Minimalist chess set by E15 pays homage to the first female grandmaster

The ‘Nona’ chess set, by industrial designer and goldsmith Annabelle Klute for E15, comprises handcrafted oak pieces and a leather board to honour the legacy of a pioneering champion

Chess set by E15
(Image credit: E15)

Tapping into its reputation for minimalist design, German furniture brand E15 has launched a chess set by industrial designer and goldsmith Annabelle Klute, comprising handcrafted wooden pieces and a leather chessboard. 

Titled ‘Nona’, the chess accessories take their name from Nona Gaprindashvili, a midcentury chess champion who played for the Soviet Union. In 1978, Gaprindashvili became the first woman to be awarded the title of grandmaster by the International Chess Federation. She returned to headlines last year, when she sued Netflix for erasing her successes against male opponents in its drama series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. Klute believes that the new release ‘would be a nice way to honour her legacy’.

‘Nona’ chess set in oak and leather

Chess set by E15 on table in living space

(Image credit: E15)

The ‘Nona’ chess pieces are made in European oak, responsibly sourced in the historic Spessart forest near Frankfurt. They come in natural and black lacquered versions for opposing sides of the game, and have felt gliders to facilitate smooth movement.

While their forms are abstract, even by the standards of modernist chess sets, they follow a clear and easily discernible logic. The kings, rooks and pawns are all rectangular cuboids, in different heights to reflect their varying degrees of importance. Other figures feature distinctive cuts that allude to game rules. ‘For example, the silhouette of the knight resembles the head of an abstract horse and suggests the direction of its possible moves,’ explains Klute. ‘While the queen is the most versatile figure and therefore the most complex one.’

Nona chess set by E15 with oak pieces and a leather board, on table in living space

(Image credit: E15)

The chessboard, available separately, reflects the proportion and scale of the chess pieces. It is made from harness leather by Sørensen, a Danish supplier known for its eco-conscious approach (it upcycles raw hides that are natural by-products of the meat and dairy industry). The two layers of leather, which are precisely stitched and waxed at the edges, offer a smooth and firm surface to play on. The surface is left untreated, apart from the chessboard pattern, which is silkscreened in black. ‘It is meant to age beautifully with time and use, turning from a pale pink to a warm tan,’ explains Klute.

German-born Klute, who has led the E15 product development team since 2019, previously worked for Michael Anastassiades in London, which shows in her ability to distil classic typologies into elegantly restrained forms.

Wooden chess pieces being filed in workshop

(Image credit: E15)

‘I appreciate the focus and measured atmosphere, and also admire the intellectual challenge and the strategic element in playing chess,’ Klute reflects. ‘Some years ago, I designed and made a set of chess figures for my partner as a Christmas present. We had purchased E15’s ‘Calvert’ chess table by Ferdinand Kramer [introduced by the brand in 2014, based on a cardboard picnic version the German architect proposed to Coca-Cola in 1951] for our home, which became a point of inspiration.’

With its thoughtfully understated design, exquisite craftsmanship, and compelling backstory, the ‘Nona’ chess set is certainly fit for a grandmaster.

‘Nona’ is available through select retail stores, such as Viaduct in London, Andreas Murkudis in Berlin, Markanto in Cologne and Teo Jakob in Switzerland

Chess figures, €580; chessboard, €830; together as a set, €1,350. Prices exclude VAT

E15.com (opens in new tab)

TF has been editor of Wallpaper* since December 2020. He is responsible for our monthly print magazine, planning, commissioning, editing and writing long-lead content across all our content pillars. He also plays a leading role in multi-channel editorial franchises, such as our annual Design Awards, Guest Editor takeovers and Next Generation series. He aims to create world-class, visually-driven content while championing diversity, international representation and social impact. TF joined Wallpaper* as an intern in January 2013, and served as its commissioning editor from 2017-20, winning a 30 under 30 New Talent Award from the Professional Publishers’ Association. Born and raised in Hong Kong, he holds an undergraduate degree in history from Princeton University.