Historic Collection of Early Chess Pieces to be Offered at Sotheby’s London

Historic Collection of Early Chess Pieces

to be Offered at Sotheby’s London

From the Collection of Lothar Schmid

Referee of the Match of the Century’ between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky

Sotheby’s in London will offer one of the most important collections of early chess pieces to appear at auction. Each of the pieces carries huge significance in the evolution of the game throughout Persia and the Middle East. Highlights include an extremely rare, early and almost complete 10th-century set which represents an important addition to the knowledge and study on the evolution of the game of chess (estimate £20,000-30,000). The entirety of this remarkable collection was assembled by one of the most influential figures of 20th-century chess, Lothar Schmid (1928-2013). Schmid, a chess ‘Grandmaster’, is also famed for refereeing what became known as the “Match of the Century” – the legendary 1972 Cold War face-off between the American Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky of the Soviet Union. Together estimated £73,800-117,200, the collection will feature as part of Sotheby’s Arts of the Islamic World sale in London on 20 April 2016.

Please find a press release attached and a full selection of high-resolution images here:  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/p8pfeaogq9f41ra/AADK0ukV3Lla-ZK4qjcDB5nya?dl=0

Schmid and the Match of the Century

Staged in the neutral territory of Reykjavik, Iceland, the 1972 match between Fischer and Spassky became a microcosm of the Cold War. With the reputation of two global superpowers resting on the shoulders of each player, proceedings were marked by outlandish claims from both sides. The Soviets accused the US of using a secret weapon to distract Spassky, even testing a sample of orange juice for traces of poisoning, while Fischer insisted that the chessboard be changed and demanded that the match be moved to a room with no spectators. With the event at risk of descending into farce, it was down to Lothar Schmid’s diplomatic skills to hold the match together: “I felt there was only one chance to get them together”, Schmid recalled, “They were two grown-up boys, and I was the older one. I took them both and pressed them by the shoulders down into their chairs and I said: ‘Play chess now!’

Schmid, who died in 2013, was one of Germany’s leading Chess Grandmasters. Winning his first Championship at the age of 13, he went on to participate in numerous Chess Olympiads. Schmid assembled one of the greatest collections of historic chess pieces, as well as a vast collection of books relating to the game. The library is said to be the world’s largest and most complete, comprising more than 50,000 volumes on the subject. Including the rare copies such as the first printed chess book, dated 1497.

All the best,


Toby Skeggs

Sotheby’s Press Office

tel: +44 (0) 20 7293 5166

email: toby.skeggs@sothebys.com

Sotheby’s London – 34-35 New Bond Street – London W1A 2AA UK

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