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Alistair Chisholm

Designerdeveloper from Scotland

32

2

The White Knight

The eyes, expressionless circles. Its mouth slightly upturned, hinting at a smile. Ears are alert. This chess piece came into my life on my seventh birthday in 1988. It was one of 32 pieces that made up a full set of course, but there was something special about this one.

Roughly 2 inches tall by 1 inch in diameter, surprisingly weighty to hold with a bottom-heavy bias, angular, modern yet classic.

I picked up the knight because it is one of the most intricately detailed of all the pieces. From holding it and examining it, I would say that it's a very pleasing object to have in my hand. Time and care has been applied to make this object something that feels really good to hold in the hand. All of the angles and edges softened so that there's an enhanced experience when picked up and moved from square to square. This craft and attention to detail will never make the person in posession a better player but there's no doubt that it adds to the enjoyment by being physically and visually appealing.

I can take a good guess at how it would have been created - The maker would have started with a block of hardwood. The dowel rod would have been turned in a lathe to define the basic shape of the base, then the upper section chiselled and carved into the classic shape of a horses head. Details such as the eyes, mouth, nose and mane have been whittled out with sharp tools. Then a coating of varnish has been applied and the base has been given a green layer of felt.

The purpose of this little piece of wood after all, is to play a part in the ancient game of Chess, so let's imagine this piece in action. During an intense game, it has aggressively swung deep into enemy territory forking a black King and Rook. In this context, the inanimate object takes on a whole new meaning. To the two players and anyone watching, in the context of a game, this object is seen in an entirely different light. It's not aware of anything. It's just a bit of wood, but it's hard not to attribute it with holding some sort of life or energy of sorts at that moment in time. Games will come and go, and no doubt, one day it will be put away into the box and will lie neglected for months, perhaps years at at time.

I'm glad to say that the condition of this piece is as good as new. It has done remarkably well to survive my childhood, and hundreds of battles on the chessboard over the last 25 years. If it is continued to be looked after, it can be part of many games by many people, way into the future.

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