Mid-11th Century Courier Chess Set Reproduction
Offered here is well researched recreation of the Mid-11th Century Courier Chess set, a game which seems to have originated somewhere around the 12th or 13th Century. It improved upon the original game, which some scholars believe dates to 600 around A.D.
The chess pieces and chessboard are based on a 1508 drawing. In that painting, the Dutch painter Lucas van Leyden captured the drama of courier chess in his famous painting, known as “The Chess Players”. Now, after 500 years, the game in van Leyden’s picture has been analyzed and a faithful reproduction of the chess pieces and board has been created. Along with rules, first published in 1616 by the chess chronologist Gustav Selenus, the great game of Old Europe has been resurrected,
The new variant consists of 48 pieces and Pawns adding three new pieces, four Pawns, and expanded the chessboard to 12×8 squares. The new pieces were the Sage, which moves like the King, The Jester, which moves one square orthogonally and two Curriers, that move like the modern-day Bishop.
The pieces measure between ¾ inch and 2 ¼ inches tall. This is the same size of the pieces depicted in van Leyden’s painting. Each felted piece is made of solid resin, steel reinforced where needed. Each piece is then hand detailed to recreate the 500-year-old painting as closely as possible. The board measures 19 ¾ by 13 ¾ inches. A quality print, the same size as the original painting and an illustrated set of rules is included. Set set still has all its original packaging. This particular set is from the first production run in 2008.
Courier chess flourished for over six centuries in central Europe. “Courier Chess”, was played alongside the old medieval chess, and was eventually supplanted by “The New Chess”, the chess we play today.
In March 2009, an article by Rick Knowlton appeared in The Chess Collector, the official magazine of Chess Collector International, discussing courier chess. The full article (in PDF form) can be downloaded here. VolXVIII No1 (courierchess.com)