Tucked away in the central west-end neighbourhood of St. Louis, Mo., is one of the city’s most unique museums — the World Chess Hall of Fame.
Dedicated to the culture and history of chess, the museum has attracted more than 160,000 visitors since it opened in 2011. It houses more than 10,000 objects, including 1,300 sets of all shapes and sizes.
“Chess tells the story of trade, it tells the story of romance, it tells the story of politics,” says chief curator Shannon Bailey. “You can pinpoint any country, any part of history, and look at how chess has affected it.”
When Bailey first took the job, she knew the city had a history of hosting niche museums. For a time, the chess institution existed along with museums dedicated to photography, dogs and bowling.
But through the sponsorship of the wealthy Sinquefield family, the chess museum has thrived and is seen as a big part of the city’s cultural landscape, she says.
A current exhibition commemorates the 50th anniversary of the historic Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky world championship match. More than 500 artifacts are on display, including the pieces used in one of the games.
Bailey has no shortage of future exhibition ideas, including comparisons between chess and food, music, literature, and pop culture.
Boris Spassky v. Bobby Fischer, Reykjavik, 1972
In their famous first match game, Black has just snatched the Pawn on h2, what many considered an amateurish blunder. What does White do?
White played the obvious 30.g3, and after h5 31.Ke2 h4 32.Kf3 Black’s Bishop is lost. Spassky went on to win.