The hugely popular Netflix series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ has inspired many people, especially women to start to learn chess or to revisit this game, which they used to love and enjoy in their youth. It has also opened a dialogue about women in chess as players, professionals and role models.
Right from the very beginnings of Purling London, we’ve been supporting women in chess as well as choosing many female artists to create our Art Chess sets. Olivia Pilling was one of the first Purling London artists. Her array of multi-toned, jewel-like, impressionistic Art Chess sets remain amongst are most popular to date.
Daniela Raytchev’s thought-provoking Art Chess have always tackled issues such as feminism, climate change and addictions have been seen in galleries such as the Saatchi, London and World Chess Hall of Fame, St. Louis. Nette Robinson is a chess player and artist, who, like Raytchev, has created Art Chess with a social or political message. She has also designed sets, which celebrate the beauty and complexity of the game of chess.
Daniela Raytchev was one of our artists who was invited to be part of an exhibition at the World Chess Hall of Fame, which specifically focussed on women artists’ take on the game of chess. Other artists selected included Sophie Matisse, who has since created three Art Chess sets for us.
Jennifer Shahade is an excellent role model for women in chess. We are also honoured to know and to have collaborated with other chess pioneers including, from across the globe including, Georgian/American International Master Nazí Paikidze, Hungarian International Master and commentator Anna Rudolf, Russian chess player and personality Galiya Karjakina, former Women’s Chess World Champion Grandmaster Alexandra Kosteniuk and Indian International Master and commentator Tania Sachdev.
Over the years we have held many games pop ups in clubs and venues across London, where over 50% of our guests were women.
The character of Beth, an American and a chess prodigy, is loosely based on the American and chess legend Bobby Fischer. The famous World Championship match between Fischer and the Russian World Champion Boris Spassky in 1972, was seen as symbolic of the Cold War being played out on the board. In the story Beth Harmon feels that same sense of passionate drive to defeat the Russian champion – a mighty master from a country which was dominating the chess world.
The Art Chess set used for the photographs, inspired by this recent Netflix series is one which appropriately, is both Russian and Western. The chess board was specially created by British artist Nette Robinson to display a set of rare, 1930s Soviet chess pieces, called ‘The Reds and the Whites’ which were part of the Important Russian Art Sale at Christie’s, London. The red pieces were depicted as the Communists and were pitched against the white Western Capitalists. After the successful sale of the antique chess pieces, Nette Robinson painted pieces in her own style, in order to complement the Russian-style board.
It seemed appropriate that Nette Robinson posed for our ‘Queen’s Gambit’ inspired photo. As well as an artist she is a chess player and chess teacher in a primary school. And like the character Beth, she also took up learning the Russian language, due to her journey into chess!
We believe chess as a universal game, which can be enjoyed and engaged with by women, men, young and older alike. Even if you have no ambitions as Beth Harmon does, chess is still a great game to learn and play. As Beth rightly says;
‘Chess doesn’t have to be competitive, it can also be beautiful.’
So, if you haven’t already, why not discover chess for yourself?
Women artists who have created Art Chess for Purling: