Designing chess pieces seems to be a little like designing typefaces. There’s a lot of variety, but in the really elegant, refined pieces it’s the subtle attention to details that makes all the difference.
There are, perhaps, stronger architectural connections.
Daniel Weil has created a new design for the chess set which is making its debut at the World Chess Candidates Tournament in London.
Carrying through the Classical theme, Weil linked the eight major chess pieces to the eight columns of the façade of the Parthanon. He redrew the height of the pieces to reflect the pitch of the façade, so that the pieces before play would evoke the structure of a Classical building.
There are also ergonomic considerations. Weil developed the idea of a ‘north hold’, where the piece is held between the index finger and thumb, and a ‘south hold’, where it is cupped in the hand for more ‘theatrical disdain’.
According to the most widely told origin story, the Staunton set was designed by architect Nathan Cook, who looked at a variety of popular chess sets and distilled their common traits while also, more importantly, looking at the city [Victorian London] around him.
As chess increased in popularity across Europe in the 1800s, the proliferation in the variety of chess sets caused confusion amongst competitors, especially those hailing from different countries.