About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Friday, October 6, 2017

G is for the Game of Kings

And cack-handed, Aspergic, fuckwits! I've never really been any good at Chess, you'd think with a high IQ in the visio-spatial that I'd ace it, but I always end up with a brilliant plan in my head going forward about three moves, trouble being A) My opponent never makes the moves I was counting on them making for my master-plan to come-off, B) my master-plan usually involves my having incorrectly identified at least one of my players as belonging to my opponent or vise-versa, C) while I am trying to jig my master-plan to account for either my opponent's failure to follow it properly or the realisation that my lynch-pin castle is actually my opponent's queen, he/she nicks MY queen - which is really unfair as it means playing for a stalemate is off, and all I have to look forward to is a 'bit of a walk outside the tent chaps'!

However, I do love chess sets, especially when they are more figural in execution . . .

. . . like this one.

This is my Christmas present - which is why I've obscured the price! I grabbed it when I was told about it and someone else is wrapping it, but only after I'd shot the pictures necessary to show it to you!

This shot was taken where it sat on display in the little antiquity/craft place while I asked them to hold it for a couple of days while I rounded up some funding, and at first glance I thought I was probably buying an Indian chess set, aimed at modern tourists in the same terracotta we've seen here before, with 'Black' being Thai/Siamese or Burmese troops, White: Indian or Tibetan/Nepalese types?

The pack-animal Knights looked a bit odd, but who knows what they've got in the Himalayas or jungles of Burma which David Attenborough hasn't got round to showing us yet, huh? And you never look at something the first time you see it in the same way you do when you settle down at your desk for a second (proper) look; many a twinge of 'buyers-remorse' is down to a glance and incorrect conclusion.

The 'Thai/Burmese' side, or are they the Indians fighting a Chinese white-force? Well, it turns-out they are none of the above, they are in fact Amerindians! And speaking of Chess conventions - as I will in a minute down the page - this is the correct way to photograph a chess set - King to the left, Pawn to the right and if it's a more standard set like a Staunton, you'd add a Pawn or King from the other side at one end of the row.

As we'll see in a minute, once I'd got the set home and looked at it properly in was obvious that White are actually Conquistadores and these chaps . . . well? Probably Peruvian . . . or Columbian maybe? I think the pack animals rule out Mexico, while to the south of the Amazon-basin dress is different, with warmer, layered-clothing and felt or woolly-hats.

The thing is, I don't mind they're not from India (or that part of the world) as I have the figures we've previously looked at (a lovely set coming here soon!), but I have had no South American composition; now I have, so a bit of a bargain!

The clincher was the White set, which while looking Asian at first glance, especially against the other set, are actually, clearly Europeans of the Columbian invasion era. I'd mistaken Spanish helmets for Sikh turbans or Nepalese side-hats!

Both sets are presumable thumb-pressed into loose half-moulds, married-together and then turned-out to dry, possibly with a low-temperature firing to speed things along. [There is a page in preparation which explains why this type of clay is 'composition' rather than 'ceramic', but it's proved problematical, been re-written twice and was passed around the experts for proof-reading nearly a year ago to little effect!]

The figures have then been hand-painted, and glazed with a dip in what appears to be pigmented yacht-varnish . . . 'army-painter' before Armypainter!

There is a strong and obvious overtone of Christendom to White, reinforcing the history behind the two sides in this set, not the Bishops but both King and Queen being adorned with large crosses (I also missed in my initial perusal), with the Black side equally obviously being representative of pre-Colombian Amerindians.

White's Knights are henceforth to be known as 'My Little Surprised Pony', while Black's will be 'My Little Andean Not-a-pony', whether it's a lama, alpaca or other, similarly-configured woolly ruminant from that continent (there's several) is anyone's guess. You can also see how the two halves are squished-together and roughly flattened-off before being tipped-out of the moulds.

My use of Black and White has no racial undertones whatsoever, despite the ethnicity of the pieces, it is simply Chess convention to call the paler side 'White' and the darker side 'Black' in cases of polychrome sets - where you [occasionally] get those beautiful stained-ivory sets (ironically; from India!) in green and red, I believe the convention is always Red = black and Green = white, but - obviously - with African soapstone and carved-wood sets, black is black and the red/oxblood is white!

Note also, that while Black's Bishops and Pawns are different designs, the grotty-old euro-pirates get a scale-down OF the Bishop AS a Pawn! And everyone looks as surprised as White's Knights, except the Andean Not-a-pony's who look very sly and not less than a little evil!

Lined-up and ready to go, playing with polychrome sets is even more of a nightmare for me as it's too easy to misplace ones pieces, especially with this set where I'd be losing some Pawns mentally, out of the corner of my eye, as fast as I lost others physically to my opponent!

However another miss-assumption was the age of the set, I thought when I first saw them that they were modern; like yesterday, but studying the - minor - damage/ageing to the board I suspect it's more of a 1960/70's thing?

I shot the hell out of it because it'll be three months before I see it again! If there's one criticism of the set, it's that Black's castles are a cop-out - European outline,  medieval turret-towers; they could have been steeply-stepped pyramids, or something more colloquial, or at least recognisably Amerindian.

PS - A quick Google while uploading this post reveals they are quite common, definitely from Peru and while the designs differ, the theme remains the same - Inca vs. Spanish. There's one with a lovely red/orange board offset by 45º's as a diamond/lozenge and others have round boards or more ornate ones with feet - look for the photograph of a stall loaded with them!

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