Child prodigies and the Art of Chess

by ChessBase
5/20/2003 – Sergei Karjakin is the youngest grandmaster in the history of the game, and David Howell is the boy who at the age of eight beat a grandmaster in an official blitz game (at 11 he drew a game against Vladimir Kramnik). On June 28 the two will face each other in an exhibition match to celebrate the opening of The Art of Chess exhibition. We bring you full information and some beautiful pictures.

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East meets West at Somerset House

World's Youngest Grandmaster to play British Chess Prodigy

Sergei Karjakin, the youngest Grandmaster in chess history, will fly to London from the Ukraine to play an Exhibition Tournament with 12 year old David Howell from Eastbourne, on Saturday 28 June 2003 to celebrate the opening of The Art of Chess at the Gilbert Collection. This exhibition match, using giant chess pieces, will take place at 11am in the Edmond J Safra Courtyard of Somerset House, Strand, London WC2. Afterwards, members of the public will be able to pit their wits against the two young stars of the chess world in a simultaneous open-air chess tournament, between noon and 5 pm. Forty tables will be in play at once and there will be a prize for anyone who manages to draw or win a game against one of the young champions.

Sergei Karjakin, the youngest grandmaster in the history of chess

Now aged 13, Sergei Karjakin became the youngest ever Grandmaster when he was 12 years 7 months old at the international chess tournament held in Sudak in the Crimea last August. Sergei, an only child, was born on 12 January 1990 and grew up in Kramatorsk, an industrial town in the Ukraine. His mother works in computers and his father ran a small business before becoming a full-time coach at the local chess club. Sergei began learning chess from his father at the age of five and was beating him consistently by the time he was seven. He does not go to school regularly but plays chess every day and his outside interests are table tennis and films. He hopes to become world champion at the age of 16.

David Howell, who scored a draw in a blitz game against world champion Kramnik

David Howell hit the headlines in August 1999 when, aged only 8, he became the youngest player in the world to defeat a Grandmaster in an official game, beating Dr John Nunn in a blitz game at the Mind Sports Olympiad. He went on to become the youngest ever British player to defeat a Grandmaster in classical chess when he beat Colin McNab in the 2001-2 Hastings Challengers tournament. When he is not playing chess, David also enjoys football, rugby, squash, table tennis and Playstation. He is a loyal Manchester United supporter and is keen on reading J. K. Rowling, J. R. R. Tolkien and Philip Pullman. His favourite band is the Red Hot Chili Peppers. His ambition is to become a Grandmaster and to continue playing chess internationally.

This exciting event marks the opening at the Gilbert Collection of the exhibition The Art of Chess, which features nineteen chess sets dating from the beginning of the 20th century to the present day. Each set illustrates a move in the apocryphal last game played by Napoleon with General Bertrand on St Helena in 1820. Visitors can follow the game from world's only known set designed by Carl Fabergé, to examples by Marcel Duchamp, a keen chess player himself, Alexander Calder, Yoko Ono and Damien Hirst.

During the exhibition a number of other chess-related events will take place, including Man v Machine on computers in the Workshop Gallery and Problem Chess, whereby a new challenge is set up each month with prizes for the winners. Public information line, tel. 020 7420 9412.

For further information and photographic material, please contact:
Sue Bond Public Relations, Hollow Lane Farmhouse, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 RQ
Tel. +44 (0)1359 271085, Fax. +44 (0)1359 271491 E-mail.

The Art of Chess at the Gilbert Collection

Exhibition of Chess Sets by Major Artists from Fabergé to Hirst

One of the most compelling exhibitions in Britain this summer will be staged at the Gilbert Collection, Somerset House, London, from 28 June to 28 September 2003. The Art of Chess will feature nineteen chess sets designed by artists in the last hundred years that demonstrate the interaction between chess and modern art. This exhibition will illustrate how this most challenging of games has inspired artists from 1900 to the present day, as it had in earlier centuries. The exhibition is generously supported by Oleg Deripaska.

The Art of Chess will intrigue not only chess enthusiasts but also followers of modern and contemporary art. Each set in the exhibition will illustrate a move in the apocryphal last game played by Napoleon (white) with General Bertrand (black) on St Helena in 1820. Napoleon was a keen chess player and he allegedly won this game by exploiting the bad play of his opponent. The final chess set culminates with Napoleon checkmating General Bertrand.

Fabergé Chess Set. Workmaster Karl Gustav Hjalmar Armfelt, circa 1905. King 8 cm, Pawn 4.5 cm, Board 63.5 x 63.5 cm. Dr George and Vivian Dean.

The first exhibit will be the only known Fabergé chess set. Made by the workmaster Karl Gustav Hjalmar Armfelt, this exquisite silver-mounted hardstone set has pieces carved from tawny aventurine quartz and grey Kalagan jasper, the board being made of Siberian jade squares alternating with pale apricot serpentine. It was specially made circa 1905 for Tsar Nicolas II's Commander in Chief of the Russo-Japanese War, General Alexei Kouropatkin.

