Friday, July 04, 2008

True Chess Enthusiast? Your Feedback Is Wanted.

"I hope you don’t mind my taking the liberty of contacting you," emails Yasmin Sethi. "I have just finished a degree in Product Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. As a part of this course I designed a Chess set in response to a brief set by Schott - A German Glass manufacturer. I would love for this product to be featured on your blog and to get some feedback on my chess set from true chess enthusiasts. I am sending you some images and text on this project and links to my website."

Of course not! Especially since the chess set in question has a particularly remarkable property. But that, in a moment. First, here's a link to Yasmin's chess-set site, and below is a picture of the chess-set in question (that currently exists only as a design, although I am told discussions about its production are on-going):

Btw, it's worth clicking the picture for a larger version.

As for the remarkable property? It's that once a piece is removed from the board, it completely disappears. Yasmin explains that the set is "inspired by the novel Alice through the Looking Glass where the pieces magically turn transparent when they touch the board," going on to say:
In ‘Alice through the Looking Glass’ by Lewis Carroll, Alice falls through a mirror and on the other side of the mirror, she becomes a piece in a game of chess. Inspired by this, the chess pieces have an opaque mirror finish, when they touch the surface of the board they magically turn transparent and reveal the identity of the piece contained inside them. When removed from the board they revert to being opaque, hiding the identity of the piece.

This is a comment on how a chess piece has no value unless it is in play on the board. If removed from the board, a pawn and a queen are equal, in that neither have any value.

The theme of 'Alice through the Looking Glass' is the difference between the real world and the world behind the mirror. In keeping with this theme there is a contrast between the unlit mirrored piece and the clear glass piece. Each unlit mirrored piece is a smooth and modern shape. Each lit piece is clear glass, with the negative shape of a traditional, delicate Staunton chess piece enclosed within it. In the book the White Knight talks about how he thinks better when he is upside down. In a reference, the White Knights in the set only work when they are placed upside down. This joke is hidden to all but those who know the background of the chess set.
You've got to like that, haven't you? Well, let us know. Better still, let Yasmin know. Your feedback is wanted.


tom_brown_of_baltimore said...

interesting, but not good for fast play. smash!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry Yasmin, but I like my chess sets for playing chess with. Anything which doesn't have standard Staunton-style pieces, a board with squares in proportion to the pieces and which isn't generally robust will make me feel uncomfortable... The upside-down knights would be a serious distraction and I wonder about the glass materials... Still, I'm intrigued by the idea of pieces rendering themselves invisible. How about a video to show this?


ghastly said...

Intriguing, but I'd have to agree with Angus; more of a distraction than anything. If it is meant for decoration, then it is a fabulous chess set, but if it is meant for playing, not fabulous.

gareth-rees said...

the chess pieces have an opaque mirror finish, when they touch the surface of the board they magically turn transparent

So how is this supposed to work?

(Two-way mirrors depend on one of the sides being well-lit and the other dark. The design hints that this might be the intended mechanism by showing a light source under each piece on the board, but wouldn't that require the players to be in a dark room? In which case the opaqueness of the pieces off the board is moot, since you can't see them anyway...)

Tom Chivers said...

Hi Gareth. You might be better off emailing Yasmin for more info, but as I understand it the type of glass that does this has been developed by Schott, so presumably they keep the secret to themselves...

gareth-rees said...

It seems the relevant technologies are Schott's Mirona two-way mirror coating and LightPoints glass-encapsulated LEDs. This still requires a substantial lighting contrast between the two sides of the mirror, though: the LEDs need to be much brighter than the ambient lighting in the room.

Count me skeptical that it would look as good in real life as it does in the renders.