Symbols and figurines

Symbols are often used in pocket or travel sets to distinguish the different pieces. The symbols are printed on plates, which usually are the same for all pieces. However sometimes figurines (I mean plates cut in a specific form for each piece) are used. Wallets are a typical example of pocket chess sets in this manner. Mostly these wallets are not that suitable for play, but meant to store a position of interest. Or more than 1 position, as in the harmonica wallets. Storage of positions by correspondence players before the computer era was done in albums with pages like the wallet sets. However, some magnetic wallets are meant and suitable for play indeed. Wallets appear also as advertisement stuff or to serve as chess set to radio lessons. I suppose it was not convenient to follow the lessons with the latter.

Another use of symbols is in sets that are composed of discs on which the symbol is printed or, also often, is cut out. Chinese disc sets can be very high standard and beautifully carved. Chinese disc sets for normal use, including those to play XiangQi, are mostly not that elaborate. Well known are pocket sets like "Schach im Felde" or the "Feldpost" sets and alike, who all have discs, of cardboard or wood, with symbols printed on or cut out. Bakelite disc sets with cut out symbols are also well known. And not to forget the so called "Stud" chess sets. Finally, wallboards with magnetic discs having representative icons, not for normal play but for decoration or as demonstration board.

Of course above summary isn't a complete overview. That will be difficult as the variety is huge.

Below several examples from different countries and eras. Oldest first...

De La Rue pocket chess set exists in different versions. Here you see 2 of them (these are not the oldest version). Note that I do have only the board of the type that's showed top right at the overview picture. Pieces of this type are different from the other in the sense that there are no checker figures on the pieces. The chess figures are slightly different as well.

« 1 of 5 »
  • England, by De La Rue (in 2 different designs)
  • Mid 19th century
  • Cardboard pieces 3.0×1.0
  • Map 15.4×10.1×0.9

The front and back and also the edges are designed by Owen Jones, author of "The Ornament or Grammar".

« 1 of 2 »
  • England, by De La Rue
  • Mid 19th century
  • Cardboard pieces 3.0×1.0
  • Wallet 15.0×9.7×0.8

This Chinese disc set is exceptionally well carved.

Does anyone has the missing bishop ?

  • China, "Disc set"
  • 19th century
  • Ivory Ø 4.0 and 1.0 high

Most of the wallets below are early 1900. Some are in bad condition, but it shows that they were actually used!

« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany
  • ca. 1905
  • Celluloid pieces 2.0×0.9
  • Wallet 13.3×8.7×0.5
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany
  • ca. 1905
  • Celluloid pieces 2.0×0.9
  • Wallet 13.3×8.7×0.5
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany
  • ca. 1910
  • Celluloid pieces 2.1×1.0
  • Wallet 13.2×8.7×0.5
« 1 of 2 »
  • Germany
  • ca. 1910
  • Celluloid pieces 1.0×2.0
  • Board 17.2×13.3
  • Map 14.7×10.9×0.7
« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany
  • ca. 1910
  • Celluloid pieces 2.1×1.0
  • Wallet 13.7×9.6×2.0
  • England
  • 1st half 20th century
  • Celluloid pieces 2.2×1.0
  • Wallet 13.3×8.9×0.6
  • Belgium
  • Mid 20th century
  • Plastic or Celluloid? pieces 2.8×1.3
  • Map16.7×11.2×0.6
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany
  • 20th century
  • Plastic pieces 2.1×1.0
  • Board 18.2×13.5
  • Map 14.9×9.8×0.5

Here are 2 "Stud" sets. The left one is from De La Rue and the right one from a USA source (I believe).

« 1 of 2 »
  • England, by De La Rue
  • ca. 1910
  • Bone pieces Ø 1.4
  • Box 22.7×11.5×2.6
  • Board 15.5×15.5 (inside border)

On the clasp "TDLR" ("Thomas De La Rue")
I have also seen: "TdLR". There are also sets known with "DLRLd" on the clasp. In 1958 the company dropped Thomas in their name. Question is whether these sets could have been made after 1958 as well ?

« 1 of 6 »
  • USA
  • ca. 1910
  • Enamelled brass pieces Ø 1.4
  • Box 2.9×11.6×2.6
  • Board 15.5×16.0 (inside border)

Sets below are all of WW1 period. “Schach im Felde” may have been given to soldiers. I have it in 3 variants. One variant has a Halma game and another has softboard discs. “Dame-Muhle-Schach” is a common combination. This example is very similar to the "Schach im Felde". All sets have wooden discs with a cut-out symbol, except the one with softboard discs having a printed symbol on an attached paper.

« 1 of 6 »
  • Germany, "Schach im Felde"
  • 1914
  • Beech pieces Ø 2.4 and 0.7 high
  • Box 10.8×10.8×2.3
  • Cardboard board 20.0×20.0

Variant 1/3
On the back of the box it says "Mr. Voigt" and "8 K O.J.R. 91". The latter means 8th Kompagnie, Oldenburger Infantry Regiment No. 91. M. Voigt was not in the history book of this regiment. He will have survived the war.

