Pre-Revolution Sets


Many of the tzars of Russia loved chess. Ivan the terrible died while playing a game and another car orders that chess was the only game to be played by the royal family and at the royal court.

Czar Alexei Mikhailovitch, when seven years old, was bought a wooden chess set and board from a  local market by his father, Mikhail Federovitch. The game became a lifelong passion for Alexei, to the extent that the ordered ivory carvers of Kholmogory, the shakmatchiki, to be brought to the court in Moscow, solely to create chess sets and boards for him. 

18th century Russian chess set 

Second half of 18th century. Carved, engraved, and tinted. Dimensions 6.5cmx3cm. Entered the Hermitage in 1951. Source: The State Hermitage Museum. 

Playing set, North Russia, ca. 1800 

Conventional  playing set in brown and white bone from North Russia. Similar sets were also turned from wood. The eighteenth century designs follows the pattern of the other early turned playing sets, with the pawn, bishop, queen and king being similar except for size, a stylised carved horse head for the knight and the boat beginning to resemble the castle or tower of western European sets. Source: Williams G. (2000) Master Pieces. 

“Little Faces” set, circa 1800

Turned and carved from walrus ivory. An old manuscript describes a similar designed set as being made from mammoth bone, made in Archangel. Forms of the pawn, bishop, queen, and king are of same height. Attractive carved knight and the ladia or boat, shaped like a river fisherman’s coracle with a central mast. King’s height 7.6 cm. Source: Williams G. (2000) Master Pieces.