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In great works of literature and history, life has been metaphorically alluded to a game of chess. Indeed, life could easily be compared to an engaging game of chess, with each person having to deal with one’s own set of pawns, knights, kings or queens and applying the many strategies of the game in the art of planning, adapting to situations, problem solving and more.
(Carolingi XIV Chess Set by Piero Benzoni, crafted in gold and silver, costs US$113,575)
The business of playing chess was considered so serious in the golden days of yore, that those hailing from wealthy families were completely addicted to the game, to the extent of neglecting their kith and kin, and playing the game no matter what struck them or those around them. This anomaly has been brilliantly portrayed by the Satyajit Ray directed cult film ‘Shatranj ke Khiladi’ or ‘The Chess Players’, wherein the two noblemen portrayed by actors Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey, fled to a village on the eve of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 when the British were about to annex the Indian State of Awadh, just to play chess…such was their passion for the game!
(A still from the iconic Satyajit Ray film, Shatranj Ke Khiladi)
The word shatranj is believed to have originated from the term chaturanga, literally meaning four arms, or the divisions of the military, comprising of infantry, cavalry, elephants and chariots, represented by the pawn, knight, bishop, and rook, in modern day chess. Chaturanga developed as a game as early as 6th Century AD in India, under the reign of the Gupta Empire! In the 7th century, Persians adopted chaturanga to the more commonly known form of the game, shatranj, which was then taken to late-medieval Europe.
(Page from the 'Book of Games', which dates to 1282, shows Alfonso x of Spain discussing a chess problem with two players; source: Aramco World)
Owing to the historic origins of the game, chess boards themselves have been evolving down the ages from extremely elaborate, marble inlaid pieces with mother-of-pearl infusions to sleek and sexy ones carved out of the finest woods, metals and even precious stones. Sitting across an opponent with a powerful piece of the game held amidst the fingers, whilst contemplating one’s next move, can be a huge psychological high, as it is believed that the wiser player always emerges victorious.
(Exquisite pieces from Giuseppe Vasari's Waterloo Chess Set; source: Chess Antiques)
Amongst some of the most stunning and breathtaking chess sets created all over the world is the Carolingi XIV chess set crafted by Piero Benzoni, that is a homage to the ancient 9th century battles that took place between the Ottoman Turks and Carolingians. Designed in gold and silver with intricate detailing on each piece, this one comes for a stupendous $113,575. Meanwhile, the classic Silver Jubilee Chess Set which was created by Geoffrey Parker in 1970 to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee, is magnificent and charming, appealing to collectors and masses alike.
(Silver Jubilee Chess Set, commissioned in honour of Queen Elizabeth)
Another notable chess piece is the Charles Hollander Royal Diamond chess set that was created in some 4,500 hours by craftsmen painstakingly handcrafting each nuance of every individual piece. The 14-carat pieces are designed in white gold and embellished with 9,900 white and black diamonds weighing a total of around 186.09 carats, and the fascinating chess set is priced at a whopping half a million dollars!
(The Royal Diamond Chess Set by Charles Hollander)
Artisera, as a custodian of immensely unique and avant garde ideas in collectibles, fine art, furniture, and décor, features classy and elegant tabletops in fine marble and teak stone finishes, for connoisseurs and collectors with a discerning eye. Besides functioning as table tops, these could actually become conversation pieces in the living area and could hold pride of place for many a tete-a-tetes.
Originated in India, and now played the world over, there’s no game more strategic, intelligent, or better suited to the thinking individual than chess, and with the game’s history comes a rich artistic past, witnessed in the exquisite chess pieces carved over thousands of years!
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