« 1 of 9 »
  • Germany, "Schach im Felde"
  • 1914
  • Beech pieces Ø 2.4 and 0.7 high
  • Box 15.4×10.8×3.2
  • Cardboard board 20.1×20.1

Variant 2/3
This one has a "Halma" game with own board as well. There is a Traumaplast advert inside the lid. There exiat also a "Halma" onlty version, but I do not have that.

« 1 of 12 »
  • Germany, "Schach im Felde"
  • 1914
  • Softboard pieces Ø 2.5 and 0.7 high
  • Box 11.1×11.1×2.7
  • Cardboard board 19.9×20.1

Variant 3/3
This one bought in Austria and looks like a cheaper variant (although box is exactly same as variant 1).
Note that the manual is different from version 1 as well.

« 1 of 7 »
  • Germany
  • ca. 1914
  • Beech pieces Ø 2.5 and 0.7 high
  • Box 14.6×10.9×2.4
  • Cardboard board 19.7×19.7

"Schach im Felde" alike

These wallets were part of a series of radio lessons, called "Op College bij Dr. Euwe", in 1936. The lessons were accompanied with 4-page pamphlets. I believe these were collected in a book in 1938.

Does anyone has the missing pamflets/book ?

« 1 of 7 »
  • Netherlands, by AVRO
  • 1936
  • Cardboard pieces 2.1×1.1
  • Wallet 15.6×11.1×0.2

The pictures showing the pamflets of the radiolessons are copied from internet.

An interesting pocket set called "Play kit" with small pieces with symbols.

« 1 of 6 »
  • USA, "Play Kit"
  • ca. 1940
  • Plastic pieces Ø 1.5 and 0.3 high
  • Genuine leather case ca 13.8×10.3×3.6
  • Board 17.2×17.2

And a Czech wallet with figurines.

« 1 of 2 »
  • Czech
  • Mid 20th century
  • Paper pieces K 2.3×1.1; p 2.1×0.9
  • Wallet 16.7×10.7×0.3

Under the Board, in German: "Ges. Gesch. " (=Gesetzlich Geschuetzt) and Czech: "Zakonem chraneno", which also means protected by law. It is made by A. Nemas, from Zlin (Czech Republic). On the back is the logo and "REG 11869".

Following sets are all cardboard disc sets from the WW2 period in Germany. "Feldpost" could be send to the soldiers at the front. 

« 1 of 6 »
  • Germany, "Feldpost"
  • ca. 1942
  • Cardboard pieces Ø 2.5
  • Box 23.3×12.4×1.9
  • Cardboard board 22.5×22.7
« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "Schach- Dame und Mühle"
  • ca. 1942
  • Cardboard pieces Ø 2.6
  • Box 24.1×12.7×1.4
  • Cardboard board 23.0×23.0
« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany?
  • ca. 1942 or older?
  • Cardboard pieces Ø 1.9
  • Box 18.2×9.6×1.4
  • Cardboard board 16.7×16.7

Next set is a bit an exception as it has cardboard figurines that should be placed in slots in the board. Note that in the pictures the pieces are placed on the board in the wrong way. One day I may make new pictures with pieces standing correctly (thus with white square bottom right).

« 1 of 10 »
  • Germany
  • ca. 1942
  • Cardboard pieces K 4.9; p 2.9
  • Box 24.0×12.5×1.8
  • Cardboard board 23.3×23.1

Below 2 examples of Bakelite disc sets. The right is called the "Services" set and was given to English soldiers in WW2.

« 1 of 2 »
  • England
  • ca. 1940
  • Bakelite pieces Ø 3.0
  • Box 14.7×7.5×4.7
« 1 of 2 »
  • England
  • ca. 1940
  • Bakelite pieces Ø 3.0
  • Box 14.7×7.8×4.6

This is an interesting Y.M.C.A. chess set for WWII.  In gold on front we see Y.M.C.A. logo with texts: "CANADIAN", "SPIRIT MIND BODY" and "OVERSEAS" with under that "CANADIAN Y.M.C.A. OVERSEAS", a line and "POCKET CHESS AND CHECKERS SET". On the other side, in black, de texts: "SERVING CANADIAN SAILERS, SOLDERS AND AIRMEN", "CANADIAN Y.M.C.A. CLUBS IN LONDON", "LEINSTER GARDENS W.2", "QUEEN'S GARDENS W.3", "LEXXAM GARDENS W.8", "Also associated with the CANADIAN Y.M.C.A.", "THE BEAVER CLUB TRAFALGAR SQUARE", "ALSO IN THE FIELD", "SPORTS", "RECREATION CENTRES", "CANTEENS", "TEA CARS", "ENTERTAINMENTS", "PERSONAL SERVICE" and under the line "CONSULT YOUR Y.M.C.A. SUPERVISOR" followed by another Canadian overseas logo with known texts.

