Rankin’s Rhinos (Ranquibus Unicornum); 32 large chess pieces without board, wood, Soviet, red vs. black, weighted, c.1955
Height: King 12.2cm, weight 45g, base width 4.5cm; Queen 10cm, wt 40g, Bishop 9cm 30g, Knight 8cm 35g, Rook 6.5cm 32g, Pawn 6.3cm 18g.
W: antiqued pink felt bases; B: same
These robust and iconic GM1 sets, the largest of the series, are becoming quite collectable of late as they scream of 1960s Soviet chessmen. The abstract, chunky knights are particularly attractive and very distinctive – a few years back a chess friend likened them to ‘little rhinos’ and now this is all I see.
The rooks resemble vertical cannons, tapering up gently towards the turret which itself mimics the shape of the barrel; the bishops are traditional, solid and dignified. The angular knights – for me, always the star of the show – are an absolute delight and have an almost Picasso-esque air about them due to the low setting of the eyes. In later patterns the eyes are raised a few millimetres and the knights are simplified even further.
The Rhinos retain 95% of their original patina. As I’ve noted on my social platforms, I merely brought the set together, replacing missing finials, adding weight and new pads (the same colour as originals) and repairing and colour-matching any unsightly damage – you’d hardly know they passed through my hands at all really! The added weight makes the set so much more enjoyable to handle, and interestingly, when I drilled into the bases the cavities were already there, but just filled with sawdust and glue, like they were intending to weight the pieces but then changed their minds (possibly due to the shortage or expense of lead, perhaps?)
For an in-depth discussion and more examples of this GM pattern please refer to Chuck Grau’s website @ sovietchesssets.com or amble through our Archive Gallery where other examples can be found.
Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent copper 2022 ‘Power’ signature of the artist on their bases and are accompanied by one of our unique Certificates of Authenticity, which are posted off at the end of the year, once we tally up how many sets passed through our galleries in 2022. See the Jan. 2022 chessay for more info on this.
Ref Code RU22