2 chess sets that bring out old-school entertainment, with a twist

These sets by Philion CGI and Tarek Elkassouf Studio would check-mate any competition – in terms of their minimalistic alluring aesthetic.

The game of chess has been around for centuries. These two chess sets will make you appreciate this wonderful game even more.

It’s intergenerational – where everyone meets together and enjoys a good fight over the chess board!

While its rules have mostly stayed the same, the look and feel of the game has been continuously reinterpreted. 

Designers have all put their own spin and the game’s 32 pieces have been rendered in an endless variety of extraordinary materials and shapes. 

Perfect for chess novices to Kasparov-level players – scroll to explore these fascinating eclectic chess sets by Philion CGI and Tarek Elkassouf Studio:

1. Philion CGI Studio

Seamlessly merging two games into one, African designer Philip Oluwatobi Nwachukwu brilliantly crafts a chess board inspired by Nigerian local game – Ayo. 

Featuring natural warm wooden elements and a free-flowing feel, he’s skillfully converted the shapes of traditional chess pieces into rounded and curved forms complimenting the board’s minimalistic look.

With an innate love for design and turning his ideas into reality – Nwachukwu was born and raised in Lagos Nigeria and studied Architecture at Covenant University in Ota, Ogun State.

Chess set by Philion CGI Studio
© Philion CGI Studio

His studio, Philion CGI delivers realistic 3D images and animations for product conceptualizations, campaigns, real estate and much more as well as fabricates virtual tours and augmented reality assets for such projects. 

“A lot of patriotism and my girlfriend – this was the inspiration for my chessboard. 

My girlfriend and I were playing a traditional Nigerian game called Ayo (pronounced aah-yoh) often played by the Yoruba people who reside in South Western Nigeria in which players have to “capture” their opponent’s seeds.

Known as the “Game of the Intellectual” – it  requires mathematical skills. 

As  she was teaching me how to play the game – I thought about how I would absolutely love to create a board game that is African-inspired and simply different” says Nwachukwu.

© Philion CGI Studio

Played by two people, facing each other – the board comprises two rows of six pockets or holes in the ground where the seeds are placed.

Borrowing from the game‘s aesthetics, Nwachukwu designed each and every chess piece with an organic form that echoes the natural quality of seeds as well as replaced the flat surface of the board seen in the game with a series of pockets.

“Ayo is played in a carved wooden box, containing twelve holes (with six holes on each side) and 48 seeds (four seeds in each hole). 

Crafting a fusion of chess and Ayo was my aim.

Chess set by Philion CGI Studio
© Philion CGI Studio

I did some research on chess board designs and concluded that they have always been square-shaped with checkered white and black boxes within the perimeter of the board. 

With this information, I decided to think outside of the box, throw it away and adopt circular pockets similar to the Ayo board, removing corners completely” he adds. 

2. Tarek Elkassouf Studio

Lebanon-born, Sydney-based artist, sculptor and object designer Tarek Elkassouf beautifully crafts a chess set that’s stripped bare and redefined in material-focused minimalism.

With a cross-disciplinary approach Elkassouf’s work is all about materials – the rawness of nature refined by hand and with tools and machines.

His studio specializes in innovative design and precise craftsmanship across a full spectrum of objects.

© Tarek Elkassouf Studio

His work is the antithesis of his first introduction and fascination with chess – his love of the complexity and detail of the pieces when as a six-year-old he found an old board in his family home.

“This is an object that is very close to my heart. I was fascinated by the shape of the pieces and the characters they represented!” says Elkassouf.

Effortlessly re-imagining the mundane – this stunning one-of-a-kind product gives creative freedom to the players and lets them decide how the pieces will look in their own mind.

© Tarek Elkassouf Studio

“To me – chess is a game of art, but more, a piece crafted in stone and metal that becomes an altar to concentration.

I feel that on the chessboard, there is just so much happening but one wants to focus on something important – the game, the moment.

The physical and cognitive investment in strategy” he adds. 

Available in a limited edition of 100 chess sets that come in a high gloss wooden box with a velvet lining – there are four variations of boards fabricated from Carrara marble, basalt, travertino classico and rosso.

Chess set by Tarek Elkassouf Studio
© Tarek Elkassouf Studio

It further features minimalistic rectangular soldiers cut from stainless steel, brass, oxidized brass and gunmetal embodying symbols of classical chess pieces inscribed into the top.

“I want a chess lover to sit in front of this chessboard and connect with serenity, focus and be free of judgment.

One can feel all the different emotions over this board where the materials itself communicates the form of the pieces and comes from the Earth, holding its energy – the basalt with that of the volcano eruptions and Carrara’s historic connection with classical sculptures” says Elkassouf.

Elkassouf now loves chess because winning is far from the point – “it’s the opposite of how we treat daily life – we treat it as a zero sum game. A series of wins” he adds.


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