Jaques Inlaid Leather Chessboard

Lot #662. Jaques Fischer Spassky Chessmen

Jaques Fischer Spassky Chessmen

A set of Jaques Fischer Spassky Chessmen, circa 1970, made for Dunhill. The chessmen are Boxwood and Ebony, heavily weighted with gold embossed suede leather base pads. The King stands 3-3/4″ tall. This King height is often referred to as the Tournament Size.  The White King is stamped “Jaques London ” on the rim of the base. The King side Rooks and Knights are stamped with a red crown on their summits. The Jaques Fischer Spassky chessmen are housed in their two original fitted green leather book boxes. Although lacking the exquisite craftsmanship and finish of the early Jaques chessmen, the Fischer Spassky design is very playable, durable, and has a great board feel. The Parker-made Dunhill inlaid leather chessboard shown is also available. See item #618.

The Fischer Spassky chessmen are the style chessmen demanded by Robert J. (Bobby) Fischer for his World-famous 1972 Cold War Era World Championship match with Soviet Grandmaster and then World Champion Boris Spassky. Fischer’s win broke the 30 year iron grip the Soviet Union had held on the World title. The match was full of suspense and possibly the most followed sporting event of the century. It featured the drama of Fischer’s refusing to continue play after his demands were not met, plus phone calls from then President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger imploring him to play “for the honor of his country.” In spite of falling behind 2-0, Fischer stormed on to win the match by an impressive 12.5 – 8.5. The result is even more impressive if you exclude Fischer’s forfeiting Game 2!
Howard StauntonThe Staunton Pattern was first offered to the public for sale in the Fall of 1849 by the company of John Jaques of London. The original design was registered to Nathaniel Cooke in the Spring of that year. The chessmen design was named after the self-proclaimed world champion, Howard Staunton, an English Shakespearean scholar. Whether or not the design was actually the brainchild of Cooke is open to much speculation. It is relatively certain that the pattern was not designed by the egotistical Staunton, as he never laid claim to such.

What is known is that, on 1st March, 1849, Nathaniel Cooke, 198, Strand, London, registered an Ornamental Design for a set of Chess-Men, under the Ornamental Designs Act of 1842. At that date, there was no provision for the registration of any design or articles of ivory, registration was limited to Class 2, articles made chiefly of wood.

The right to manufacture such sets was acquired by John Jaques and he began to supply the retail trade on 29 September, 1849. On the same day, the following advertisement appeared Illustrated London News: AA set of Chessmen, of a pattern combining elegance and solidity to a degree hitherto unknown, has recently appeared under the auspices of the celebrated player Mr. STAUNTON. A guiding principle has been to give by their form a signification to the various pieces – thus the king is represented by a crown, the Queen by a coronet, &c. The pieces generally are fashioned with convenience to the hand; and it is to be remarked, that while there is so great an accession to elegance of form, it is not attained at the expense of practical utility. Mr. STAUNTON’S pattern adopts but elevates the conventional form; and the base of the Pieces being of a large diameter, they are more steady than ordinary sets.@ Illustrated London News, September 8, 1849.

Alfred Dunhill

The chessmen were made by Jaques for Dunhill, London. The leather bookcase casket work was done by Geoffrey Parker. Alfred Dunhill was an English tobacconist and inventor.  He is the progenitor of the very prestigious Dunhill luxury goods company and the Dunhill branded tobacco products from British American Tobacco.London. Alfred Dunhill has built its reputation on uncompromising standards in menswear.

The Geoffrey Parker story starts in 1958 when he started to produce a range of leather-bound books, from classics to stationary – most of them pocket size. From “Beefeaters” to Ocean liner’s “flags”, the books were lovingly hand painted and sold to tourist gift shops, museums, great cruise companies such as P & O and Cunard, to exclusive boutiques and designer labels. One such contact was Alfred Dunhill, who’s grandson, Richard Dunhill, approached Geoffrey and asked him to make an inlaid leather chessboard. Geoffrey soon discovered that the ancient skill of inlaying leather was a particular craft which came easily to him and his growing team of craftsmen. As often happens to a small specialty company, a request by a well-recognized company starts the company of the road to success. That fortuitous association with Dunhill started led the Geoffrey Parker Company on the journey that led to their preeminent position as the world’s leading maker of high-end leather games and leisure goods.

Geoffrey Parker
Geoffrey Parker

After that inaugural chessboard success, the company sought out to team with the best in the business. Their first successful encounter was with the firm of John Jaques of London, who have been inseparable from the famous Staunton Chessmen since being chosen to manufacture that now famous design which went on to become de-rigueur for all World Championship play from 1849 onwards and still holds that vaulted position today.

By the early Seventies the Company had already established itself as No.1 in The World for luxury board games. This ultimately led to Geoffrey’s being commissioned to make the leather boxes and chessboards for the World famous 1972 championship Match between the then World Champion, Boris Spassky from the Soviet Union, and the flamboyant American Robert James “Bobby” Fischer, held in Reykjavik, Iceland.

Meanwhile, for Backgammon, the Company’s expertise was requested for what is widely recognized as the first World Backgammon Championship sponsored by Rothman and taking place the fabulous QEII, which sailed for a week between Southampton and New York with the world’s best players in fierce contest. During this time, the Backgammon “boom” generated a demand for “Geoffrey Parker” boards by the hundreds and his group of artisans expanded to a team of 25, each trained “in house” to Geoffrey’s exacting standards. To ensure he stayed on top, Geoffrey sought out the advice of the World’s most formidable Backgammon champion, Paul Magriel, to ensure that his boards matched professional requirements. Geoffrey’s famous weighted leather Backgammon stone emerged as a direct result of this business association.

In 1977, Geoffrey’s son Max joined the Company and sought to extend the company’s reach to the Americas. Visits to the States resulted in their games and books now featured in famous department stores such as Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, Bloomingdales and Bergdorf Goodman. A stunning center piece to Neiman Marcus’ premier Dallas store was Geoffrey’s Design Council award winning solid Sterling silver-gilt chess set, made for the HM The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. Almost every luxury retailer of note commissioned The Goffrey Parker Company to create specialty game ranges, including Asprey, Dunhill, Harrods, Fortnum & Mason, Garrard, Simpson’s, Smythson, Cartier and Fred. A “blind” backgammon set was even created for famous American singer, Stevie Wonder.

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