zondag 28 december 2014

Old Vienna

Old Vienna & Coffeehouse Chess Sets

The old Vienna or Coffeehouse style evolved from the earlier Biedermeier chessmen - probably influenced by the arrival of the Staunton style!  These sturdy and serviceable chessmen - fairly easy to make for the numerous turnings shops in existence in those days - became the standard in Central Europe - the lands of the Austrian monarchy as well as Germany , Switzerland , and Northern Italy. Major tournaments like Vienna 1898, Semmering 1927, and Karlsbad 1929 were played with these chess pieces. The workshops, the substyles, the carvers - all of these are scantily documented and mostly forgotten nowadays.  There is only one certainty - such chessmen are not made any more in Austria, nor in  Germany. similar pieces were made until recently in Poland, Yugoslavia (the Subozan factory in Novisad!) and in Romenia, copies still come out of India!

Austrian bones

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Lovely little set (king 74 mm) in red and white bone, probably made in the fertile Erzgebirge area around 1880. All pieces turned in sections joined by threads, except the knights - their heads are lined up on a metal screw.

Horn Viennese

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.. different tops....craftsmans licence....
Extraordinary set in Austrian style, probably made in Germany or Austria between 1880 and 1920. On the major pieces, the rings are stuck onto the central pillar - and rattle around freely. And at least one of the disks is warped by heat or age  ......

Spiked Warriors

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Cute coffeehouse/Old Viennese set as part of a games compendium - the pieces are ensconced on metal spikes so You can lift the whole caboodle out from among the dominoes, cards, chips etc. probably Germany around 1900 - 1920.

Old Vienna

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Massive hardwood chessmen carefully finished, in club size (100 mm kings), and still lovely varnish and polish. These chessmen shd date from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century, but might be of later date, and seem not to have been used a lot.

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smooth finish, crude form...
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slight incongruencies....

Old Vienna 2

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Almost faultless set in Austrian or Coffeehouse style, made in hardwood (fruit?), surface polished and superbly varnished. Nicely stylized knights, bishops tops are separately inserted parts. Would date from the 1880-ies onwards.

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Black and white Old Viennese

Maybe the only black and white Viennese coffeehouse set in the world - due to a lazy club member who instead of cleaning the old pieces - decided to paint them. Shoddy paint too - the knights are certainly old, one of them different, all the pawns are different - this is a mixed batch! The missing bishop is only missing in the photo - kings size 110 mm (4 1/2")!

"Fat pawn" set

A very clean and tidy set with interesting knights, and two-pieces bishops with striated separate ball tops, and little felt pads! These are signs of quality - set is probably from the 20ies to 40ies  - round bases - and seems not to have suffered club or coffeehouse use - it is a compact set of one cut!  It is certainly from the Jacoby/Nekvasil manufacture  (see essay) Kings stands 105 mm....

Peppered set

One more club size coffeehouse set, chiefly distinguished by the superb accompanying box/board - post-war Nekvasil issue - and the fact that the varnish on the figures has bubbled, dirt has caught in the pores, leading to a "peppered" aspect.  One of these days I might work on it - king stands 110 mm!

"Golden" set


One of the nicest sets I own - simple harmonic forms, beautiful kings (100 mm) and queens - and a simply perfect natural varnish that has mellowed to a rich honey colour.  I have no idea where it is from, who made it - and can only guess at "Jugendstil" and an age of ca. 70 years.....

Hardwood South German

Older set in hardwood, unfelted - king stands 85 mm, with a folding box board in good quality, quite different from the normal Austrian ones.  White bishops finials are painted, black bishops are left unpainted!

"Snake Knights"

Interesting set with intriguing knights - which do not match - probably a mixed batch set. The white knights are end 19th century, the black ones much later. Kings at 92 mm - they also do not match!

Austrian set in sheesham!

10 years ago a Vienna trader - and chess club boss - sent an Austrian set to India to copy - here is the result, in sheesham wood. Check the knights - European St. type - and the balltops on the bishops seem to have posed a problem. Lifeless feeling, perfect finish, a dead fish. One chess shop in Europe actually sells these sets - plagiarism is normal in chess piece manufacture!

South German

South German chessmen - king 117 mm - in a pale wood like poplar or ash - beyond - or before - the "normal" Austrian/Viennese canon.  Take note of the oval tops on the bishops (separate pieces stuck in), the elongated forms, the superb knights heads, and the queen and king tops. ca. 1860 - 1880...every knight is different, one white knight might be from a smaller set, and one black pawn definitely is.

Whittled Tyrolean Set

Strongly carved chessmen in alpine maple, probably representing figures from local history (the famous metal figures from the tomb of Maximilian I in the Innsbruck Court Church!).  - with rooks showing the towers of the Innsbruck Palace - white king stands 122 mm. Very expressive pawns and highly stylized knights - from the  60ies to 80ies....

Plastic !

Mold-injected Viennese plastic set - certainly the only mold ever produced - with 50 mm kings. The bishop balltop is a separate piece - this means it was injected separately , and then had to be assembled. Paper pads - prominent jointures from the mold halves, NOT polished down. 

Austroid set

Delicate chess pieces, in the general Austrian/South German mold, with odd finials on the top - kings stands 78 mm - paper pads - ca. 1930 - 1950.

19th C South German set

Very old South German/Austrian set, no piece alike, rich patina - king 82 mm. a much better set  of the same cut can be seen here!

Short South German

Small Pieces (king 64 mm), austrian form, but - the king and queen stems lack the surplus ring. two pieces knights, one pieces bishops - usually it is the other way around. Early 20th C.

Nekvasil Portable

Very small home set in folding box, with the telltale marble paper inlays, king 53 mm, paper pads.

Nekvasil Portable 2


Another small boxed portable set - hardly taller (king 66 mm) but more substantial, box larger.

Pegged  Travel set

Pegged travel set in a wooden inlaid folding box board - king stands 20 mm with peg. These plastic pieces are not mold-injected, but milled and cut from little blocks of hard resin! Sold in the Tyrol (acc. to sticker) , probably around 1960 - 1970. Rare set nowadays...

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