I am not a Noguchi fanatic, but I do appreciate his art and design. Therefore, I purchased this chess set for its visual appeal rather than intending to play with it. Given that Noguchi is such a highly-regarded designer and sculptor, I imagine there are others who will do the same.
Overall, although there are a couple nice elements, the set does not seem nearly "premium" enough to justify the $600 price point.
The pieces themselves appear to be high quality. They are smoothly polished and come fully-assembled, so there’s no worry about something getting scratched/damaged when slotting them together. They are packaged in a sturdy carboard box with a form-fitting interior that holds them (mostly) in place when transported.
However, I have several issues with the board's construction:
- Although Noguchi’s original board did not fold, this iteration is a folding board (which is clearly stated in the product description). My disappointment is that the board is cheaply constructed. The board consists to two plastic halves that are held together by a mere strip of fabric tape. The tape doesn’t allow for a precise fit, and as a result, the gap between board halves is wider at one end than the other. Additionally, the halves don’t lie perfectly flat, creating a slight ledge between the two pieces.
Basically, the construction is the same as you’d find with a mass produced board game from Milton Bradley. I expected more from a $600 chess set, especially since the original was designed with form being the driving factor. In my opinion, the manufacturer should have used hinges or design the board so that the two pieces could snap together. Or better yet, just stick with Noguchi’s original one-piece board!
- The sales images of the board on the website and packaging are Photoshopped to hide/minimize this issue. The images either show no seam at all or a very thin seam at one end. This is the manufacturer’s doing, not Chess House’s.
- As the product description indicates, the board’s “squares” are actually red and white circles/dots. The inlays are translucent, and look nice when placed on a white/light surface. However, when placed on a darker surface, the white circles lose their luminosity and the red dots are very difficult to see. If I decide to keep the set, I will place the board on a white mat (or tape white paper to the underside) to address this.
- There is no information whatsoever included with the set. At this price level, and given the history behind the set’s design (which is a major selling point), I would have expected some sort of booklet with a short bio about Noguchi, info about the 1944 chess exhibit where the set was unveiled, and/or images showing how the chess pieces laid the foundation for some of Noguchi’s later works.
However, the set comes with zero documentation. Nothing. Not even a regurgitation of the sales copy the manufacturer provided for the web site. Although information is easy to find with a couple of quick on-line searches, the absence of any sort of description leaves me with the impression that the manufacturer was lazy, and, well, cheap.
(If you intend to gift the set, you may want to take the initiative to print some info for the recipient. Do an internet search for the Julien Levy Gallery’s 1944 exhibit, “The Imagery of Chess”, and you’ll find plenty of info. Additionally, there was a retrospective exhibit from October 21, 2005 through March 5, 2006.
A quick note for those who intend to actually use the set…
- As you would expect from anything constructed from plexiglass, the pieces don’t have any heft. However, they do not feel flimsy.
- The matte finish of the board readily shows fingerprints.
The net result of my opinion is that I'm trying to decide whether I like the chess pieces enough to keep the set vs returning it.