My Chess Set

  • GM BryanSmith
  • | Oct 25, 2012

In late summer of 2008 I played a small local tournament which had no monetary prizes. The prizes were donated, and the top one was a chess set which I figured was worth maybe two hundred dollars. I decided to play – it was not unlike many other small local tournaments, but with the added twist that I would have to figure out how to sell the chess set on Ebay afterwards in order to get the prize…As a hardened professional, the thought of keeping the pretty chess set wasn’t high on my agenda.

So, I won the chess set. However, it was kind of a pyrrhic victory…although I was far higher rated than the other players, I made a blunder and lost one game. So I got the second prize, but fortunately the first prize winner already had a set like that, so he took some other prize, and I got the set.

I immediately packed the set away, almost afraid to touch it, because I wanted to sell it “new”. Of course, the intention was to take pictures and sell it right away. But the difficulties mounted – among them, my lack of a digital camera. I had to borrow one from a friend, but it kept being delayed.

In the meantime, other things took up my time and the chess set ended up on my bookshelf. That autumn, some – let’s say - “inspiration” entered my life and I began to play very well. Well, my performance (in terms of international rating) over that period of was close to 2700. I realize that there are some humans who play at that level all the time. But, with my background (especially growing up in Alaska) it would have been hard. Later, the “inspiration” went away, and I stopped playing so well. However, it did help me to see that this was probably my potential – what was in my head, when freed from negativity and psychological blocks.

Some time that December, I finally managed to bring my chess set to my friend’s house so she could take pictures. I hoped to have it online in time for people buying Christmas presents. Besides normal pictures of the chess pieces, I also set up some positions which would only have meaning to “real” chess players. Including the following famous position:

And the following position from the end of my game against GM Kritz from the National Chess Congress:

So now I had the pictures. But there were more difficulties. It was hard to identify with certainty exactly which model of chess set it was. I am not particularly skilled with computers, so the whole process of selling it was a little intimidating. Thus the chess set ended up sitting on the top of my bookshelf. Still I refused to touch it, since I was going to sell it. It stayed packed up throughout 2009 and 2010, despite moving twice in 2010. Throughout those times, “sell chess set” occasionally appeared on my to-do list, but was never checked off. It wasn't something that would have been particularly hard to do, but nevertheless it kept getting delayed.

In late 2010, trying to make some extra funds for my move to Europe, I tried to sell it to a local IM who owns a chess shop and teaching center. At first he wanted to buy it, but then decided that he wouldn’t be able to sell it.

At the beginning of 2011, before moving to Europe, I packed most of my belongings in my car, and parked it in my friend’s garage. Thus, the chess set remained safely ensconced in a box in my car, awaiting its long-delayed appearance on Ebay, while I was living first in Prague, then in Serbia.

Now, in 2012, more than four years after “winning” the chess set, I have returned to America. Slowly I have reconstructed my life here, and just got an apartment. The apartment is in the “Fishtown” section of Philadelphia, next to a huge cobblestone street. This street often acts like a wind tunnel, and you can usually hear the wind rushing by outside.

In the process of unpacking, I once again came across the elegant wooden box that housed the chess set. I finally came to the realization – that the chess set was not destined to end up on Ebay; but rather, on my kitchen table. And so that's where it is.


  • 4 years ago


    Last position similar to laskers study isn't it?

  • 4 years ago


    cool ;-) 

  • 4 years ago


    Very nice article!

    This is our school's chess set:

  • 4 years ago


    Good story, and I liked the tactics. The Saavedra position is my favorite position of all.

  • 4 years ago


    Indeed, the game should have been a draw, but so should all games, assuming perfect play from both players.

  • 4 years ago


    The "inspiration" you spoke of.. it was a beautiful woman, was it not?

    I know the feeling..

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    Interesting positions!  Especially as the Queens do not start on their own colours!

  • 4 years ago



    Took me a while to see what was going on there, too. But 

    c8 = Q Rc4+


    is stalemate! But if white choose the rook instead, Rxc4 is not stalemate.

  • 4 years ago


    When you promote to Q, black plays Rc4+. After taking the pawn on c4 with your Q, black has no more possible move.

  • 4 years ago


  • 4 years ago


    Beacuse Rc4+ would have drawn after Qxc4

  • 4 years ago


    Maybe I am being dense (very possible)...why can't I promote to Q in the last puzzle?

    Great story too BTW!

  • 4 years ago


    This guy is a natural born story teller. 

  • 4 years ago



  • 4 years ago


    That last puzzle is really nice.

    (The story as well of course)

  • 4 years ago


    Very nice puzzles, I had read an article here whose theme was the Saavedra position, it was an interesting article that explained all possible continuations. The other one I had seen it as well in the past, solved it (for sure after some wrong moves) and today I solved it after only one wrong move, so I guess it is an improvement! :) Thanks for posting!

  • 4 years ago


    Great story!

  • 4 years ago


    Nice li'l story, Bryan - I guess the chess set must've been only destined for you.  Never sell it or give it away! - it obviously stood for more than mere safekeeping ... And those puzzles - especially the first one - were pretty tough indeed!  Too bad your opponent (L. Kritz) blundered away the above example; I believe it should've been a draw [perhaps?] (Have seen the 'Saavedra' one before though, but [again] still didn't quite solve it precisely.)  Thanks for sharing.

    And that's the way 'I' see it! ...

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