Many countries have contributed to the individual design of chess pieces. England is know for uk chess sets with the Staunton pattern, Scotland has the mysterious Isle of Lewis pieces, China has figurative chessmen, Russia has the bowing-knight Staunton style and France has the French knight chessmen. These styles have each, in their own way, had impacts on chess as you know it today.
The Staunton design was created in England. A knight looks like a horse head, a king has a crown on top, a queen has a coronet with a tiny ball, a rook has a battlement, a bishop has a Western-style miter and a pawn is the smallest piece with a plain ball on top of it. The Staunton pattern is the most recognized design for chess sets today.
The mysterious Isle of Lewis pieces, originated in Scotland, are known for their ancient lore. Made around AD 1150, they were found around 1831 in the Isle of Lewis near Uig. The pieces in this group include seated queens and kings, knights on mounts and pawns that have obelisk shapes. Currently on display at the British Museum in London, visitors come to view this group of chessmen that has such a rich history.
China’s figurative chessmen are round and flatter the other sets. The pieces for each side are usually characterized by the colors of red and blue. The red pieces belong to the southern territory and the blue belong to the northern territory. All of the pieces sit on intersecting lines on the board. The board itself has 10 horizontal lines and nine vertical lines. The middle of the board has a “river” that separates the northern and southern territories. This is a very interesting way to view the game strategically.
In Russia, chess sets are designed in the Staunton style with bowing knights. The knights have very manly features. Russian chess sets often come as jewel box sets, which provide storage for the pieces. Arriving to Russia via the Vikings, chess is actually more popular in Russia than football.
French knights, known as chevaliers in France, are important components of French chess sets. “Chevalier” comes from the English word “chivalry,” which is exactly what these chess pieces represent in French-knight style chess. These pieces are sturdy, well-crafted and sophisticated.