Berlin Artist Porat Jacobson has designed and produced an original Soviet chess set design melding design concepts spanning six centuries. The pieces are inspired by at least four sets. The knight derives from one found from a Novgorod set of early 15th Century Rus.
The King and Queen are inspired by those of the Smyslov set of the 1920s and 1930s, as are the pawns. Perhaps the most striking feature of the Smyslov design is the dendriform structure of the stems, an Modernist architectural feature found in Frank Lloyd Wright’s dendriformic columns in the S.C. Johnson office building in Racine, Wisconsin USA and in Moscow’s Stalin Award-winning Kropotkinskaya Metro Station.
Porat’s pawns echo the Smyslov pawns while exaggerating the ovoid shape of their heads.
The Smyslova Rook is inspired by those of the Soviet Upright (fka Averbakh II) set of the 1930s and 1940s.
The bishop is inspired by another undetermined set, but incorporates the Smyslov’s dendriformic stem. Porat melds the ideas borrowed from these disparate Soviet sets with rhyming bases and dendriformic stems (“set identifiers” in Mike Darlow’s parlance).
The Smyslova set manifests Porat’s theory that Soviets had a “toolbox” of ideas from which they drew in different combinations and variations. It also illustrates his corollary that knights in Soviet sets are largely fungible. Different styles of knights can pair equally well with the same set; the same style knight can pair equally well with multiple sets.
The Smyslova is the inaugural set of Porat’s new venture, Jacobson Handmade Chess Sets. We can’t wait to see what else he has in store.