Modern Western Chess, Also Known as International Chess, Ranks Among The Most Popular Games in The World Today. It is Played By Millions of Enthusiasts on all Continents, on Standardized Chess Sets Manufactured in Many Nations.
Despite such a culturally-diverse mix of adherents, most chess sets today are surprisingly nondescript, typically featuring factory-made plastic, wood, brass, or marble boards and pieces.
For the aesthetically inclined, however, a wealth of exceptionally artistic handmade chess sets are available if a buyer knows where to look.
When purchasing handmade chess sets online, do be sure to select from reputable retailers, and be sure to view any available detail images of each set to determine if the game pieces are distinct enough from each other that players can determine which handmade pieces correspond to which standard-issue pieces.
Balinese artisans craft some of the most ornate handmade chess sets and chess set tables in the world today, featuring a broad range of exquisite cultural themes and even animal motifs (dragons, elephants, lions, tigers, birds, and so forth). Most artisans in Bali craft with local woods, while some carve their designs in sandstone.
Artisans in Brazil tend to incorporate hand-carved Brazilian soapstone and even local gemstones, proudly showcasing that nation's mineral riches.
In other areas of Latin America, artisans typically offer culturally-themed ceramic chess sets, handmade and hand-painted. Whimsical designs, handmade in Mexico from recycled metal (even auto parts), are also beginning to capture international interest.
African artisans typically incorporate local woods, or combinations of wood and leather, in simpler, attractive cultural designs.
Artisans in India tend to feature either marble or wood in their designs. The highest quality examples from India can be absolutely stunning and also tend toward the relatively simplistic.
Interestingly, chess is believed to have originated in India. The earliest known literary reference to chess is found in Indian texts dating to about 500 BC. It seems to have then migrated to Persia, and later China, continuing to gradually spread worldwide. Interestingly, Modern chess as we know it today emerged much later, in the 15th Century, in Southern Europe.
Chess competitor Susan Polgar, winner of ten Olympic Medals (including five Gold), recently discussed handmade chess sets from Ghana, Brazil, Mexico, and Bali in her excellent blog.
By Catherine Gallegos