Isamu Noguchi Modernist Style Chess Set

Sale price$530.00 USD Regular price$590.00 USD
Save $60.00
In stock

Chess House Guarantee

  • Easy parts. When buying a chess set online, we've got you covered. With us, you have easy access to parts for years so your set is always playable.
  • Safe, timely arrival. Every order is thoughtfully packed. Plus, delivery time is clear from checkout until it reaches your door.
  • Peace of mind. Easy access to our friendly experts and 90 day, no-hassle returns.

That's why 21,522 people rate Chess House 4.8 out of 5 stars.

About The Isamu Noguchi Modernist Style Chess Set

Of the many chess set designs made by major 20th century Modern artists few were both as innovative and deeply rooted in tradition as the Chess Set and Table ensemble created by Japanese – American sculptor Isamu Noguchi for the 1944 Imagery of Chess exhibition at Julien Levy Gallery in New York, organized by Levy and artists Marcel Duchamp and Max Ernst.

The wartime scarcity of quality materials both limited and inspired Noguchi. In his chess set design, which became prototypes for his other sculptures of that era, Noguchi devised a simple but ingenious system of notching together thin contoured planes of material to create fully 3-D objects, but using a minimum of materials. Scarcity also led him to fashion these pieces from a new experimental wartime material developed to mass produce clear aircraft canopies and gun turrets – Plexiglas.

Being of mixed Japanese and American parentage, Noguchi combined his passion for pioneering Modernist forms with a deep respect for the history and traditions of both Eastern and Western cultures. His love of historical Indian and Persian chess forms was further fueled by his love affair (1943 – 1947) with a young Indian woman, Tara Pandit, the niece of Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Instead of regular Western black and white pieces, Noguchi made his figures of translucent red and green Plexiglas to echo rubies and emeralds often found in Moghul jewelry. With the exception of the rook, all other pieces have headlike forms and arched spines. 

He mimicked the beauty of Indian and Persian black lacquered boards that had round, center-point inlays of mother of pearl or ivory with his black ebonized curvy-edged table featuring a grid of white circular inlays, not squares.

There is no record of what happened to the original chess pieces, but ever since the 2005 debut of a replica set of Isamu Noguchi’s lost original 1944 chess set in the Imagery of Chess Revisited exhibition, the Noguchi Museum has been inundated with requests for a new edition.

The Noguchi Museum and AMEICO have been conducting materials research for some time and are excited to produce a new edition of the 1944 Noguchi Chess Set accompanied by an attractive Perspex black folding board with red and translucent white circular inlays, modelled after the artist’s original tabletop design.


- Pieces: Perspex plexiglass
- Board: Folding Perspex black plexiglass with red and translucent white circular inlays to represent squares.
- King Height: 3"
- Board: 22” x 24”

Design by: Isamu Noguchi
Design year: 1944

Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was an American artist and landscape architect whose artistic career spanned six decades, from the 1920s onward. Known for his sculpture and public artworks, Noguchi also designed stage sets for various Martha Graham productions, and several mass-produced lamps and furniture pieces, some of which are still manufactured and sold.

In 1947, Noguchi began a collaboration with the Herman Miller company, when he joined with George Nelson, Paul László and Charles Eames to produce a catalog containing what is often considered to be the most influential body of modern furniture ever produced, including the iconic Noguchi table which remains in production today. His work lives on around the world and at the Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum in New York City.

Product Specs

King Height
King Base

Customer Reviews

Based on 1 review
Dennis Pitchford

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.