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Legendary Souvenir Chess Piece from 1897 to be Offered at Christie's South Kensington
A leading highlight from the collection is a very rare souvenir chess piece. Estimate: £4,000-6,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2010.

LONDON.- Christie’s announced the sale of The Property of a Private Collector of Chess Sets and Game Boards, to be included in the Interiors sale at Christie’s South Kensington saleroom on 7 December 2010. The chess collection is to be sold by one of the founding members of Chess Collectors International, established in 1984, in Florida, USA. A leading highlight from the collection is a very rare souvenir chess piece. Thought to be one of only a few surviving examples, this gilt-bronze piece by Carlo and Arthur Giuliano was made to commemorate the historical chess match played between The House of Commons in London and The House of Representatives in Washington D.C, by cable in 1897 (estimate: £4,000-6,000). Lasting two days, the match resulted in a draw, with each winning 2 ½ games each, and a souvenir chess piece is believed to have been presented to each player as a memento for having taken part.

Arranged by John Henniker Heaton, a British Conservative MP, and U.S. Representative Richmond Pearson of North Carolina, this is believed to have been the only match played between the two governments of the UK and US. The matches were arranged as a fun pastime, but the players took them very seriously, with the Representatives documented as having received professional coaching beforehand. Cable matches were arranged soon after cable transmissions became available, the only drawback being the high cost for transmitting the messages.

The game of chess is documented to have been introduced to the ‘smoke-room’ at the House of Commons in the late 1880s, and was allegedly a very popular pastime for members. Several articles published at the time refer to a chess club, a petition for better chess boards and tables in the House, as well as lamenting the loss of the best chess players, due to members losing their seats during elections.

A number of the sets and boards on offer in the Collection featured in the famed exhibition catalogue “Schachpartie Durch Zeiten und Welten”, by Hans and Barbara Holländer. The catalogue documented the largest and most comprehensive exhibition dedicated to chess sets and related items ever staged, which was to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Hamburger Schachklub – the oldest and largest chess club in Germany, established in 1830. For chess collectors around the world, the chance to acquire items which appeared in this book is a very rare and special opportunity, and one not to be missed.

Christie's | John Henniker Heaton | Chess Collectors International |

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