Turkish businessman Akın Gökyay’s collection of 412 chess sets is in the Guinness Book of Records. Part of the collection, which he has gathered from some 100 countries on his travels since 1975, is now on display in Istanbul
Akın Gökyay, the chairman of Nurus Holding’s executive board, entered the Guinness Book of World Records Jan. 31 as the owner of the world’s largest collection of chess sets, with his collection of 412 sets purchased in nearly 100 countries beginning in 1975. An exhibit featuring part of the collection opened at the Nurus building in Istanbul’s Levent district March 15.
Explaining that he first learned to play chess from his father as a child, Gökyay said, “Chess is not just a game, it is an instrument that teaches people to think and plan. It also showcases the cultures of different countries.”
Chess sets from around the world
The exhibition’s opening was attended by Nurus Holding employees and a number of guests. Speaking at the ceremony, Gökyay, who is a lawyer, said that his father was a mathematics teacher and taught him to play chess. He said, “I started collecting chess games thanks to a design that I liked very much. Because of my work with an international volunteer organization and the passion for travel I share with my wife, I have traveled to nearly 90 countries, and collected chess sets in many of them. The sets on display here represent only one third of my entire collection, the rest which is in Ankara.”
Gökyay said that when he realized that the Guinness Book of Records includes records for all kinds of things, he decided to apply to it. “First I did some research to discover if any similar chess-set collections exist in the world, and then I applied to Guinness. Just like our bureaucracy, the Guinness bureaucracy works very slowly, and I was finally registered on Jan. 30. It is an honor, and I am pleased that this record is held in Turkey. I don’t see chess as a game. You can understand incidents in the history of many countries through chess,” Gökyay said.
Each set reflects the culture of its country
Gökyay’s collection includes chess sets made from many different materials, such as plated metal, cast metal, brass, marble, leather, stone, felt, glass and even fishbone. Their values range between $200 and $1,300. But when choosing sets, Gökyay attaches more importance to features that reflect the culture of the set’s country or region of origin, rather than to the materials used.
The collection also includes sets that appeal to children such as a Smurfs set, a Lucky Luke set and a Lord of the Rings set, as well as some reflecting real-world political relationships. Among Gökyay’s chess sets, which have been collected in places as diverse as Madagascar, France, Las Vegas, Italy, and Kazakhstan, one can also see sets depicting major wars or particular conflicts.