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Saturday, January 15, 2011

London's Bonhams to auction rare chess sets this Monday

Chess blog for latest news and trivia (c) Alexandra Kosteniuk, 2011

Hello Everybody,

We are giving you the perfect excuse to be in London even in this 'frozen' weather. Nothing would hold you back if you read this Wall Street Journal article.

Bonhams auction house in London is going to auction rare chess sets Africa, Asia, America and Europe dating from the 18th to the 20th century this Monday.

At Christie's South Kensington in December, a souvenir chess piece made to commemorate the historic match between the British House of Commons and the U.S. House of Representatives in 1897 was sold for £4,375. The match was played over two days by cable transmission and resulted in a draw.

Chess prices at auction have risen steadily over the past 10 years, with particular demand coming from "well-heeled businessmen," Bonhams specialist Luke Honey says. The exquisitely sculptured figures usually aren't bought for playing but for the joy of owning them, he adds.
(Left A 19th-century whaler's maritime traveling chess set is estimated at £900-1,200.)

A major highlight will be an ivory and ebony figural chess set from southern Germany from circa 1700. Crowned kings and queens are dressed in regal medieval fashion and pawns wear baggy breeches and flared-bottomed coats. The set is expected to fetch £15,000-£20,000. "It is very rare to have a complete set from so far back," Mr. Honey says.

From circa 1780 comes a French ivory bust set that plays Europeans against the Moors. The European side is left in natural ivory, while the Moorish side is dyed red. There are charming details such as the Moorish queen wearing dangling earrings and the European king with his hair tied with a ribbon underneath his crown (estimate: £7,000-£9,000).

Another 18th-century set comes from Russia. Carved from mammoth ivory, it is valued at £2,000-£3,000. And a 19th-century English whaler's maritime traveling set will be offered in its original mahogany box, engraved with the name of the whaling ship's captain (estimate: £900-£1,200).

East meets West in a decorative Chinese set that was made for the export market in circa 1820. One side depicts the king and queen of England, with bishops as clergy and knights as horsemen; and the other, the Chinese emperor and empress as king and queen, bishops as mandarins and rooks as elephants with flags (estimate: £3,000-£5,000).

A fun item comes from 20th-century Africa. A 1950s hardwood tribal set shows queens bearing pots on their heads, bishops as witch doctors, knights as giraffes and pawns as tribesman (estimate: £200-£300).

There are a number of game boards that provide for both chess and backgammon. An Indian ivory, sandalwood and metal-inlaid board from circa 1900, the outside for chess and the interior for backgammon, is decorated with inlaid geometric medallions (estimate: £600-£800). The sale includes games other than chess. You can read further here.

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