Cardinalis d’Griseo (The Grey Cardinals); Weighted Soviet ‘Plastymass’ Chess Set in Original Plastic Box, c.1975
Cardinalis d’Griseo (The Grey Cardinals); 32 weighted plastic chess pieces with their original box, board not included, blue/grey vs. off-white, antiqued, Soviet (Ukrainian) “Kievplastmass” (Kiev Plastics Manufactory), c.1975
Height: King 8cm, weight 25g, base width (all pieces) 2.5cm; Queen 7cm 25g, Bishop 6.3cm 20g, Knight 5.5cm 20g, Rook 4.7cm 20g, Pawns 4cm 13g.
W: lush Russian blue felt bases, B: same
Box Dimensions: 14cm x 10cm x 8cm
Total weight of box and pieces; 665g or nearly 1.5lb
While the classic wooden Soviet designs of the 1950s and 60s were being oversimplified and reduced to a shadow of their former selves, in the 70s and 80s, the versatile carbolite, plastic and ambroid chess sets were just coming into their own. These were mass-produced box sets, aimed at the Soviet “youth” or ‘shkolniks’ for whom many of the patterns were named. Most of these Shkolnik sets are of medium size with an average King height of around 8 centimetres and are generally loosely based either on a well-known wooden pattern or (in the case of the ‘hollow’ plastic sets) on the earlier carbolite/bakelite tournament sets from the 30s and 40s, which were heavy, solid forms.
The Grey Cardinals are a fine example of the rich variety of plastiform designs from what I believe to be the ‘Golden Era’ of plastic analysis chess sets. Their stems seem to sweep straight up from the ground punching through their collars and culminating in the signifiers on top. The knights, too, sweep up in the same graceful manner and have wonderful, subtle detailing about their heads. The bishops signum in particular is very unique to Soviet sets and is more reminiscent of the ‘ammo-shaped’ Bundesform bishops of post-WWII Germany.
The set was originally the run-of-the-mill black v. white, but the detailing was lost completely on the dark pieces so I chose instead to refinish them in “Wedgwood blue.” This has been subtly antiqued to match the naturally aged patina of the white pieces that have picked up a wonderful colouring from tobacco-stained brandy-fingers over the years. A few of the white pieces were actually a tad lighter which I matched to the others just to bring the set together. The process was posted on our FB page The Chess Schach a few weeks back if you’re interested.
All in all a very graceful medium-sized analysis set. Made all the more enjoyable with the addition of weight – quite a rarity in these sought-after Soviet sets of the past.
Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent bronze ‘power’ signature of the artist and are UV resistant and therefore ideal for display as well as blitz/casual play. The Grey Cardinals also come with a Certificate of Artistry which is posted separately to the set once we tally up how many Bronze Signature sets passed through our galleries in 2021.
“All good things …” as the saying goes.
Etsy Set Price: $550.00
thechessschach.com Set Price: $450.00
Visit our Gallery for more artistically restored vintage chess sets.