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2023Royal Dutch Chess Federation's 150th Anniversary - Sheetlets

GBP £8.86
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Technical details
  • 31.05.2023
  • Wout de Vringer, The Hague
  • Offset
  • Cyan, magenta, yellow, black
  • Stamp size: 30 x 40mm (wxh), Sheet size: 170 x 122 mm (wxh)
About Royal Dutch Chess Federation's 150th Anniversary

In 2023, the Royal Dutch Chess Federation (KNSB) will celebrate its 150th anniversary. PostNL is drawing attention to this anniversary by publishing a stamp sheet containing ten special chess stamps on 31 May 2023. The denomination on each stamp is ‘1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for the Netherlands. The stamps were designed by graphic designer Wout de Vringer from the Hague. A sheet of ten stamps costs €10.10.

Chess is thousands of years old and takes many different forms. Today's Western chess game originated in France in the late 15thcentury. The first chess clubs were founded in the Netherlands from 1822 onwards. Chess subsequently emerged as a sport in wider circles in the second half of the 19th century. In around 1900, the first Dutch chess players joined the world's top players. The Nederlandschen Schaakbond ['Dutch Chess Federation'] was established as soon as 23 May 1873. This federation was awarded the Royal designation in 1935 - the same year in which Dutch chess player Max Euwe became world champion. The Royal Dutch Chess Federation (KNSB) is one of the oldest sports associations in the Netherlands and currently has around 20,000 members. The chess federation organises national competitions and championships for its members, sends representatives to international competitions, provides managerial training, maintains contact with subsidy providers and creates publicity for chess where possible. The KNSB has 13 regional associations and 400 chess associations affiliated to it, in addition to special associations such as the Dutch Association of Chess Problem Friends, the Dutch Association of Correspondence Chess Players, the Netherlands Computer Chess Association, the Dutch-Flemish Association for Endgame Study (Alexander Rueb Vereniging voor SchaakEindspelStudies), the Dutch Chess Association for the Visually Impaired and Personal Members.

The Royal Dutch Chess Federation's 150th anniversary stamp sheet features a large illustration of a floating chess board, stretching across all ten stamps. The lines and rows on the chessboard extend across the edge of the board to the sheet edges and tabs. On the chessboard, the words are in the same perspective as the board itself. The words featured are chess terms (röntgenschaak (x-ray), dubbelschaak (double chess), en passant slaan (en passant capture), minorpromotion (underpromotion), aftrekaanval (discovered attack), offer (sacrifice), lokken (luring) and penning (pin)). The meanings of these terms are explained on the sheet edges (in Dutch). A front view of individual chess pieces is shown at the bottom of each stamp, with the white pieces on the bottom row of stamps and the black pieces on the top row. This design depicts all 32 chess pieces that feature on the board at the start of a chess game. Underneath the chess board are pictures of various positions on other chess boards. In the picture on the left, a man's hand checkmates the black king using the white queen. In the picture on the right, a woman's hand does the same the white king using the black queen. Cut-outs from these photos are repeated on the sheet edges and tabs.

The font used for the denomination 1 and Nederland was designed in 2018 by type designer Martin Majoor from Arnhem. The remaining typography uses the letter BVH Baldinger (2006-2022, André Baldinger and Fanny Hamelin for BVH Type from Paris). The Trade Gothic Condensed font (1948, Jackson Burke for Linotype, now Monotype Imaging Inc of Woburn, Massachusetts) was used for the chess terms on the chessboard.

The Royal Dutch Chess Federation's 150th anniversary stamp sheet was designed by graphic designer Wout de Vringer from The Hague. In his youth, De Vringer played the occasional chess, but that was all. 'I had absolutely no objection to creating a design for chess stamps, by the way,' he says. 'Indeed, if you're not an experienced chess player, you might even have more head space to explore lots of different design directions.' De Vringer made full use of that freedom. 'Lots of different perspectives for the design emerged from my conversations with Eric van Breugel from the KNSB. Much more is happening in the world of chess than meets the eye: developments in computer chess, strategy for involving young people in chess, online chess and chess in public spaces, with chess boards in parks, parks and squares, for example.'

