zondag 28 december 2014

Philippine & Ivory

Philippine Staunton

These attractive sets are made in hardwoods - something like tiger ebony - and a mellow local hardwood. They date from pre-WW 2 until the very recent past, and seemingly are still made in the Philippines.  Main feature are the handcarved one piece knights - the more elaborate, the older the set. Also remarkable the elongated cross on the kings, and the bulging bases, which give these sets very good stability without having lead weighting. Betters sets have straight rooks instead of underslung rooks. Also, especially in larger sets, all the light figures are noticeably more massive than the darker ones, to make up for the difference in specific weight. Very dicey: these sets are - like all chess sets - imitated in India, in sheesham or even lighter woods. The replicas are easy to distinguish - by weight, by the fact that the dark side is painted, and - by the colour of the felt pads!

Tournament pieces

Good tournament set, natural woods, king stands 103 mm to the top of the typical pointed cross

Boxed tournament set

Rougher set - see knight - king 106 mm - in a folding box with grip!

From India with love

Light wood set, dark side blackened, blue pads - kings at 113 mm - no difference in volume between pieces! The felt pads  in blue ... compared with a real Philippine set in red....

2 huge Sets

2 huge sets, from the 50ies-60ies - kings at 174 mm ( 7 ")  - light pieces much less voluminous, to make up for the difference in specific weight compared to the heavier dark bolo wood.

Philippino meet

The slight differences are revealing - rooks and knights.The outer pieces are the older - more massive - more harmonically turned /carved pieces .

Filipine aristocracy

Lovely set, not rare, recent (60ies)- the major figures (king  ) seem to represent landowner gentry. BUT - an article by Jim Joannou in the Chess Collector 2/2009 has considerably changed the picture - acc. to Jim this is a "Maria Clara" set,  celebrating the novel heroine of Phillippine writer José Rizal - read the whole article HERE  - knights are most likely water buffaloes, and the rooks are rice thatched huts.  As in other good Filipino sets, natural hardwoods, simply polished and oiled. Kings stand  tall at 126 mm.

Tribal set

Handcarved set - acc. to Jim Joannou in Chess Collector 2/2009 - a set celebrating the rice cult, and carved in the Ifugao tribal area in the Northwest - check out Jim's article HERE. The warriors as pawns, stilt houses as rooks, warriors riding water buffaloes as knights. King stands 128 mm - please note that the light side pieces are composed from two different types of wood! Possibly a mixup in the workshop...

Bone & Ivory Chess Sets

Ivory and bone have much to recommend them as material - some of the oldest chess pieces have been made in these solid natural materials. While bone is plentiful as an end product of animal slaughter, ivory is scarce - and nowadays conditioned by the international CITES convention prohibiting the trade in ivory to protect the surviving animals that produce them.  Strangely enough, sizeable quantities of ivory from African National parks - as well as from mammoth carcasses appearing in the Siberian tundra - crop up quite steadily.....

Horn Viennese

Extraordinary set in Austrian style, probably made between 1880 and 1920. On the major pieces, the rings are stuck onto the central pillar - and rattle around freely. And at least one of the disks is warped by heat or age  ......

Austrian Bones .

Highly attractive Austrian (Old Vienna) chessmen in red and white bone - probably Erzgebirge around 1880. Every piece is made in sections, which unscrew , except the knights, perforated by metal screws.The kings stand  stand 74 mm - cd this set have been part of a games compendium?

Fine detail

Beautifully carved and polished heads - not easy in bone! And superb colouring, with a strong vivacious red....

Rope pattern Barleycorn

_Barleycorn pieces with rope patterns on the drums and stems - German and 19th C.  Check the kings and bishop tops -quite unusual - the red queen cd be a replacement or recoloured - kings size 90 mm.

Uhlig bones 1900

_Set by Uhlig from ca. 1900 - the high moment of this principal Borstendorf in the Erzgebirge manufactury. King size is 80 mm, white almost ivory-like bone is used, and the only minor faults are on some bases where the turners tool has slipped.