Russian Mammoth Ivory Chess Set. Kholmogory, late 19th century. King 5.7 cm, Pawn 3.7cm, Douglas Polumbaum.

There is just one set dating from the 19th century: a Kholmogory Russian mammoth ivory set. The village of Kholmogory, near Arkhangel'sk, was a centre of bone and ivory carving, the origins of which go back to the Neolithic period. The Kings are shown as chiefs holding pipes, the Bishops as hunters with rifles and the Knights intricately carved as reindeer heads. Such decorative sets were popular with the Russian aristocracy and this delightful example is laid out as the first move when Napoleon brought out his Knight as did his opponent.

Propaganda Chess Set: Capitalists v Communists. Natalia and Yelena Danko, Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory, Leningrad, 1925. King 11.5 cm, Pawn 5.9 cm

From the Soviet Union of the 1920s will be two remarkable Russian Revolutionary chess sets that reflect the social conflicts of the time, designed by the sisters Natalia and Yelena Danko for the Lomonosov State Porcelain Factory in Leningrad. The rarer of the two is popularly known as The Town and Country design and was produced in a limited number of prototypes. One side features the King and Queen as factory workers, while on the opposing side the King and Queen are farm workers, the Knights water wheels and the Pawns are bottles of milk with open books beside them. In the second propaganda set, Capitalists versus Communists, one of the Kings is modelled as Death holding a human thigh bone.

Dr George and Vivian Dean
White Knight from Buenos Aires Chess Set.

Marcel Duchamp, 1919 King 10 cm, Pawn 6.2 cm Board 107 x 79 x 70 cm

Private collection

The second gallery focuses on the work of Marcel Duchamp, the Bauhaus and Meissen. Duchamp was so enamoured of chess that in the 1920s his professional involvement in the game caused many to conclude that he had ceased artistic activities altogether. As a member of the French team, he played in the 1928 chess Olympiad.

Marcel Duchamp 1950. © Jacqueline Matisse Monnier

Pocket Chess Set with Wallet. Marcel Duchamp 1943. 16 x 10.5 cm. Archives Marcel Duchamp.

The exhibition features two sets by Duchamp, the first designed while he was living in Buenos Aires in 1919. The set comes with a travelling foldaway table and a board that has two stopwatches for timed games. From 1943 is a pocket set with a leather wallet, celluloid pieces and ingenious pin attachments, designed by Duchamp as a 'Rectified Readymade'.

Bauhaus Chess Set. Josef Hartwig, 1924. King 4.7 cm, Pawn 2 cm. Douglas Polumbaum.

One of the most important influences on the design of chess sets in the 20th century was the Bauhaus school of art and design which flourished in Germany between 1919 and 1928. Josef Hartwig was the Workshop Master in charge of woodcarving and the set on view demonstrates in miniature the Bauhaus design principles. He rejected the traditional idea of figures and based his design on the function of the pieces on the board. The King, for example, is a cube diagonally set on top of a larger cube reflecting the way that the piece can move in a limited fashion in all directions while the Queen, the most mobile piece in the game, is a sphere on top of a large cube, the fluid sphere representing the privileged degree of movement the piece is allowed.

Stoneware Chess Set. Max Esser, Meissen, circa 1920. King 9 cm, Pawn 3.2 cm. Douglas Polumbaum.

A Meissen stoneware Art Deco 'futuristic' chess set was designed by Max Esser, a master craftsman for the celebrated porcelain factory in the 1920s. The terracotta and dark chocolate brown pieces are in the fashionable Art Deco style: the Bishops in the form of Japanese tsunami, or giant crested waves, and the Knights as stylised horses' heads.

Travelling Chess Set. Alexander Calder, 1942. King 6.4 cm, Pawn 2.9 cm. Private collection.

The third gallery is devoted to the chess sets of the Avant-Garde and Fluxus movements. A travelling chess set, designed by the American sculptor Alexander Calder, illustrates the artist's ability to fashion intensely evocative art from the debris of daily life. Completed over a weekend in 1942, it is made from segments of a broom handle which he then daubed with red and black paint. The resulting pieces are a combination of abstract and figurative design.

Boxwood Chess Set made for The Imagery of Chess exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery. Max Ernst, 1944. King 10.5 cm, Pawn 4.5 cm. Private collection.

In 1944 the Julien Levy Gallery in New York commissioned a number of contemporary artists to design chess sets for an innovative exhibition entitled The Imagery of Chess. Amongst the original exhibits was a boxwood set by Max Ernst. The abstract pieces possess a rhythm that plays out across the board during a game. The powerful curve of the crescent-shaped Knight suggest both a horse's head and the circuitous character of the moves while the configuration of the Bishop evokes both a mitre as well as its ability to move two ways.

