over the lighter side of this set. Which, if you follow The Chess Schach on social media, would know were inspired by the white knights. When they came to me the bases of the knights and the rest of the white pieces in general were lighter in colour and had a somewhat less attractive patina. The decision was therefore made to strip down the set and colour-match them to the finish of the stunning white/amber knights – a decision, that in my humble opinion, has resulted in a stunning set all ’round! And a quite historic one to boot.
The pieces are UV resistant and ideal for display, as well as casual/blitz play. Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent silver signature of the artist on their felt bases.
Ref code: MM20