World's Biggest Chess Set
San Clemente, California
In the midst of an exterior landscaping venture, horti-sculptor Denny North thinks installing huge chess sets would be more fun than cutting grass. This inspiration strikes while browsing for garden art, remembering the chess pieces he designed long ago as a student. Meanwhile, software designer Peter Shikli has his hands full with his big-game business, MegaChess, which quickly grew to offer the largest ensemble of extremely big chess sets anywhere. These two chess enthusiasts would soon meet for the first time as unlikely opponents in the biggest game of chess the world has ever seen. Yes, even bigger than that one with the computer.
A computer whiz in his own right, Denny didn't take very long to locate MegaChess.com. Their company mission to inspire kids to play chess arose after Peter's children dropped their video games to join him on his new patio chessboard. Denny is himself inspired to join the cause feeling he owes much to the experience on his high school's chess team. Further exploration of the MegaChess website uncovers an interesting claim to have the world's largest chess set available. Checking the 2005 edition of Guinness World Records TM shows the largest chess piece is a 13 ft (4 m) king in Sweden. To qualify for the internationally reknowned publication as the largest example of an everyday object, it must be a precisely scaled up version, made of the same materials, and function the same way. Finding no current listing for a complete chess set, North decides to challenge Shikli to an exhibition match demonstrating a MegaChess set for official witnesses. Applying online, he offers to coordinate the event for the priviledge of playing in the record setting attempt.
Much to North's chagrin, Shikli accepts the challenge and it was game on. They arrange to meet at MegaChess headquarters in San Clemente, CA to play chess against each other for the first time. It would be the biggest game of their lives, and then the world. Members of standing from the community attend with local media to document the event. The official measurements of the carved teak chess set come in. The king is 47 in (119 cm) tall and is 14.5 in (36.8 cm) wide at the base. The tremendous board is over 300 sq.ft. (5.28 m on each side). The '05 Labor Day game took just over an hour to complete with challenger Denny North emerging victorious. It was a close game but Peter ultimately succumbed to the ample advice of the crowd at an inopportune time. Maybe not the result he had in mind, but kids were indeed inspired to play chess by being allowed to kibitz. The record struggle of North vs. Shikli ended on the chessboard as their collaboration began on an Advisory Board. Shortly after Guinness verified them as official record holders for playing a game with the World's Largest Chess Set, Shikli appoints North "Chess Funding Advisor" for First Big Move, the MegaChess solution to school budget concerns. To this day, Denny continues assisting schools and other worthy organizations while having more fun. FBM's free automated pledge drive collects contributions for chess programs from the community and Peter makes the first pledge to qualifying applicants in his newfound spare time. With Denny's help, Peter now has 5 extra minutes here and there. Good thing because that's all it takes to donate to a local chess program using FirstBigMove.org, or to start your own pledge drive for your school.
So, what if someone breaks their record? Denny and Peter aren't worried, in fact, they're encouraging it. The tantalizing tandem visualizes chess parks around the world featuring increasingly larger chess sets. They want to hold tournaments so a boy and girl can play in the chess match setting each subsequent world record. Local efforts are already underway with the Orange County Great Park (ocgp.org) backed by the US Chess Federation and area chess clubs. Residents can show support by sending a short letter to firstname.lastname@example.org stating why you'd enjoy using a chess park in the community. They love hearing from all big chess fans as a matter of fact. It will take quite a combination of artistic vision, business savy, and public support to pull something like that together. Apparently the main ingredients are cooking and it smells pretty good! Any kid who dreams of breaking into the record books just might get the chance, like Denny and Peter did, by playing chess. Stay tuned for updates and more news on becoming a big part of chess in your own town. Until then, play chess and have more fun. -Meg.