Nobilis Valdicum (Valdai Nobles); 32 lightly weighted wooden chessmen
without board, Soviet, red vs. deep brown, Stalin Era, c.1950
Height: King 8cm, wt 15g, base diameter 3.3cm; Queen 7cm, wt 12g, Bishop 6.3cm wt11g, Knight 6cm wt 15g, Rook 4.7cm wt 14g, Pawn 4.5cm wt 7g.
W: antiqued pink felt bases B: same
This iconic Soviet design is the earliest version of what is sometimes called the ‘Valdayski’ or ‘Noble’ chessmen. ‘Valdayski’ referring to the Valdai Regional Industrial Manufactory (a polite term for a ‘work-camp’) within the ancient city of Novgorod where many of these sets, amongst others (such as the well-known BFII and Baku I sets) were largely produced. The style is “quintessentially Soviet” (as the Berlin based collector, Porat Jacobson, eloquently put it) featuring the broad, bell bottomed bases that attempted to compensate for the lack of lead weight during the years just after the Second World War – which I have made all the more enjoyable to play with by the addition of some actual weight!
The distinctive colour of the opposing pieces (deep red vs. black) and the more compact domes of the bishops is what generally differentiates this design from those that followed in the mid-1960s.* Here, I’ve chosen to respect this tradition, bringing them as close to what I imagine the original sets to have looked like when they first left Stalin’s work-camps in the late 1940s. As you can see by the photographs, however, I have chosen a very deep walnut brown for the black pieces with burnt sienna undertones that compliment the effervescent shades of the antiqued chestnut red pieces quite wonderfully.
When it entered The Schach, the set was in excellent overall condition apart from a badly chipped collar of the white queen, which has been restored, and two missing collars of the white pawns, also restored – I’ve since lost track of which ones! The pads are also new, but have been kept in the traditional pink colour and have been gently antiqued (using Danish oil) to complete the all-round feel of Soviet antiquity.
If you do not have one of these designs in your collection already, I doubt you will find one artistically restored with such attention and respect to the original Valdai chess pieces.
The pieces are UV resistant and ideal for display as well as casual play. Both kings carry the hand-painted iridescent silver signature of the artist on their bases.
Ref code: NV20
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