Rufus et Albus (The Reds and The Whites); 32 naturally weighted Soviet Grandmaster 4 chessmen without board. Soviet, wood, white vs. red, artistically reimagined, antiqued, Cold War Era, c.1975-1985.
Height: King 10.5cm, weight 25g, base diameter 3.8cm; Queen 9.5cm wt 25g; Bishop 7.6cm 18g; Knight 6.2cm 18g; Rook 6.4cm 15g; Pawn 5cm 9g.
W: Lush Prussian blue felt pads, B: same
One of the last patterns of the Soviet Grandmaster series of chessmen which featured heavily in Soviet chess tournaments leading up to the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1991. The name of the set reflects the Russian Civil War of 1918-22 when the communist ‘Reds’ battled the anticommunist White Army backed by Europe and America, and as we know, the more organized faction won the day leading to almost seven decades of cruel and oppressive Soviet rule – but perhaps you can change this blot in the history books by toppling the Reds with the White Army yourself!?
The original pieces had already recently been painted (by an anonymous Russian artisan) when they came to me – and not in a good way – so I had little hesitation in reinventing the set completely. This ‘overhaul’ started out with the knights, the design of which is probably the least favourite amongst collectors of the Soviet Grandmaster series. These I modified by restructuring the entire lower jaw and leaning the upper torso backwards a few degrees, paying homage to the rare “Tal” GM knight seen on the cover of his memoir, The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal. I then continued this GM ‘tribute’ theme by borrowing the knight’s ‘chevron and scallop’ chest design from an unusual GM3 set owned by the well-known American collector, Chuck Grau (which happened to be in the studio for restoration at the time).** All finials were also replaced; the inaccurately “restored” queen and bishop’s ball finials struck me instantly as too large, so these were reduced in size considerably (the queen finials are actually original 1970’s GM bishop’s finials – again, keeping it in the family!) and quite fittingly, the unique, revamped king’s finial pays homage to a rare Tzarist era set that passed through our gallery recently, Imperatoria (‘The Imperials’) – a Stauntonesque progenitor of the whole Soviet Grandmaster Series. The pawns remain unchanged, as do the rooks, apart from the crenellations, which have been deepened by a few millimetres, more in tune with earlier GM turret patterns. The deep blue felt pads are not just a pretty afterthought either as these reflect both the original coloured pads of early Soviet Grandmaster sets and also complete the red, white and blue motive of the modern Russian flag – adding the icing to the cake of this Soviet GM potpourri. A unique ‘collectivization’ and, I hope, collectable new member of the iconic Grandmaster family of chessmen.
Rufus et Albus are UV resistant and ideal for display as well as casual/blitz play. Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent bronze ‘Power’ signature of the artist on their bases.
The last photo is of the set as purchased, with amateurish faux-wood paint finish and knights before alternations.
The set is also accompanied by our unique, hand-drawn ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which will be posted out separately once we tally up how many ‘Bronze Signature’ sets pass through our galleries in 2021 “… all good things …” as the old saying goes.
Etsy Set Price: $950.00
The Chess Schach Set Price: $850.00
SET OF THE MONTH PRICE: $765.00
Ref Code: RW21
**check out Chuck Grau’s recent blogs at chessdotcom which cover much
of the early history of the Soviet Grandmaster line of chessmen and much more to boot!
Visit our Gallery for more artistically restored vintage chess sets.