Uhlig bones 1938

_A "poverty" version Uhlig from the days before WW 2, probably reflecting the economic constrangiments of those days - strange knight shape, less substantial pieces (less bone used), same king height, much less weight.

Large Barleycorn chessmen

This set deserves the name "barleycorn" - the name giving decorations around the central drum are prominent and well executed. King stands 104 mm - apart from the drum , also base and stem are decorated with cuts and rings in great profusion. Should date to the late 19th century.


Canton Bones

Cantonese "Burma"style bone set,  with  the white king standing 64 mm. These pieces - no two exactly alike - shd be from the end of the 19th C - the white king is notably higher than the red one, with slightly different hats and stems. The two red steeds hail from different stables, and a former owner has glued stems with the aid of sealing lacquer - a frequent practice in former days!


Indian Camelbone set

Recent camel bone set which stuck to my hands - 80-ies to 90ies - kings stand 133 mm high, all pieces are made of threaded sections, which can be unscrewed.


Miniature bone set, finely turned, with a 30 mm king - photographed with a ballpen!  No two pieces are alike - the overall impresion is You need a magnifying glass and pincers to risk a game..the info I have it is from Nuremberg and 19th Century. It stands to reason that a set this small was made as cabinet trick for collectors, proving the prowess of the turner. The tiny board was acquired separetely - but seems to be the correct one for this set!


"Netsuke" chessmen

The name is fitting, as these minute chessmen must have been carved by the same artesans who make - or made - netsuke (belt weights)  and other small ivory trinkets, with similar whimsical features. These sets are not too rare, were made in Japan in the first half of the 20th C. This one was most likely made by a prominent carver - the kings are signed with a Kanji pictograph on the base - and the pawns each side are different, one side kneeling, the other standing. The major pieces are even slightly engraved to show the intricate patterns of the Kimonos! The theme is feudal Tokugawa society - daimyos as kings, humble rice farmers as pawns, samurais in full war dress as knights, bonzes as bishops, and a temple tower as rooks. Natural and tea-coloured - the whole set and the accompanying marquetry box are superbly finished, as is usual in Japanese handicraft!


Finely cut show set form Hongkong, in the 60ies to 80ies. The kakadu is king (94 mm), the helmeted pigeon is bishop, and nightingales are the pawns (as far as my ornithological ken goes...). Slightly incongruous to have horsehead knights and rooks in this voliere. Each piece is a carved blade of bone fixed in a turned bone base. Attractive cloth-covered cassette to protect these pieces.

19th C Indian set

Fragile bone pieces out of Canton, 19th Century, king 70 mm. This set is not really complete, 3 pieces are right away wood replicas, one base is recreated in wood, and two pawns are replacements. Still, an interesting antique, with numerous features familiar from old Guangdong export sets. Check other collectors pages - Links - for better sets of this kind.

Selenus type

Bone chess set, probably made in Germany, with the intricate baskets on king and queen associated with Gustavus Selenus, and the whole german tradition following his famous book with piece illustrations. The eye dots are probably not original, but one former owners children might have been busy with a felt pen...


Passable barleycorn bone set, in the traditional red and white, probably british.. some sections do unscrew. King stands 84 mm - this must have been a playing set, as the filials on the rooks indicate.

Tall Bones

Tall and elegant bone playing set, 19th C to early 20th C - almost none of the usual dark pores inherent in bone sets! The rooks are missing filials, one side is polished natural, the other coloured red, the knights are most interesting. All sections are threaded and unscrew. Kings at 75 mm, most likely of indian origin,made for the british market.

Staunton style

Quite frequently seen style, playing set from the turn of the Century (19th to 20th) or later - probably made in Germany , kings stands 67 mm

Black and white

Small bone set in unusual black and white scheme - king stands 62 mm, all sections threaded - I surmise from the East (India or Japan).

2. Staunton playing set

Well made playing set, with a king of 62 mm, one rook replaced - how old? 1920 ca.

"Ye Olde" English

Old engish playing set, 19th C, in bone, natural and red, king stands 66 mm. Very standard set of yesteryear.

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