Initial sketches
In his initial sketches, De Vringer tried to capture as many aspects of chess as possible and created a design concept in which the photographic material ran across the stamps. 'That resulted in beautiful images and was also strong from a content perspective. But it proved to be too fragmented and lacked an overarching idea. I then decided to focus the design on the essence of chess: the chess board, pieces, moves and strategies that chess players use. With experienced chess players, everything has a purpose - there's no such thing as coincidence.'

An oblique perspective
In the new concept, which formed the basis for the final design, De Vringer pontifically placed a chessboard across the entire stamp sheet. 'That way, the chessboard appears in all ten stamps,' he says. 'Using a 3D computer programme, I created the chessboard as a 2D drawing in perspective, in lots of different positions. The oblique perspective turned out the most dynamic and created a floating effect. The spillover effect on the stamps themselves was repeated by extending the lines and rows below the chessboard all the way to the sheet edge, with the colours fading away.'

Strategic moves
Many different chess terms had come up in his conversations with the KNSB - typical expressions that chess players used to refer to their strategies and put pressure on the opponent. De Vringer: 'While I was playing around with the perspective of the chessboard, I naturally came up with the idea of featuring the chess terms with that perspective. In a solid, compact font, so they would appear as large as possible at the top of the board with a shadow line to enhance the sense of depth. On the other hand, I deliberately avoided adding a shadow to the chessboard itself as that would have destroyed the floating effect.

Pieces in the shop window
One of the stamps in earlier sketches featured images of chess pieces as if they were in a shop window. 'That strategy was reflected in the final design, on all of the stamps,' says De Vringer. 'With the king and queen in the middle and the rooks, bishops and knights on either side. The outer stamps feature the pawns on the left and right. They're all classic chess pieces - the 'Staunton models' that are used in competitions. They are smooth, which was a bit boring, and so I gridded the pictures of the chess pieces to create a ripple effect. This made the image a bit more exciting, against the background of the sleek chess board.'

Checkmate in one move
The decision to use an oblique perspective for the chessboard meant that less was happening on the outer stamps than on the inner ones. De Vringer: 'That allowed me to focus on humans and chess moves in the outer stamps. I asked the KNSB to send me diagrams of checkmates in one move - Situations where checkmate is imminent. After all, that's the essence of the game. I really wanted diagrams of positions in the corners of chessboards, as they coordinated with the corners of the stamp sheet.'

A man's hand and a woman's hand
De Vringer and photographer Gerrit Schreurs used the diagrams to take pictures of different situations with hands hovering over chessboards, just before the queen checkmates the king. 'The photos were added to the design as a separate layer in such a way that the positions remain recognisable - especially for chess players. They are two different photos of two different endgames. There's a man's hand on the left and a woman's hand on the right. The photos continue under the chessboard and meet in the middle, but that's hardly visible.'

Serious and timeless
The Royal Dutch Chess Federation's 150th anniversary stamp sheet is based on a dynamic, layered design in which the designer highlights the chess as a sport from different perspectives. The design also features influences from art movements and designers that are important to De Vringer. 'My main idea was that I wanted to create a dynamic design in which there's a lot happening,' he says. 'Extending the rows and lines to the sheet edges is linked to my interest in constructivism - a movement that worked with perspectives, geometric shapes and floating constructions. The collage technique is again related to my admiration for the design aesthetics of designers such as Piet Zwart and Dick Elffers. My choice of colour is also influenced by their perceptions. Besides using bright colours, they worked with serious and timeless colours - colours that I feel match the character of chess very well.'

About the designer
Wout de Vringer (1959, Rijswijk) studied graphic design at the Royal Academy of Arts and Design in Den Bosch, graduating in 1984. De Vringer worked for several design firms in The Hague before launching his own agency in 1986 with Ben Faydherbe under the name Faydherbe/De Vringer. Since 2012, Wout de Vringer has worked for himself, and his main focus has been book designs for various publishing houses and work for cultural institutions such as Museon in The Hague and Stadsmuseum Tilburg. His recent books include Borealis by Jeroen Toirkens and Jelle Brandt Corstius (published by Lannoo, 2020), The Rat Gazette by Arjan Schuitman (published by Komma, 2020), Big Green Egg Modus Operandi by Michèl Lambermon (published by Komma, 2020), Aspect Ratio by Sjimmie Veenhuis (published by Komma, 2022) and Het magisch kwadraat II by Elisabeth Müller (self-published by Elisabeth Müller, 2023). De Vringer also designed the 175 years of Dutch railways stamp sheet for PostNL back in 2014.