In recent posts, we’ve been exploring how the means of Soviet chess set production changed in response to a growing army of chess-players and the evolution of Soviet economic policy, structure, and organization. Here are some sets mass-produced by major factories following the Great Patriotic War.
Obyedovskaya Toy Factory, Ivanovo Region
Such sets were manufactured by Obyedovskaya Toy Factory, Ivanovo Region. They represent last major evolution of this venerable design that appears to have originated in the Berezovsky child labor camp of the late 1930s. By the 1980s it had been significantly simplified to facilitate mass production. This is most evident in the knights, which have become little more than slabs cut by a band saw. The cuts in the rooks’ turrets and the queens’ coronets also have been removed. The fictional Beth Harmon played her ultimate match with pieces like these in the Netflix series Queen’s Gambit. The kings are 100 mm tall and the pieces are unweighted, but remain relatively stable because of their conical stems and bases.
According to Wikipedia, “Ivanovo… is the administrative center and largest city of Ivanovo Oblast, located 254 kilometers (158 mi) northeast of Moscow and approximately 100 kilometers (62 mi) from Yaroslavl, Vladimir and Kostroma. Ivanovo had a population of 408,330 as of the 2010 Census, making it the 49th largest city in Russia… “Ivanovo gained a reputation as the textile capital of Russia during the nineteenth century. .. Also, there is a branch plant of AviraKids, a Russian holding company that occupies 37.5% of the Russian gaming equipment production industry.”
Borodino Factory of Cultural Goods
This factory, located near Moscow, bears the name of the famous battle fought near Borodino village in 1812. It may have derived from an artel named Borodino Turner, as seen in this stamp from the 1930s or 1940s.
The pictured pieces have a 10.5 cm. king and are unweighted. They appear to be from the 1970s or perhaps later because of their plastic finials.
Elizarovskaya Factory of Cultural Goods
Elizarovskaya is another factory located near Moscow. The kings of this 1950s set are 93 mm. and the pieces are unweighted.
I believe the following set likely was manufactured by Elizarovskaya, though it lacks a cardboard box with identifying information.
These pieces are very similar to those seen in a well-known photo of Yuri Averbakh playing with them in the 1949 Moscow Championship.
Zvenigorod Cultural Goods Factory
Yet another factory from the Moscow region. Here is a set of weighted tournament pieces manufactured there in the 1950s.
King’s height: 105 mm. Weighted, with blue felts. Here is the stamp from the set’s box.
Petrushkovaya Factory of Cultural Goods
An article on chess set production circa 1970 in the Perkhushkovskaya factory outside Moscow. As translated by Nick Basmanov:
“Chess Are Made Here
“A cosy rectangle of a board. Tiny black and white figures… These magnetic chess sets are manufactured by cultural goods factory named Perkhushkovskaya. The production is mastered only 2 years ago, but it has already got the “Quality sign”. A special anniversary edition is prepared for the centenary of Lenin’s birth.
“A huge bright workshop. And kings and queens are everywhere. Thousands of monarchs are in the workshop. The newly made chess lords gleaming with fresh varnish are waiting in a line for packaging. They are waiting for long journeys. Orders come from everywhere: from cities of our country, from Hungary, Bulgaria…
“Manufacturing of chess pieces is a laborious business. This operation is entrusted to the most experienced craftsmen, cause figures turning is only partially automated. However engraver Volodin designed a special machine and very soon anyone will be able to make chess pieces.
“There is no factories manufacturing chess and checkers sets applicable for blind people. Perkhushkovskaya is the only exception. The range of products is growing continuously.
“The issue of portable chess for tourists to begin soon. Training chess and boards made of precious woods will delight customers and decorate any apartments. Samples of abstract chess pieces are created at the suggestion of craftsman Sindalsky. This original “Gift” set to go on sale soon.
“The Perkhushkovskaya factory production is in great demand. This is not surprising cause we love chess. Recently representatives of Star City asked the management of the Perkhushkovskaya to sell several magnetic chess sets. Perhaps the first spaceship tournament will be played on these chess boards.”
1950s Tournament Set
Nearly identical in design to the Zvenigorod set above.
1980s Grandmaster 2 Pieces
This design originally was classified as one of four “Grandmaster” sets by Portuguese collector and historian Arlindo Vieira.
The design is quintessentially Soviet. Large, bulbous bases, curving up to concave stems, which trumpet into the pedestals upon which the crowns and miters perch. The bulbous bases are echoed in the bulbous bases of the king’s crown and bishop’s onion-shaped miter, which itself reflects the shape of orthodox church domes. Large proletarian pawns. CV-shaped Knights carved in the distinct manner of the sixties.
108 mm. kings and weighted. Sets similar to this one were used in the 1967 USSR Championship.
Like the GM3, the finials of these sets began as all wood, but replaced by plastic ones by the eighties. Similarly, the finish of the early sets were smooth and clear. By the eighties, the pieces were slathered unevenly in taffy apple varnish.
Oredezh Factory, Leningrad
Originally called the Orodezh Factory, this production facility was succeeded by the Luga Factory.
Shown below are 1968 GM 1 Chessmen, Model ЛО-049-343. It’s a beautiful specimen in excellent condition. Wooden finials. Light finish on the White pieces. Beautiful dirty rose felts. The stamp makes it clear that the pieces and board originally came together.
Here is a set in the later Luga Factory box.
This concludes our brief survey of wooden factory sets of the fifties and later. We will examine factory-made plastic sets in a later article.