Luke Honey | Decorative Antiques, Chess, Backgammon & Games


July 27, 2016

A similar Cambodian chess set (but made of teak rather than ivory and of a later date) is shown in Chess, East and West, Past and Present- the catalogue from the Gustavus A. Pfeiffer Collection, exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, in 1968: 

“One player would have the shells for pawns with the aperture up, the other with it down. The knights alone give an indication of the original meaning of the game; they are the tallest pieces. Below the mane a classical leaf is set against the horse’s back, probably an intrusion from Western art. The names of the pieces, translated are lord, minister, nobleman, horse and boat. In the last piece there is a correspondence with chess in Begal, Java and Annam, and also Russia, the sole country in Europe to substitute a boat for a rook. It has been pointed out that in Siam, Annam and Russia, in the past, the principal means of transport was by water, and hence boats take the place of chariots or carts. When playing, the kings face the opponent’s queen and the pawns are placed in two rows in front of the major pieces, leaving an empty row between them. Similar pieces are used in Siam.”