I’ve been playing chess since I was 8 years old — a lifetime ago. I have played tournament chess and I am a paid subscriber to chess.com where I continue to play chess daily. Over the years, like so many players I have dreamt of owning an heirloom chess set. I finally obtained one in the form of the Jaques of London 4″ Reintroduction Chess Set in Mahogany Box. Here’s a link to the set as it appears on the Official Jaques of London website:
THE ORDERING PROCESS
I must confess this set was not my first choice. In fact, it was the Jaques of London: Simpsons in the Strand 3.5″ set that I had initially intended to purchase. I had gone some ways in the ordering process before being informed that the Simpsons (a set limited to 500 copies) was no longer available.
I was disappointed in the set’s non-availability but I adjusted quickly and decided on the slightly larger (and more expensive) 4″ Reintroduction set. I had the extremely good fortune of communicating with Jaques of London sales representative, Tracy Bateson. This woman is everything a sales representative should be; attentive, knowledgable, courteous, understanding, and proactive. Upon alerting me to the unavailability of the Simpson’s set I was offered a choice of 3 other Jaques sets at the same price point or the option of a complete and full refund.
I instead opted for the 4″ Reintroduction set. Ms. Bateson, true-to-form, informed me that there would be no charge afforded the two extra queens I had desired when ordering the Simpsons 3.5″ set and had also requested for the 4″ set. I should note that the extra queens retail at a not insignificant £ 49.99 each (before taxes). The savings, needless to say, were much appreciated.
I should note that as a Canadian customer, I was unable to take advantage of Jaques’ automated online e-commerce store. Jaques has a USA branch but they also are not set-up electronically to serve Canadian customers. I suspect the same holds true for Australian and New Zealand based consumers as well.
Despite the 8 hr difference between my home on British Columbia’s west coast and Kent in south-east England, I was able to interact and exchange phone calls and emails with Ms. Bateson in timely and efficient fashion.
The set was delivered by UPS and Jaques of London provided full delivery tracking. Therefore, I was glued to UPS’ website like a 1960s era kid to Saturday morning cartoons. Delivery was quick and problem free. I made initial contact with Tracy by email on January 21st and my set arrived on February 2. However, the actual delivery schedule of the 4″ set from date of payment received to my front door delivery was an impressive 7 days!
Of course, living in Canada and suffering a free-falling dollar as we currently are, the added costs of Canadian duties and taxes apart from the approx. £40.00 plus shipping costs included at Jaques end amounted to $199.31 which I paid to the UPS driver upon receipt of the set.
The set came extremely well packaged and I am confident no damage occurred in the actual shipping process. Bubble wrap, packing paper and 5 boxes! were afforded this set’s protection. I was suitably impressed.
MY ONLY ISSUE
My one and only issue with this entire process focuses on the issue of quality control. In my opinion, Jaques of London is the gold standard when it comes to chess sets. The company has a storied past quite literally being synonymous with the game of chess itself; Insomuch as Jaques of London had, in the words of Wikipedia:
“…exclusive manufacturing rights for a chess set designed by Nathaniel Cook in 1849 and named the Staunton chess set after Howard Staunton. This set later became the official international standard.”
Jaques were also commissioned with producing the set used by Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in the 1972 World Chess Championship. Dubbed the “Match of the Century” it is unlikely that the sheer social and cultural impact of the match and the universal coverage the contest generated should ever be repeated.
So with all this behind it I was still disappointed to discover that 2 of my chess pieces fell far short of “Jaques of London” standards of excellence . One of the black pawns had suffered a broken collar (despite 5 boxes of packaging!) I could understand a piece potentially suffering damage in a voyage travelling half-way across the globe. However, the damage was clearly done prior to shipping as the shredded remnants of what had been packing paper bore no evidence of any ebony shards. A white bishop also arrived in less than pristine condition bearing a couple of nicks near the piece’s base and suffering a rather too liberal application of lacquer.
I hasten to add that following a quick email to Jaques of London and once more connecting with Ms. Bateson I was immediately assuaged with news that 2 black pawns and 2 white bishops (free of charge sans shipping) would be dispatched post-haste to replace the 2 pieces that had arrived in less than satisfactory condition.
A CHESS SET TO BE PROUD OF
Jaques of London 4″ Reintroduction set not only serves as an impressive display item but is beyond doubt a set to be played. The pieces both black & white chessmen have the knights and rooks stamped with a kingside crown. The knights are richly detailed and true to the original Staunton design. I could not be happier.
The 4″ Reintroduction set also features my preferred Staunton bishop with a narrow gap in the mitre and a full button on top. I am not a fan of the gaping mitre but such may be to your own liking. The bishops accompanying this set represent aesthetic perfection.
The 4″ Reintroduction set features the following:
- Reissue of the original Jaques Staunton early 1890s design
- Limited Edition (500)
- Signed certificate authenticity
- Gloss finished Mahogany box
- Woods: Ebony (NOT ebonized) and Boxwood
- White King’s base stamped “Jaques London”
- B&W Rooks and Knights stamped with kingside crown
- 4″ King with 1 3/4″ base
- Heavily weighted (presumably triple weighted)
- NO Extra Queens
- Board NOT included
- Retails for £ 999.00 before taxes (does not include shipping)
Historic! English! Quality! Satisfaction guaranteed! But this is not a budget set. It really is heirloom quality with all the trimmings. A set to proud of, displayed, played with, and handed down the generations. Personally, it represents a prized possession and the cumulation of a lifelong love affair with the game of chess.