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St. Louis scores king of chess pieces

St. Louis scores king of chess pieces

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Chess Hall of Fame dedicates 14.5 foot chess piece

Chess grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura leaves the World Chess Hall of Fame in St. Louis' Central West End after a ceremony dedicating a 14.5-foot chess piece outside the building on Monday, May 7, 2012. The king piece, measuring 6 feet wide and weighing 2280 pounds, is made out of layered plywood that has been stained and sealed

ST. LOUIS • Now you can add "World's Largest Chess Piece" to the list of St. Louis monuments.

It's a king piece that stands 14 feet, 6 inches tall, measures 6 feet wide and is built of stacked plywood.

It's yet another example of the seemingly unlimited financial resources to make St. Louis the country's chess capital.

The chess piece sits on a concrete platform, a permanent fixture in the Central West End that was unveiled Monday morning.

The piece represents the latest efforts of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis — and its benefactor, retired businessman and philanthropist Rex Sinquefield — to promote chess in the city.

"We are going to place some cameras discreetly," Sinquefield joked. "So when somebody steals it, we can see who did it."

The chance of theft, though, is slim. The piece weighs 2,280 pounds.

"This piece serves as a monument to the chess culture we are creating in St. Louis," said Mike Wilmering, spokesman for the club.

It's also an unabashed public-relations move. Still, it's hard not to smile at the ambition behind it.

Despite its size, the piece took less than a month and a half to build — thanks to R.G. Ross Construction, a local company that formed the piece in a secret location in the Gravois Bluffs shopping center.

"We had this idea," Wilmering said. "We were thinking: Where are we going to put this?"

The patio in front of the World Chess Hall of Fame, 4652 Maryland Avenue, across the street from the chess club, seemed like the perfect place.

The announcement about the piece was timed to promote the U.S. Chess Championships, which begin today and have been hosted by the club since 2009. St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay was present for the unveiling and proclaimed Monday "Gateway to Chess Day."

The piece, Wilmering said, has already been certified by the Guinness World Records as the largest in the world. The previous record holder is in Sweden and was built by Mats Allanson in 2003. Allanson's piece is also a king, but it's a mere 13.1 feet high, according to the Guinness website.

Wilmering said he and members of Weber Shandwick, the Chess Club's public relations firm, came up with the idea in March.

R.G. Ross Construction used an enlarged three-dimensional image of a king piece as a model. The company documented the construction with time-lapse photography.

"This would be a great piece to have on the Discovery Channel someday," Ross president Vince Mannino said. "This is by far the most unique project we have ever done."

The world record is the latest move by the club in the past few years. In addition to the U.S. Chess Championships, it inspired the country's top-ranked player, Hikura Nakamura, to move here,and prompted the Chess Hall of Fame to relocate to St. Louis from Miami. None of that would have been possible without Sinquefield, who financed the chess club, which opened in 2008.

The club is considered one of the swankiest in the country, and some chess experts have called Sinquefield the most significant benefactor of chess in America.

"I don't know what we are going to do next year," Wilmering said.

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