The Brute (Bakii Brutalis); 32 weighted ‘Baku I’ chess pieces, Soviet, wood, caramel v. deep walnut, antiqued, circa 1945-60.
Height: King 11.3cm or 4 1/2”, weight 35g, base width 3.7cm or 1 1/2”; Queen 9.2 cm, wt 25g, Bishop 8.5cm 27g, Knight 8cm c.35g, Rook 6.5cm 30g, Pawns 5.5cm 18g
W: lush Russian blue felt pads, B: same
These elusive post-WWII Stalin Era sets feature the knight pattern that I personally refer to as ‘pre-tournament’ Baku, as they were manufactured prior to the 1961 Baku Tournament in Azerbaijan, from where they gained their slightly misleading moniker. In fact, many of these sets were manufactured 1200 miles north of Baku, just outside of Moscow, by the Volga Artel Cooperative in Zvenigorod. A prolific Artel (skilled labourers) that churned out a number of now-classic Soviet chess set designs that ceased to exist just prior to the 1961 tournie which adopted the more conventional rotund Baku II pattern. *
Damage report: The set came to me minus one knight which I found an original replacement for. Kings finials have been replaced. White Queen finial has been matched to original black finial. One white bishop’s finial was AWOL and has been restored. The set is a very good collective of two or three Baku I sets, probably used in chess clubs, where all the pieces end up in a potpourri at the end of the day. This meant I could have some fun with the set and take it in any direction I fancied. When it arrived, the patina of the light side was all over the place, differing sheens, colours and weight – it just didn’t look or ‘feel’ like a ‘complete’ set.
To remedy this I brought these old warriors together by partially stripping down the pieces, re-weighting them (evenly), then slowly building the colours back up again using multiple thin layers of clear and slightly tinted shellac as would have been used on the original pieces. This results in a very opaque, rich and extremely smooth finish that like a good bottle of wine, will mature wonderfully with age. All in all, and if I do say so myself, a very sexy set to look at and handle – and an absolute joy to play with, too!
The pieces 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. Bakii Brutalis is also accompanied by our unique ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which will be 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.
Ref code: BB21
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