Chess pieces-026c

Shelby Lyman on Chess: The Pieces Are the Thing
Column c2243 for release July 20
Sunday, July 26, 2015
(Published in print: Sunday, July 26, 2015)

For kids, chess sets are no-brainers.

They’ll play with anything that’s available, whether simple or ornate, manufactured or makeshift. The game is the thing.

For professional players, it’s another matter.

With the ever-present tournament chess clock counting down their allotted time, familiarity and instant recognizability are essential to an acceptable design.

This is especially true under pressure when bizarre things may happen, such as stirring a cup of coffee with a king or queen, or during a crowded weekend tournament when accidentally moving a piece on an adjacent board can cause a contretemps of four players that even the most experienced referee will have trouble unravelling. Or it may be a case of simply overlooking obvious tactical or strategic threats.

It is no accident that a standard has evolved over the years, the so-called Staunton chess set, defined by a knight that replicates the motif of the horses on the Parthenon frieze.

The Staunton set is virtually universal in formal chess competitions and commonplace in skittles or casual chess. Unquestionably, clearly defined and recognizable chess pieces speed up and increase the accuracy of the thinking process. If your friendly opponent casually suggests you play with an unfamiliar, ornate set he brought back from his recent travels, beware!

No matter how intriguing its novelty and aesthetics, you may incurring a disadvantage from the start.

More here.

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