The Dubrovnik Chess Set

There's a legend of the most beautiful chess set ever that is impossible to buy, made in a country that no longer exists.

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The Dubrovnik.



The year was 1949. A renowned cartoonist was asked to design new chessmen for the upcoming Chess Olympiad in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia. In the spirit of the times, no religious symbols was the order of the day. He came up with a beautiful set with smooth curves, opposite capped bishops (for easier bishop/pawn distinction) and surprisingly elegant knights. Unconventionally wide at base, felted in green, light, sturdy, utilitarian but elegant chessmen with a nod to great Staunton/Jaques of London tradition. The unweighted (!) pieces were produced at the Jakovljević Workshop in Zagreb. Only about 50 were made by hand. The contours of knights and queen crowns can vary from set to set.



The exact replicas of this set were sold in Yugoslavia in late sixties and early seventies, but were discontinued as the cheaper and simpler Subozan sets from Subotica flooded the market. By his own admission, world champion Bobby Fischer bought a Dubrovnik set in Zagreb in 1970 and later proclaimed it his favourite chess set ever. Sadly, his set was later stolen. By his request, the set was shortly reissued in 1992 for the second time and used again in Fischer/Spassky world championship rematch at Sveti Stefan that year.

Bobby Fischer 03 - Dubrovnik
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Today these sets are impossible to find. An old grandmaster friend of mine showed me six pieces. He does not have a complete set. No, he’s not parting. All I could do was take a picture on his coffee table.

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Another grandmaster is selling his set. Or is he? The price is vague and a bit ridiculous. Note the slightly miscarved black knight in one of the linked pictures.

The spirit of the new design lives on. Today a rough and simplified plastic replica of the Dubrovnik set is being made in Serbia and elsewhere and is because of it’s low price the most popular chesset worldwide ever, by far.

Some setmakers are using the basic idea only but introducing own designs and naming conventions like “Zagreb” or “Yugoslavia”. Note the opposite colored finials on kings and queens in the modern variants -- in the original Dubrovnik only the bishops enjoyed the privilege. However, these sets are not even close to utility and specifications of the original pieces.

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A small family business in Slovenia is still producing exact replicas of this historic chess set, based on original blueprints and drawings, provided by Šahovska naklada of Croatia. These replicas are exclusively licensed to use the original trademark name “Dubrovnik.”

Here’s a pic of my personal red stained 2012 set:

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-Izmet