Chess Set. Man Ray, 1946. King 5.5 cm, Pawn 2.5 cm. Board 44.5 x 44.5 cm. Collection A & R Penrose.

Man Ray's abstract set of 1946 has pieces of red and silver anodised alloy with a varnished wood board. Man Ray was an avid amateur chess player although his friend Marcel Duchamp jokingly referred to him as little more than 'a wood pusher'. However Man Ray said that his interest in the game was "directed towards designing new forms for chess pieces, of not much interest to players, but to me a fertile field for invention".

Man Ray playing chess at home in Hollywood, 1946. © Lee Miller Archives.

Yoko Ono, also an avid chess player, was a member of the informal international group of artists from the early 1960s to the late 1970s known as Fluxus. Her painted wood set White on White Chess Set from 1966 was surprisingly classical in design and comes with white chairs, a white inlaid board and white pieces. In this exhibition, the 1997 version of the original entitled Play it by Trust is on show. The concept of an all-white chess set derails any ordinary game as the players lose track of their pieces, ideally leading to a shared understanding of mutual concerns. Takako Saito's Fluxus Weight Chess Set from 1964 was made to fit into a drawer of a 'Flux Cabinet' and comprises a series of identical white boxes - each piece being defined by its weight. The King, for example, has steel ball bearings in the box while the boxes for the Pawns contain sand. George Maciunas, another leading Fluxist artist, is represented by Colour Balls in Bottle-Board-Chess Set of 1966 which is made from glass jam jars glued together to form a square board with coloured balls inside them. To make a move it is necessary to reach inside the relevant jar and move the ball to another jar on the 'board'.

The final gallery is devoted to the five contemporary sets and boards commissioned in 2001 by RS&A Ltd, a new London-based company dedicated to producing innovative projects with contemporary artists. Each set, made in an edition of seven, is individually crafted in a variety of different materials such as wood, porcelain, glass and silver and packaged to the artist's specified wishes. Damien Hirst's Mental Escapology set comprises glass and silver casts of medicine bottles with etched silver labels. The glass and mirrored board displays the biohazard symbol. It is accompanied by its own glass medicine chest.

The set designed by Jake and Dinos Chapman has hand-painted black and white bronze figures and a wood marquetry board inlaid with black and white double-headed skulls and crossbones. The pieces are post-apocalyptic adolescent figures, one side white with Arian haircuts, the opposing side black with Afro hair. The set is packaged in its own handcrafted games box. The Los Angeles artist Paul McCarthy is a keen chess player. His Kitchen Chess set is made from random objects found in his own kitchen such as a miniature rubber duck and a ketchup bottle. The board and box have been made from the artist's kitchen floor that was ripped up during the project as a tribute to Duchamp's chess board design of 1937.

Pumpkin Chess. Yayoi Kusama, 2003. King 14.5 cm, Pawn 6.5 cm. Presented in a leather Pumpkin display case.

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's porcelain Pumpkin Chess set and board is decorated with her signature spot motif. Made by the German porcelain factory Villeroy & Boch, the white side has red dots while the opposing side bears black dots on a yellow ground. The porcelain board is painted with the same colour combination. The set is presented in a white leather display case. The final exhibit, laid out as Napoleon's fictional last move, is the creation of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan who is known for his mischievous sense of humour. Made by Bertozzi and Casoni and titled Good versus Evil, the black King is shown as Hitler opposed on the white side by Martin Luther King. Notable figures such as Donatella Versace, Rasputin, General Custer, Superman, Mother Teresa and Sitting Bull appear as Pawns.

Maurizio Cattelan photographed in New York in 2003 with his black King alias Adolf Hitler; part of his Good versus Evil chess set design.

Damien Hirst photographed in London in 2003, with two glass rooks over his eyes in front of his 2003 set Mental Escapology.

The exhibition ends with two classic silent films, Chess Fever and Entr'acte. The former is an early Soviet comedy featuring a number of the world's greatest chess players, filmed during a tournament in Moscow in 1925. Vladimir Fogel, a leading comic actor of the 1920s, plays a hapless chess fanatic. Entr'acte was made in Paris in 1924 to be shown between two acts of Francis Picabia's ballet Relâche.

The origin of chess is unclear. It is believed to have originated around the 7th century in India or Persia and derived from an earlier Indian game. After reaching Arab countries it had spread all over western Europe by the 10th century. No other game in history has been so widely reflected in art and literature around the world. The Art of Chess will show that in the 20th and 21st centuries chess has lost none of its inspirational power.

'From my close contact with artists and chess players I have come to the personal conclusion that while all artists are not chess players, all chess players are artists.' Marcel Duchamp, Cazenovia, 1952
For further information and photographic material, please contact:
Sue Bond Public Relations, Hollow Lane Farmhouse, Thurston, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk IP31 RQ
Tel. +44 (0)1359 271085, Fax. +44 (0)1359 271491 E-mail.

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