Novoi Armii (Of the New Army), 32 weighted, wooden chess pieces without board, artistically restored, Soviet Era, distressed caramel vs. black, c.1950
King Height: 10.7cm = 4 1/4”, weight 20g, base width 3.5cm, Queen 9cm wt 18g, Bishop 8.5cm 18g, Knight 7cm 15g, Rook 6cm 25g, Pawns 5cm 10g.
W: antiqued pink felt pads B: same
Here we offer an early example of what some may deem a ‘quintessentially Soviet’ club set, which along with the ‘Grandmaster Series’ of chessmen were part of a new army of standardized, mass-produced chess pieces that would dominate club and tournament play well into the 1980s.
The set came to us through a fellow collector living in St. Petersburg and was in a fairly “shabby” condition, to use his own words. It was missing a pawn and one of the knight’s muzzles had snapped off just in front of the ears (see the 11th image in the gallery). Furthermore, the light side was practically stripped bare of varnish which had been replaced with several decades worth of finger-slime (a cocktail of skin-oil, alcohol and tobacco) that wasn’t exactly pleasing to the eye or nose! These matters have been duly dealt with along with the replacement of all the royals finials, which instead of sticking to the tradition of opposing colours have been kept to suit, reflecting certain similarities with the classic Staunton design that this set subtly reflects.
Although the set did appear “shabby” it had good bones and a great deal of character. Once the layers of fragrant finger-slime were removed the tiny, fragmented remnants of beautifully caramelized-chestnut varnish that clung to the pieces served as the inspiration for the project. I used these fragments to colour-match the light pieces using a layering technique that adds great depth and a sense of antiquity. My aim was to make this c.1950s club set appear like it may have looked in the 1970s after a good quarter-century of battles and abuse. Therefore, after I had the set looking almost like new, I then splattered the pieces – willy nilly- with various chemical solutions to gently peel back the layers of stain and varnish I had carefully built up. The result being what you see before you. And I must say I am very satisfied with the end result, which retains the original ‘battle-worn’ feel of the set and also the feeling that you are handling something that has a great deal of history behind it – any many battles in its future!
But that, perhaps, is for you to decide…
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.
The New Army 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.
*The final five images in the gallery show stages of the restoration process
*THE NEW ARMY REVISITED*
The custodian of the New Army, a Mr. Pearce of Manitoba, Canada, returned this set in September 2023 for additional weight to be added. At the same time, the colour of the felt bases were switched from antiqued pink to Prussian Blue.
New weights: King 38g, Queen 32g, Bishop 30g, Knight 30g, Rook 38g, Pawns 20g.
Ref code: NA21
Visit our Gallery for more artistically restored vintage chess sets.