Chess puzzle on a vertical chessboard, to develop your chess lever
24 March 2024

Types of Demonstration Chess Sets through History.

How did demonstration chess sets historically look, and how were they used? What do demonstration and vertical chess sets look like now?

Demonstration or vertical chess sets have been used for years to allow spectators to view the progress of a chess game. They made it possible for crowds wanting to watch the duel not to gather around the players, which could lead to their distraction.

Usually, high-profile matches took place in an area separated from the spectators, and a person who could observe the game up close moved the pieces on a display board. In this way, spectators could watch the actions of the players on many chessboards at the same time.

The first photographs of demonstration chess sets that I managed to find date back to 1913.


Alekhin and Capablanca in 1913 in St. Petersburg

Alekhin and Capablanca in 1913 in St. Petersburg (photo from:


Rashevsky during a simultaneous exhibition. The photograph comes from 1920 in France.

Rashevsky during a simultaneous exhibition. The photograph comes from 1920 in France.

It is one of the most famous historical photographs and depicts a simultaneous exhibition by eight-year-old Samuel Reshevsky (photo from the internet).


Match Alekhin - Euwe 1935 The photograph dates from 1930 and also shows World Chess Champion, Max Euwe.

Match Alekhin - Euwe 1935 The photograph dates from 1930 and also shows World Chess Champion, Max Euwe.


Gideon-Stahlerg and demo chess


Demonstration chessboard and Gideon Stahlberg The photograph dates from 1930 and depicts Gideon Stahlberg (from:


Above are four historical photos, the oldest from over 100 years ago, showing demonstration chess sets. It's incredible how different the concepts are for attaching chess pieces to a board that stands vertically.



Concepts of demo chess:


Chess on pegs!

In the first and oldest photograph, there are holes in the board and pins in the chess pieces. The pieces are three-dimensional and resemble traditional pieces cut in half. However, the proportion of the chess square is maintained; they are squares, so these pieces were probably specially made for demonstration chess.


Chess on hangers!

From photographs from the twenties and thirties of the twentieth century, one can notice that the figures and pawns are hung on hangers like baubles on a Christmas tree. These chess sets were also undoubtedly designed specifically for this purpose. Presumably, the convenience of moving pieces was not the highest in this solution, but the goal of showing the game was achieved.


Shelves for chess and the chessboard as a background.

This solution seen in the 1930 photo is probably the simplest concept. The background is a chessboard with square fields. This is undoubtedly a simple and aesthetic solution. The pieces could probably be moved without much difficulty, as it was enough to place them on a shelf. A minor downside of this solution is the look of the chess position. The pieces in this case were probably also specially designed for display chess. They are of similar height so that the chessboard fields do not have to be rectangular.



Contemporary demonstration and vertical chess.


Currently, the requirements and possibilities for chess have changed significantly. Two versions of demonstration chess sets are available in stores.


- The first version is training chess. Usually portable, which teachers take to classes. They are built with a metal chessboard and flat pieces, to the bottom of which a magnet is glued.

- The second available version of chess is vertical chess. In this case, traditional chess pieces are placed on shelves forming a chessboard. In most solutions, the chess fields and the entire board do not form a square but a rectangle. Practical application of such chess in teaching or even hobbyist problem-solving can be very difficult. However, these chess sets have one advantage, they are ornamental and decorative.



Demonstration chess according to ChessboArt.


The chess we create was meant to be different, i.e., professional. They are designed to enable play and be useful for training. We designed the chess pieces from scratch, based on well-known chess diagrams. Such a form of showing pieces and boards is well known to every player from books or newspapers. Also, the form of chess diagrams is dominant on online sites and services that enable playing chess. Chess in the form of a diagram can be comfortably used for learning and showing games.


Chess lesson at ChessCorner Warsaw

Chess lessons at ChessCorner Warsaw. Photo from Facebook.  



Aesthetics of chess.


The second, fundamental assumption of the chess was their aesthetics. Thus, chess should naturally be made of light and dark wood. Wood, in our opinion, is the perfect and historically justified material for making chess. Moreover, it can integrate well into interiors and add character to them. This is precisely why these chess sets were designed.


In our ChessboArt chess, the pieces must stand straight! Each piece has two magnets, just like every square. This is to easily align the chess pieces so they don't rotate around a single magnet, ensuring that vertical, horizontal lines, and axes of symmetry are maintained.


Where are demonstration chess sets currently used?


Beyond the obvious applications in schools (education), homes (learning and decor), and companies (brand image and relaxation zones), chess sets are increasingly visible in public spaces and the media. They are an excellent medium for brand image, and after many years of absence of demonstration chess in the press, their value is being recognized again.


Demo chess set at KSSE

Photo from Facebook KSSE (Economic Zone)



Garry Kasparow interview

Garry Kasparov at the TVN 24 television station.


W szachu. Ostatnia rozgrywka.

A still from the movie: "W szachu. Ostatnia rozgrywka". Where ChessboArt chess can be seen.


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