Iratus Antiquae (The Old Snarlers); Classic Soviet ‘Laughing Knights’ Chess Set, c.1935-1950
The Old Snarlers (Iratus Antiquae); 32 traditionally coloured ‘Laughing Knights’ chess pieces without board, rare, wood, unweighted, chestnut red vs. walnut, antiqued, Soviet, c.1930s
Height: King 100mm, weight 16g, base width 30mm; Queen 85mm, wt 11g, Bishop 70mm 9g, Knight 70mm 11g, Rook 52mm 11g, Pawns 45mm 7g.
W: Prussian Blue felt pads; B: same
The adopted name ‘Laughing Knights’ is a reinterpretation of the late Nicholas Lanier’s (chess-museum.com) comment on his informative website, referring to them as “Happy Knights” and they do indeed take centre stage. However, the bishops also deserve to share the spotlight too, sporting their iconic onion-shaped domes that reach up to the Heavens and topped here with a delicate ‘nipple’ finial that follow suit with the traditional, opposing coloured finials of the royals.
The pawns carry the large, bell-bottomed bases of an era when lead was in high demand for more serious warfare or reserved for the tournament sets of other Soviet wartime patterns. I was very tempted to weight the pieces, but decided against it as I wanted the ‘feel’ of the set to be traditional. This traditional theme applies to the colour of each army, too, which have been kept in the red vs. black – a well-known preference of Stalin, intentionally shunning the white vs. black set-up of most Western tournament sets.
The set came to me shy of two pawns which were kindly turned for me by the well-known master-craftsman, Alan Dewey. Other minor restorations I dealt with myself (a few nicks to the collars and bases and the two dark bishop finials/spires have been restored too – see my facebook page The Chess Schach for the resto process). The original patina wasn’t ugly, just dirty and slightly tacky. This was simply cleaned, revealing a wonderful glowing red colour beneath. I used this as my base and restored the set to what I imaged it would have looked like after a few decades of use (without the eighty years of finger-slime!). Interestingly, when I tackled the dark pieces the entire crowns of the king and queen were red underneath the thick layer of black lead paint. This hint of red beneath has been retained – highlighted even, which compliments the opposing army of Old Snarlers perfectly.
Why Old Snarlers? Well, from a side on view the knights do indeed seem like they’re laughing. Looked at head on, however, you get a very different impression! (see thechessschach.com gallery for more photos)
Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent copper 2022 ‘Power’ signature of the artist on their bases and The Old Snarlers 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.
Etsy Set Price: $1150.00
thechessschach.com Set Price: $950.00
Ref Code: OS22