ST. LOUIS • It's 14.5 feet high, weighs 2,280 pounds and is yet another example of the seemingly unlimited financial resources to make St. Louis the country's chess capital.
Now you can add the “World's Largest Chess Piece” to the list of St. Louis monuments.
The king piece sits on a platform, a permanent fixture in the Central West End.
It's the latest effort of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis to promote chess in the city, and was unveiled just after 9 a.m. on Monday.
“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, just across the street from the chess club, seemed like the perfect place.
The announcement about the piece was timed to promote the 2012 U.S. Chess Championships, which begin on Tuesday and have been hosted by the club since 2009.
The piece, Wilmering said, has already been certified by the Guiness 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 a mere 13.1 feet high, according to the Guiness 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,” said Vince Mannino, president of R. G. Ross. “This is by far the most unique project we have ever done.”
The world record is the latest in a host of moves the club has made the past few years. It brought the U.S. Chess Championships to St. Louis in 2009; inspired the country's top-ranked player, Hikura Nakamura, to move to here; and prompted Chess Hall of Fame to relocate to St. Louis from Miami.
None of that would have been possible without retired businessman and philanthropist Rex 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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