I am an average chess player. However I love the variety of chess sets out there and started collecting them. I was intrigued by the ways different people and different cultures interpreted the pieces.

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My sons each had favorites among my collection and when I was downsizing, it worked out well because they each had different favorites. If you are or fancy yourself a traveler, collecting chess sets can take you to interesting places out of the normal tourist venues. I asked several places in Guatemala before I found an onyx, angular chess set that screamed power. The designer was clearly partial to the rooks.

I found a hand carved one at the market in Cape Town, South Africa that came with its own board on a tripod. When I got back to my friends house, I was missing a piece so I went back to the market the next day. The woman from whom I had bought it saw me and came running up to hug me.

“I’m so glad you returned,” she said. “I have a piece for you.”

I took the piece and asked if she had time for me to buy her a cup of coffee or tea. She was kind of startled but said yes and took me to a local café. She had given me the story she thought an American tourist might expect on the day I bought it. Over coffee she told me about the village carver who made it and how he supported his extended family with his carvings and how he was training the village kids to follow in his footsteps.

In a small town in Missouri on Highway 61, I found an artist colony with a man that cast pewter chess sets. I hope the internet has improved his market because that small town wasn’t a likely stop for anyone. His chess sets had a medieval feel.

My sons both play chess but are not serious or particularly skilled. We are even matches, all in all. My 7 year old grandson is into chess and they have a chess club that meets weekly at his school. He is a natural at thinking ahead and planning his moves. He has the pewter chess set because he asked for it. He spotted the African one in my back seat when I was moving stuff out of a storage locker and asked if he could have it for his next birthday (September). He then asked if I had enough chess sets that he could have one every year for his birthday. Hmmm. I could probably get him to 18 or so.

I told him why I started collecting them. I told him about the mostly old men playing in the New York City Parks and in the agoras in Greece. He seemed fascinated by the idea that this was a world wide game that he could play everywhere if he traveled. He has excellent pattern perception skills and a conversation like this is a treat.

He also promised me that he was almost good enough to beat me. Since he is really focused and persistent I’m sure that he will.


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