The challenge to design custom-made pieces for clients is one area of my work I particularly enjoy. So when I was commissioned by an Australian customer and private collector to design a chess set, I jumped at the chance. I’ve had thoughts to design one for a long while, and being given a blank slate with regards to the design concept made the idea even more appealing.
From concept to production, the project took eight months. And at every stage along the way, I updated my client with sketches and models of its progress. It was gratifying that she agreed with almost every aspect.
The result was the Rocket Chess Set, inspired by my favourite design elements, which include rockets, discs and cones inspired by the moon landings.
The material used for the chess board was tempered and sandblasted glass and the assorted chess pieces include anodized aluminium, stainless steel, sterling silver, black and white cubic zirconium stones.
Featured elements include the Bishop’s collar, which was inspired by the planet Saturn’s rings, placed at a diagonal angle, as a reminder of which chess piece moves diagonally.
The shape of the Knight was inspired by several elements including a medieval knight’s helmet as well as a traditional blacksmiths anvil that is used to shape horseshoes.
As a Judaica designer, it was apt to include a Jewish element which you can see on the Star of David inspired the queen’s crown. It includes six diamond cut cubic zirconia which can also be seen in the King’s crown. The stones were set upside down – with the point upward – to echo the cone shapes.
However, in addition to the Star of David on the crown of the chess queen, the segue from designing modern Judaica gifts to a chess game is quite an apt one, as the game has several fascinating Jewish connections.
Here are seven interesting facts you may not know:
- The city with the most chess grandmasters in the world is Beersheva in southern Israel.
- The very two undisputed world champions — William Steinitz and Emanuel Lasker — were Jewish.
- The oldest list of chess rules in existence is attributed to a poem by Ibn Ezra — a famous 11th Rabbi and philosopher who lived in Spain. “First in battle comes the foot-soldier, fighting on the highway, always marching straight before him, while moving sideways to capture. The Queen directs her moving as she wants to in any direction. She backs the elephant or advances …” (An interesting detail about the history of chess: the game is said to have originated from northwest India in the 6th century, hence the possible reason for the mention of an elephant.)
- David Ben Gurion, first prime minister of Israel, was said to have secretly played chess behind the plenum in the Knesset (parliament) when he was bored with the needless government debates.
- Hungarian-born Judit Polgár, who is also Jewish, is considered to be the strongest female chess player of all time and only woman ever to qualify for a World Championship tournament.
- References to the game of chess have been made by many famous Rabbis including Rashi from France and the Rambam (Maimonides) from Spain.
- Natan Sharansky, the famous Russian human rights activist and now Israeli politician, credited the ability imagine playing games of chess with keeping him sane while jailed in solitary confinement in a Siberian prison.
If you would like your very own Rocket Chess Set, or for more information, check it out on my website here.