The “Directoire” are the most widespread style of play in the 18th century. One reason was the inexpensiveness of production, as it did not include sculptured pieces. This is why this type of game was frequently found in cafés and chess clubs alike.
The “Directoire” style has many points in common with Regency-type games, as they were produced in the same tabletteries – the original “tabletiers” were meant to produce small tablets with a wax surface to write on – but for a different clientele. One typical characteristic is the absence of a knight / a horse that represents a rider. Other distinctive features are the crown of the king, as well as the cylindric and rounded shape of the knight’s top. The pawns, bishops, and queens top part are identical and end in a spherical appendage. The rooks are mounted on a stand. A main drawback was, of course, the confusion between different pieces. This is why the upper circles of the knight and the bishop were cut so that they could be distinguished more easily. This also explains why the “Regency” style – though more cumbersome to produce – will often replace the Directoire style, leading to the near disappearance towards the end of the century.
‘Directoire’ games were produced from 1715 onward until the end of the 18th century. It is difficult to date them in between the century, except for the games of the revolutionary period, where kings will lose their crown, as did King Louis XVI in person. It can be added that during the so-called terror period, it was a wise choice for manufacturers not to produce anything or use anything that evoked the old regime.
What can be said about the “Directoire style” is the low cost of production, and the speed of producing it. When chess became more fashionable in Parisian cafés and elsewhere, manufacturers need to satisfy growing demand. They used the rare games then existing in cafés, such as the “Procope” style, as a basis for their own production. Towards the end of the 18th century, “Directoire” style games became closer to the “Regency” style, before being cannibalised by it. Some particular sets can be linked to this style in the encyclopaedia of Diderot and d’Alembert.
Example of Directoire set. 18th century. Source: CCI France.
King and queen in fruit wood, Directoire style. 18th century. Source: CCI France.
Source: CCI France