« 1 of 5 »
  • Canada, Y.M.C.A. Overseas, Pocket Chess And Checker Set
  • ca. 1942
  • Cardboard pieces Ø 1.75
  • Board 17.6×17.6
  • Map 18.5×10.2×0.7

Another very rare and interesting chess set is this folding wallet that, when opened, unfolds a board that has pieces put in. The pieces will stand then and are easy to handle. So it is possible to play with it, but it tends very strongly to close, probably because it has never been used to play with before. On the side of the board we see "Ges. Geschützt Nr.485187." and "M. Herzberg, Königsberg i. Pr.".

« 1 of 5 »
  • Germany, Königsberg i. Pr., M.Herzberg
  • Mid 20th century?
  • Plastic K 4.1×1.3; p 3.1×1.1
  • Board 15.5×15.5
  • Wallet 18.9×10.7×0.8

From mid to late 20th century these albums for storing positions were in use by correspondence players.

« 1 of 2 »
  • USA, by Chess Review in New York
  • ca. 1955
  • Cardboard pieces 2.2×1.2
  • Album 19.5×14.7×2.3

You can keep 6 games in it

« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Rajah Serieskak" (symbols)
  • Mid to late 20th century
  • Plastic pieces 2.1×1.2
  • Album 19.6×12.5×2.7

You can keep 12 games in it

« 1 of 3 »
  • Germany, "Rajah Serieskak" (figurines)
  • Mid to late 20th century
  • Plastic pieces K 2.4×1.1; p 2.1×1.1
  • Album 19.6×12.5×2.3

You can keep 8 games in it

« 1 of 4 »
  • Germany, "Schach-archiv"
  • Mid to late 20th century
  • Plastic pieces K 2.2×1.0; p 2.0×1.0
  • Album 23.7×17.8×3.8

You can keep 7 games in it, but it is flexible

Hard to tell the origin and age of this plastic wallet. I keep it on 2nd half 20th and Netherlands. If someone knows, then please tell me.

« 1 of 2 »
  • Netherlands?
  • 2nd half 20th century
  • Plastic pieces 2.0×1.1
  • Wallet 17.5×11.4×0.7

The Russian origin of this wallet is clear, but age isn't. I cannot explain the logos, but texts on backside are: "АРТИКУЛ МОЛД-24" (Article model-24) and "ЦЕНА 95 КОП" (Price 95 kopecks).

« 1 of 2 »
  • Russia
  • 20th century
  • Plastic pieces 2.0×1.2
  • Wallet 14.2×9.9×0.6

Just some advertising stuff.

« 1 of 2 »
  • Hungary, Budapest
  • 1980
  • Promotion material; pieces plastic Ø 1.6
  • Board 20.6×15.8

These plastic and magnetic wallet/pocket sets can be used for play indeed. Personally I find it somewhat cumbersome. The 2 wallets have commercial intentions. The set in CD box is more a curiosity. 

« 1 of 2 »
  • USA, by U.S. Chess Federation
  • Late 20th century
  • Plastic pieces Ø 1.5
  • Wallet 16.7×17.2×0.9
  • Netherlands
  • 1980
  • Plastic pieces Ø 1.6
  • Wallet 14.4×10.4×0.4
  • Netherlands, by Epini
  • 1980
  • CD boxes with chess set pieces Ø 1.0
  • Box/board 14.1×12.5×1.0

Some modern Chinese and Vietnamese disc sets for International chess (this is our normal chess) and Chinese chess (XiangQi).

« 1 of 2 »
  • China
  • 1979
  • Birch pieces Ø 3.0; 1.2 high
  • Cardboard box 12.9×12.9×2.7
  • Paper board 31.9×26.9
« 1 of 6 »
  • China
  • 1981
  • Wood pieces Ø 2.5; 0.9 high
  • Cardboard box 10.9×10.9×2.8
  • Paper board for chess and one for XiangQi
  • China, "XiangQi" (chinese chess)
  • 2003
  • Lime pieces Ø 3.3 and 1.3 high
  • Box/board 34.3×19.9×2.1
« 1 of 2 »
  • Vietnam, "XiangQi" (chinese chess)
  • 2015
  • Wood? pieces Ø 3.3 and 1.3 high
  • Box 14.2×14.2×2.7
  • Board 33.0×36.5
« 1 of 2 »
  • Vietnam, "XiangQi" (chinese chess)
  • 2015
  • Plastic pieces Ø 2.8 and 1.0 high
  • Box/board 32.8×18.5×1.9

Two wallboards having magnetic discs with representative icons. Both from the same magnets factory in the Netherlands.

  • Netherlands, by BM magneten, a Dutch factory making magnets
  • 1993
  • Plastic with magnets pieces Ø 3.0
  • Black board with plastic frame 51.1×41.0×2.3
  • Netherlands, by BM magneten, a Dutch factory making magnets
  • 1993
  • Plastic with magnets pieces Ø 3.0
  • White board with aluminium frame 51.1×41.0×2.3