Golden Castle Craftsman Staunton Chessmen
The Golden Castle Craftsman Staunton Chessmen were produced by Golden Castle Limited in Tokyo, Japan at the end of World War II. The Black and natural lacquered Tsuge wood chessmen have a 3-1/2″ King with a 1-3/4″ base. The design is an almost exact reproduction of the famous Jaques Marshall chessmen produced in the early 1900s. The chessmen are housed in a dark-stained storage box, green felt-lined and divided, with a semi-mortise lock and key set. The underside of the box bears a white, signed label marked: “The Craftsman”, Golden Castle Co, Ltd., Made in Japan. MS-302-194-6″. The wooden storage case and chessmen are in like new condition.
Superbly crafted Stanton chessmen were produced by Golden Castle Ltd. from the end of WWII until around 1972. They were extensively advertised in Isaac Kashdan’s and Al Horowitz’ Chess Review as well as in Chess Life. All chessmen were crafted from Japanese Tsuge wood in Natural and either red or Black lacquered finishes, depending on the set design. The production ended when sets started appearing on the market with one or more of the chessmen warped due to the use of wood that was not
properly seasoned. Once the U.S. Chess Federation cancelled their remaining orders with the company, they soon closed their doors. This particular set was given to then Chess Life Editor Burt Hochberg by Executive Director Ed Edmondson as an award at the 1974 U.S Open in New York. An ad for the two largest sets is shown above. It is interesting to note that the smaller chessmen were actually more expensive than the larger ones. Over the 25 years or so of production, Golden Castle produced Staunton Chessmen in five distinct sizes.
- The “Grandmaster” (later called the “Master”) was the largest with a 4” King. It was Natural and Black lacquered. The set was not very well weighted and lacked the appeal of the smaller “Craftsman” set.
- The “Craftsman”, shown here, had a 3-1/2” King, was Natural and Black lacquered, had a good weight, and was the most desirable of the Golden Castle designs – which were based quite accurately (except for the Knights) on the 1900s Jaques 3-1/2″ Marshall design.
- The “Aristocrat” (Name not verified), which had a 3-1/4” King, Natural and Black lacquered, was a smaller version of the “Craftsman.” It was housed in a superb oval wooden dovetailed box with the Knight carved in relief on the lid. These are extremely rare and probably very few were made.
- The “Artisan” had a 3” King, Natural and Black lacquered, The chessmen were very artistically executed. One unique feature was that the Kingside and queenside Knights were different. One had its head facing down, the other had a more traditional stance.
- The “Mikado” is a quality travel set with red and natural lacquered Staunton chessmen housed in a blue velvet case.
Japanese Tsuge wood, Properly known as Satsuma-Tsuge, is the highest quality boxwood found in the Ibusuki area of Kagoshima Prefecture in Japan . This Boxwood is easily shaped, hard, polished, and often used to craft combs and other gaming products such as Shoji chessmen. The wood allows paint to display well, is not easily breakable, and develops into a distinct color with age.