Edward Winter's Chess Explorations (89)

9/16/2012 – Chess boards and pieces are so photogenic that they are frequently used to advertise and promote a wide range of products, services and events. From the many specimens known to exist, the Editor of Chess Notes has picked out a few of the less common ones, showing how the Royal Game has been employed in the past to produce advertising for alcohol, tobacco and razor blades.

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Chess Explorations (89)

By Edward Winter

Smoking used to be a common theme in chess-related advertisements. For instance, C.N. 4622 gave, courtesy of Jim Kulbacki (Cheyenne, WY, USA), an item featuring Frank J. Marshall, from the Saturday Evening Post, 28 April 1934:


Click to enlarge


An oddity was shown in C.N. 5218: a promotional photograph, probably from the 1950s, for women’s pipe-smoking:

We found the picture on page 182 of The Ultimate Pipe Book by Richard Carleton Hacker (Beverly Hills, 1984).


C.N. 7513 showed a selection of chess-related advertisements in an article ‘Echecs et publicité’ by Jean Buchet on pages 28-30 of L’Echiquier de Paris, March-April 1949:


Larger version

It was stated that the three olympiad posters (by, respectively, B. Juan Dell’Acqua, Ernesto M. Scotti and Alfredo Franzetti) were the winners of a competition set by the organizing committee, that the Norwich Union poster appeared during the Nottingham, 1936 tournament, that the photograph in the top right-hand corner was published in the Schweizer Illustrierte Zeitung of 10 February 1937 in an advertisement for the painkiller Togal, and that the light-bulb advertisement (Philips) was taken from the Algemeen Dagblad of 16 March 1948.


On the subject of posters with chess connections, in C.N. 7524 Michaël Smorowski (La Garde, France) reported that he had acquired the one below, dated 1972, in St Petersburg. It concerns a production of The Apple Cart by George Bernard Shaw:


Finally, C.N. 7533 reproduced an advertisement for Probak blades which we found on page 65 of True Detective Mysteries, December 1931:



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Edward Winter is the editor of Chess Notes, which was founded in January 1982 as "a forum for aficionados to discuss all matters relating to the Royal Pastime". Since then, over 7,780 items have been published, and the series has resulted in four books by Winter: Chess Explorations (1996), Kings, Commoners and Knaves (1999), A Chess Omnibus (2003) and Chess Facts and Fables (2006). He is also the author of a monograph on Capablanca (1989). In 2011 a paperback edition was issued.

Chess Notes is well known for its historical research, and anyone browsing in its archives will find a wealth of unknown games, accounts of historical mysteries, quotes and quips, and other material of every kind imaginable. Correspondents from around the world contribute items, and they include not only "ordinary readers" but also some eminent historians – and, indeed, some eminent masters. Chess Notes is located at the Chess History Center. Signed copies of Edward Winter's publications are currently available.


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