Faroe Islands Stamps: Chess Tradition


21 September 2020
Two Faroese stamps celebrate the local chess traditions, showing chess pieces now preserved in the National Museum of the Faroe Islands.

Chess has undergone a long development and given rise to traditions in many cultures. In the 15th century, the popular board game found its present form, but variations have also developed in different countries. In the Faroe Islands, the chess tradition also gained its local characteristics and this stamp issue describes two of them.

The stamp shows the chessboard used for four player chess and four homemade chess pieces, riddarin=the knight, frúgvin = the queen, kongurin = the king and bispur = the bishop.

Faroese chess pieces

Many of the Faroese chess pieces were homemade, carved in wood, often depicting people, the rooks as well as the other pieces. But there are some indications that the word "rókur", a synonym for the crow, influenced the visual appearance of the piece in the corner of the chessboard. In many old versions of the chess piece, the artist has carved a man with a bird perching on his head. The designation and the appearance has drifted from a war vehicle to a building and then to a bird's hat. Thus, cultural patterns wander in inscrutable trajectories. 

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The stamp depicts the piece "rókur" in a homemade version surrounded by the cultural elements from which the appearance derives: the chessboard, the chariot, the attack tower, the tower depicted in heraldry and the ordinary tower piece.

The chess pieces shown on the stamp are preserved in the National Museum of the Faroe Islands.

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