Imperatoria (The Imperials); Rare ‘Staunton’ Tzarist Era Chess Set, Russian c.1910
The Imperials (Imperatoria); 32 heavily-weighted Staunton-style tournament chessmen with original folding ‘book’ board, wood, original lead weights, Russian, pre-Bolshevik Era, artistically restored and antiqued, black vs. white, c.1895-1915.
Height: King 8.8cm or 3 1/2”, weight 60g, base diameter 4cm; Queen 8.7cm, wt. 50g; Bishop 8cm 30g, Knight 7cm 38g, Rook 5.5cm 30g, Pawns 4.8cm 25g.
W: lush Russian blue felt bases; B: same
This is the first of four projects I am undertaking in conjunction with the talented Russian artist and master carver, Misha Sokalov.* For this project he reproduced for me one white rook, the upper torso of one black knight and replicated the king’s finials, which are based on another Tzarist era chess set in my possession. Three of the Bishop’s finials have been replicated in wood based on the one remaining original which has a slight nick. The black king also has a nick to its base, a handsome battle-scar which he retains. The white king’s base had a more recent nick that I’ve repaired invisibly.
It seemed very fitting to me that the missing elements to this rare set were hand-made once again on Russian soil, lending the pieces the feel of artisans past, but with a finger on the future.
As mentioned, the set came to me in a fairly shabby condition (and even so, cost me close to $500 US), but the bones were there – and what big bones they are! The chunky, column-like stems of the pieces caught my eye immediately, as did the unusual rooks, quite a rarity, as they sport five crenellations. For me though, what the set most reminded me of was a precursor to the Staunton inspired Soviet GM, or ‘GrandMaster’ tournament sets of the Cold War Era. A quick perusal of Chuck Grau’s catalogue of GM3 and GM4 sets on his FB page ‘Shakmatnyye Kollektionery: Soviet and Russian Chess Sets’ makes this even more evident. The crown of the queen, the multi-collars of the royals and the slitted mitre of the bishop suggest the ‘standard’ Staunton tournament pattern introduced in the mid-1800s, which like the GM series avoided confusion with Russian and European chess pieces.
The board is in good playing condition for its age. I’ve oiled it, which you can do yourself every now and then and I’d be more than happy to suggest products and a few basic tips on maintenance. As I do with the pieces, too – all you have to do is ask.
*Misha Sokalov and his work can be found on FB. If you have any special projects in mind or missing pieces he is very busy, but also very approachable – no harm in asking as he’s an enormously talented artist and a thoroughly nice chap.
The result of The Imperials project is really a tale of two artists, if you like, and one that will provide many hours of amusement for you and your close ones for many years to come. We certainly hope so here at The Schach!
The Imperials (Imperatoria) is 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 set also comes with our unique ‘Certificate of Artistry’ which will be posted separately once we tally up how many listings passed through our galleries in 2021 – “All good things …” as the wise man once said…
Please feel free to ask any more questions.
Ref Code: TZ21
Visit our Gallery for more artistically restored vintage chess sets.