The 1950 Dubrovnik chess set

To many players, the 1950 Dubrovnik chess set is THE chess set – it is the norm and all other set designs are deviations from this norm. It is widely hailed as a timeless classic.

1950 Dubrovnik chess

The 1950 Dubrovnik chess set was specifically commissioned for the 9th Chess Olympiad in Dubrovnik, and only around 50 set were produced originally. Today, the few that has survived are exceedingly rare and valuable. Most of the 50 sets were donated to the players of the Olympiad, but a few were sold to the public.

Many chess players have lauded the 1950 Dubrovnik chess set design, including Bobby Fischer who said in a radio interview that it ”…is the best set I have ever played on. It is marvellous.” Fischer owned an original 1950 Dubrovnik chess set that he kept in a safe when not playing. Regrettably, he eventually lost his set because of an unpaid storage bill. For the highly publicised 1992 Fischer – Spassky rematch in Yugoslavia, Nikola Karaklajic – the main referee of the match – let the players use his precious 1950 Dubrovnik chess set after Fischer had specifically requested such a set for the event. This set was later signed by both Fischer and Spassky. After the match, Karaklajic sold the set to Novica Matic.


In 1949, the Chess Olympiad management requisitioned a new style of chessmen to be created for the upcoming 9th Chess Olympiad that were to take place in Dubrovnik, FPR Yugoslavia (present-day Croatia) the following year. They contracted the sculptor and painter P. Poček to design the set, and the pieces were then manufactured in a workshop in Subotica, Yugoslavia. The result was the now world-famous 1950 Dubrovnik chess set.


The pieces for the 1950 Dubrovnik chess set were given wide bases that required the chessboard squares to be at least 55 millimetres. Under the base, they have green felted sliders.

The chess box, which is also the board, has 60 millimetre squares to accommodate the large bases of the pieces, and this makes the whole box rather large. Each box is felted, and adorned with a metallic badge on the inside which read ”IX. šah olimpijada Dubrovnik, Jugoslavija”.

The pieces are not weighted.

Bishops (but not kings or queens) have opposite coloured finials.

Unlike many earlier European chess sets, the 1950 Dubrovnik chess set was designed without religious symbols.

Modern replicas and sets inspired by the 1950 Dubrovnik chess set

Since the 1950 Dubrovnik chess set became such a hit, replicas are available. Also, many other chess sets that are not replicas still follow the basic design of the 1950 Dubrovnik chess set. It is for instance the basis for many inexpensive low-quality plastic chess sets.

One notable manufacturer of high-end replicas is Gregor Novak of Noj. Ltd which makes hand-made copies of both the 1950 and the 1970 Dubrovnik sets. The aforementioned Novica Matic, owner of the set used by Fischer and Spassky in 1992, lent his set to Noj. Ltd to allow them to make a very good replica.


The 1950 Dubrovnik chess set has inspired several other renowned chess set designs, including Zagreb and Yugoslavia.

About the 1950 Chess Olympiad in Dubrovnik

  • The 9th Chess Olympiad was organized by FIDE and the government of Yugoslavia.
  • It took place between August 20 and September 11, 1950.
  • A total of 84 players, from 16 different nations, participated. They played a total of 480 games.
  • The Yugoslav team won the gold medal, Argentina took silver and West Germany bronze.