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 booklets 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.

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  • 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".

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

The wallets below are all early 1900, except the last one, which is of later date, I think. Most are in bad condition, but it shows that they were actually used!

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  • Germany
  • ca. 1910
  • Celluloid? 2.0×0.9
  • Map 13.3×8.7
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  • Germany
  • ca. 1910
  • Celluloid (Plastic?) pieces 1.0×2.0
  • Board 17.2×13.3
  • Map 10.9×14.7×0.7
  • England
  • 1st half 20th century
  • Celluloid? pieces 2.2×1.0
  • Map 13.3×8.9
  • Belgium
  • Mid 20th century
  • Plastic or celluloid pieces 2.8×1.3
  • Map16.7×11.2

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

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  • 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 ?

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  • USA
  • ca. 1910
  • Enamelled pieces of brass 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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.

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  • 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 ?

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  • Netherlands, by AVRO
  • 1936
  • Cardboard pieces 2.1×1.1
  • Map 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.

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  • 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.

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  • Czech
  • Mid 20th century
  • Paper K 2.3×1.1; p 2.1×0.9
  • Map 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. 

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  • Germany, "Feldpost"
  • ca. 1942
  • Cardboard Ø 2.5
  • Box 23.3×12.4×1.9
  • Cardboard board 22.5×22.7
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  • Germany, "Schach- Dame und Mühle"
  • ca. 1942
  • Cardboard Ø 2.6
  • Box 24.1×12.7×1.4
  • Cardboard board 23.0×23.0
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  • Germany?
  • ca. 1942 or older?
  • Cardboard 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).

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  • Germany
  • ca. 1942
  • Cardboard 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.

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  • England
  • ca. 1940
  • Bakelite pieces Ø 3.0
  • Box 14.7×7.5×4.7
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  • England
  • ca. 1940
  • Bakelite pieces Ø 3.0
  • Box 14.7×7.8×4.6

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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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.

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  • Netherlands?
  • 2nd half 20th century
  • Plastic pieces 2.0×1.1
  • Map 17.5×11.4×0.7

Just some advertising stuff.

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  • 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. 

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  • USA, by U.S. Chess Federation
  • Late 20th century
  • Plastic pieces Ø 1.5
  • Map 16.7×17.2
  • Netherlands
  • 1980
  • Plastic pieces Ø 1.6
  • Map 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).

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  • China
  • 1979
  • Birch Ø 3.0; 1.2 high
  • Cardboard box 12.9×12.9×2.7
  • Paper board 31.9×26.9
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  • China
  • 1981
  • Wood 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 Ø 3.3 and 1.3 high
  • Box/board 34.3×19.9×2.1
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  • 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
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  • 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