Every year, the Chessmen Museum organises a competition in which enthusiastic creative souls submit their handmade designs to compete for some amazing prizes. The chess games were on display at the museum in all their glory all throughout the past year. Visitors of the museum could vote for their favourite design.

The Balcony Players

This time there were eight participants, including ten-year-old Pepijn van Wees. The observant visitors noticed some familiar names accompanying the designs such as Jan de Visser, Mr Mellink and Reinie Lap, who have all participated in previous competitions.

Happy New Year
As tradition dictates, the awards ceremony was celebrated on January 1 at the Chessmen Museum. As the participants and other attendees arrived at the museum one by one, Moniek and Ilse of the Balcony Players warmed up the audience with their accordion and violin music. Snacks and drinks were eagerly consumed and the crowd got really excited when Ridder Dijkshoorn cleared his throat and got out the envelope that held the names of the winners…

Number 8 Chaos

Number 7  Double Play

Number 6 Barbapapa

Number 5 Bacchanalaugh

Number 4 Child’s Play

Number 3 Little Tea Eggs

Number 2 Tab Trap

Number 1 Baywatch

“All of the designs are, once again, very innovative and it has obviously taken the participants a lot of time and effort to make them. In previous editions it was generally a neck-and-neck race where the front runners changed position various times. This year, however, it quickly became clear that there would be an uncontested winner. The final winner immediately took the lead and it was impossible for the rest of the contestants to keep up” according to birthday boy Ridder. To keep things exciting, we will first describe the designs that came in last, starting with number 8.

Number 8
Aleze Karpov received 8 out of a total of 460 votes for the Chaos design, made of plaster and iron wire. Even though the design definitely lives up to its name, it turns out to be impossible to play chess with. The pale blue and white fields of the board and chess pieces of the same colours are hard to distinguish from one another, and moving the pieces is a bit complicated as well.

Number 7
Ivanka Kovacs takes seventh place with her Double Play design, which got 15 votes. Ivanka is a frequent participant of the design competition. She presented a smooth design this year that can be used for a game of chess as well as draughts. In 2016, Ivanka won the design competition with her ´ice´ sculpture design and we look forward to her next contribution. Revenge??

Number 6
The youngest participant, Pepijn van Wees, managed to get 24 votes with his colourful Barbapapa chess game made out of clay and paper, and finishes in sixth place. It just goes to show that age has nothing to do with where you end up in the rankings!

Number 5
Veteran contestant A.H. Mellink ends in fifth place with his Bacchanalaugh. This is not a typo, as the accompanying note explains: “Your piece gets captured = drink up. Fill glasses with whiskey, brandy, beer, wine etc. This could turn out to be a very merry game…. ” Mellink used beer mats for the fields (beware, clandestine advertising!) and real beer mugs, wine glasses and shot glasses for the pieces. This design was awarded 43 votes.

Number 4
This year, Jan de Visser submitted a design that was over thirty years old called Child´s Play. He made this robust game for his children a long time ago, since they needed pieces that they could not demolish. The board is new though. De Visser got 45 votes for his design and comes in fourth.

Number 3
At the bottom of the top three we find Reinie Lap with 59 votes for her Little Tea Eggs design. She drank a lot of tea to assemble the board of this design, which is made of tea labels. She cut tea eggs in half to make the chess pieces. The knight was the trickiest of all pieces but was finally shaped by bending a teaspoon. The horse´s head ended up being supported by a very slender neck this way.

Number 2
Second prize goes to Gaelle van der Dool with her eye-catching Tab Trap. Both the board and the chess pieces are made of can tabs, half of which have been painted black. The Tab Trap ends up in second place, just ahead of the Little Tea Eggs, with 61 votes.

Number 1
The undisputed winner of this edition of the Chess Game Design Competition is, once again, Yanna Pelser. This year´s design is called Lifeguard. Last year Yanna already let on that she was creating a design for which she would use dark volcanic sand from the Canary Islands and white Dutch sand. The graceful chess pieces are particularly impressive. They haven´t been painted but are made of light, dark and calcified shells. With almost half of the votes, 205 to be precise, the museum´s visitors clearly appreciated this work of art.
About her chess pieces Yanna says: “Until the very last day I was busy looking for the right shells. I didn´t have a white mussel for the queen, for example, and I didn´t want to paint a black shell white. I was very lucky to find one on the day of the deadline.”

The queen can be distinguished by her mussel crown, which represents femininity. And when you turn the chess piece around, it portrays the tail of a mermaid. The king has a beard of made of tiny shells, the knight is a sea moth and the rook can be recognised by its spiral staircase. Puns can also be found in this creative design: the bishop, also known as the runner, is represented by an hourglass.

“It took a lot of hard work this year, since the shells had to fit exactly, and especially the black ones were hard to find. I have spent many hours on the beach”, comments Yanna. She is a violinist and creating chess games is a pastime for the quieter winter months. She is already working on her new design, which will be on display at the Chessmen Museum as of March 3.

By Marjolein Overmeer