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Frisco Del Rosario writes about chess960, women's basketball, minor league baseball, unsupported collectible card games, lettering in comic books, and Golden Age movies

New felt for the bottoms of my Lardy analysis set 01/05/2017

Let me tell you again about my favorite chess set.

Back in the ‘70s, cool kids had sets from the French company Lardy. They used to talk about these chess sets the same way guitarists talk about guitars, whether they got the natural or painted Lardy, and what kind of oil they rub in to preserve the wood, and the Lardy knights do not look like dogs, no way.

My best friend had a Lardy, and I’d swear he did some things with that chess set that people don’t usually do with chess sets.

In ’95, the card game NetRunner was still alive, and I was at a gaming con. They conducted a flea market, which I visited early in order to beat the other NetRunner players. A gamer displayed a plastic bag: “CHESS SET MISSING TWO PIECES $2”.

I peeked around the tape that held the bag together, and holy shit, it was the smaller, analysis-sized version of the antique Lardy. The guy repeated the price on the bag: “Two bucks!”.

I said: “Are you kidding, it’s missing two pieces! I’ll give you *one* buck”.

(This was out of character. When I bought a car from a dealer, it didn’t occur to me that he might sell it for less than the sticker price, and I said: “Just give me something to sign”.)

He accepted my offer of $1, so I had a Lardy. It was still a gamble of a dollar, because I didn’t know which pieces were missing; for all I knew, I’d just bought a bag of replacement pieces for someone else. Turned out that the set was missing one pawn of each color, and RRS had spare pieces with pawns that were slightly smaller than the Lardy, though you can’t tell unless you look closely.

If I’m on the road with a chess set, it’s probably that $1 antique Lardy with two misfit pawns. When my ’69 Beetle burst into flames, my thinking was: “My car might explode, do I have two seconds to spare to reach to the passenger seat for my chess set and Capablanca’s Best Games by Golombek, revisions and new material by Nunn?”. I risked it — the Capablanca book is still stained by soot, or whatever was coming off my flaming engine.

I was reviewing games at a kid tournament two months ago, and a kid said: “How much are the books?”.

Twelve dollars, I said, two for 20.

“How much for the chess set?”

“Set’s not for sale.”

“Everything’s for sale. How much?”, he said, as I wondered about his parents.

I almost reiterated its unavailability, but remembered that I work as a teacher and a writer, and it’s just a chess set. “Two hundred dollars,” I said.

“I’ll get my…” he said, and he began turning his head as if to search for the parents who seemingly had never said no to this little asshole. Then he walked off, and I didn’t see him again.

That set’s been through a lot. It’s 40 years old, been saved from an automobile fire, and seen more basketball gyms than probably any other chess set in the world. Over time, the felt on the bottom of the chessmen falls off — the green felt was hanging from one of my black knights, and I thought pulling off the felt would hurt me more than the wooden piece.

Tonight I stopped in an art store for a sheet of self-adhesive felt. Then I spent some minutes cutting imperfect circles of black felt for the pieces that needed it.

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