Short documentary about why championship chess sets are so expensive

Originally published at: Short documentary about why championship chess sets are so expensive | Boing Boing

5 Likes

A good weighted chess set is a pleasure to use. Here is a link to the US Chess Federation’s Chess Store. [https://www.uscfsales.com/chess-sets.html]. If you travel with it, plastic weighted, felted pieces with a mousepad material board works great and the price is not dear.

7 Likes

I made my chess pieces out of small hot sauce bottles & mini booze bottles, they are various sizes to denote the separate pieces, and for the timid they’re exact function is on the side of the bottle with a label maker tag.

15 Likes

I saw a nice roll-up board set at the junk shop for like $5 and only slightly regret not getting it. I just can’t convince myself I’ll ever be that serious about chess. I already have a very fancy go board that I never use.

4 Likes

I got a decent set from Poland. Nothing so fine of craftsmanship, but still nice.

4 Likes

chess authorities are among the most blatantly corrupt sporting bodies on Earth, so perhaps something hinky is at hand. But if anything the artisans are underpaid .

But that’s exactly what I’d expect from a corrupt sporting body - that the supplier was underpaid. How else does the corrupt sporting body maximise its profit as a middleman having no role and adding no value other than to set a pointless specification?

Also, the narrator talks about the hair on the knight’s tail. I think it’s the hair on its mane. Isn’t it?

9 Likes

I think the fact that the championship sets are so expensive in the first place is another one.

Chess isn’t exactly the sort of thing where quality of equipment, outside of maybe clocks, has all that much impact on performance. There’s a reason for standardization, but not much reason for $500 sets. They’d be a lot more standardized and precise if they weren’t hand made of wood.

But still you got expensive sets, multiple “official” options for sale and underpaid people making them. It’s merch.

3 Likes
4 Likes

is a bit of bullshit. The design of the set is protected by copyright, so technically only the licensed firm can produce them.The manager of that firm has decided that of his employees, only ten can consistently create salable work.

If the plans were freely available and well publicized, tens of thousands of woodworkers could rise to the challenge.

Plus, far more intricate pieces have been created.

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/466114

9 Likes

It helps if they look good on camera.

A few:

and

2 Likes

although to some extent, the style and level of detail is dictated by the medium. Are there any ethically-sourced equivalents to ivory?

(queens are traditionally shorter than kings. Does Marge wear the pants in the family?)

2 Likes

Ivory nuts, for small things. I’d think that fossil mammoth ivory wouldn’t have the same hoodoo on it as ivory from elephants, hippos, whale teeth, et. al. purpose-killed to harvest the ivory.

4 Likes

And elk teeth, other fossil ivory like walrus.

On the more practical, less crazy expensive end. Bone is often used for aesthetics.

And for things like musical instruments where ivory has a practical impact on how things work, there are very good artificial ivories out there these days. A lot of that was displaced by plastics a long time ago anyway, like billiard balls.

6 Likes

Pics!

3 Likes

and

Seem largely congruent statements, rather than the first being merely bullshit.

1 Like

I just watch a video like that and think “CNC”.

I realize these are real people’s livelihoods that I’m dismissing but the whole video is about how precision, reproducibility, and symmetry are all so important, and it strikes me as such a repetitive task much more suited to a CNC machine (or some sort of additive manufacture like 3D printing) than something that a human could do well.

5 Likes

There’s also biosynthetic ivory

https://cen.acs.org/articles/96/i4/synthetic-horns-tusks-offer-hope.html

1 Like

For all the complaints about how hard it is to find and train good wood carvers for making these sets, I have to think that the reason they’re being made by hand is because trained labor in India is still cheaper than trying to CNC wood figures.

3 Likes

Unless you’re upwards of 2500 rated, the vast majority of tournament sets you play on will be double weighted (if you’re lucky) or triple weighted (oooh, a big spender here!) on roll up boards. The clocks will be the cheapest available that still do the job chinese digital knockoffs of some top end clock. There’s no real reason to buy an expensive set unless it’s a commerative set for an event you’re playing in… and nobody’s making those for anyone under GM at this point.

And if you’re not a GM by now, and you’re old enough to drink, you’re probably not ever going to be one.

3 Likes