Reports | September 02, 2009 18:45

Tournament in Trafalgar Square brings design to life

London Design FestivalA centrepiece of this year’s London Design Festival will be located in the heart of London, in Trafalgar Square. The Tournament, an installation created by Spanish designer Jaime Hayón, will consist of a gigantic chess set, with 2m high ceramic chess pieces on a specially created mosaic glass chess board. The installation, which will be set between the two fountains in Trafalgar Square, will be in situ September 19-23.

Each of the 32 chess pieces are designed and handcrafted by Hayón, working with Bosa, the Italian ceramics experts in Veneto, Italy. Many of the chess pieces will reference specific iconic buildings in London and their domes, towers and spires. Elements of the city of London and its history will be encoded on the pieces using Hayón’s very personal style. Each chess piece will be unique and hand-painted by Hayón himself.

London Design Festival

The chess pieces will be supported by a wooden base on castors so that they can be moved around easily, and there will be a metal frame within the ceramic form to provide stability. The chess board will be made of mosaic glass tiles created by Italian tiling specialists, Bisazza. Rising above the giant tiled chessboard will be elevated platforms where players will sit in large, high-backed chairs directing their pieces around the board. The London Design Festival are actively encouraging the general public to apply to take part in the chess games and come down and play or simply watch and enjoy this community spectacle.

London Design Festival

The Tournament is inspired by London and its history and heritage. The Battle of Trafalgar was organised like a chess game of naval strategy – the notes and images show how carefully it was worked out by Admiral Nelson when the British Navy defeated the combined fleets of the Spanish and French navy.

Jaime Hayón comments:

“I’ve lived in London for over 3 years during which time I have been able to discover the city, its history and heritage. I will be able to represent all of this using my own personal style. I really like the idea that Londoners and other visitors can come to Trafalgar Square – such a central focus of London – to wander around my installation and perhaps even take part in a game of chess.” Ben Evans, Festival Director, comments, “Jaime Hayón brings a fresh energetic perspective to London and his ideas are both dynamic and witty. He was the obvious choice for such a project.”

London Design Festival

London Design Festival

During The Tournament’s installation, members of the English Chess Federation will be playing matches in the morning, and from lunchtime the general public will have the chance to play games for free. From Saturday 1 August to Monday 31 August the public will be invited to apply online through the London Design Festival website To apply, applicants must download the application form from the Festival website, fill it in, and then either email it to or return it by post to London Design Festival, 60 Frith Street, London, W1D 3JJ. The London Design Festival cannot guarantee that entries will automatically mean selection. All winning entries will be selected at random. The English Chess Federation will be working with the organisers of the London Design Festival to manage these public games, and match winners will be awarded a pair of Camper shoes designed by Jaime Hayón.

London Design Festival

This installation is an initiative created by the London Design Festival team for the 2009 Festival in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy, The Arts Council and the London Development Agency with support from Bosa, Bisazza, BD Barcelona, Camper and production by Event Concept. The London Design Festival has also been working with the Events for London team to promote London as the world’s leading design city.

The idea behind The Tournament was to create a design spectacle and a performance which actively involves the public. Ben Evans, Director of the London Design Festival, said, "Trafalgar Square is the heart of London with tens of thousands of people passing by everyday. Jaime Hayón has created a spectacle that will draw people towards it and show them how dynamic and fun design can be."

London Design Festival

Jaime Hayón is a Spanish artist and designer, born in Madrid in 1974. After studying industrial design in Madrid and Paris he joined Fabrica in 1997 – the Benetton-funded design and communication academy. He currently lives in London, with offices in Barcelona and Treviso. His work has appeared in the most prestigious art and design publications worldwide and he has won numerous awards. In 2008 he was the guest of honour at Belgium’s Interieur Biennial, the youngest person ever to receive the accolade.

The 7th London Design Festival (19-27 September) offers a broad variety of design events providing designers, manufacturers, students, consumers, businesses and (chess) enthusiasts with an opportunity to meet, exchange ideas and celebrate the diversity of world-class design talent that London offers.
London Design Festival 19 – 27 September 2009 / / 00 44 (0)20 7734 6444.


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Arne Moll's picture

Aren't these just photoshopped images meant as teasers for the real thing? It's not too late to put the right square in the right corner!

Geoffrey Borg's picture

Unfortunately it appears that the black square is on the wrong side. Otherwise great idea to promote chess.

Felix's picture

Maybe someone should tell them before it's too late :)

Vugs's picture

Or perhaps not - based on those fancy chairs the game may play left to right across the board as you look at the final image. That is the players will be sitting to the side of the board as they play. White pieces presumably lined up along the left of the board as you look at the final picture and black on the right. Have another look at the first image.

Castro's picture

Asking again:
Could you please get rid of those google maps?
Or, at least, put an alternate link to those who doesn't have state-of-the-art computers (so to say :-) )
They turn way heavier the already heavy pages!
(And on this case, please! Trafagar Square?? How about also loading slide-shows, music playing and some interactivity too?)

jussu's picture

Nay to Castro from here; my comp is from 2001 and, while Chessvibes indeed is a tiny bit slow to load, Google Map does not seem to make it remarkably heavier.

The gigantic board is wrong indeed - look at the letters and numbers on the last photo.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Sorry to spoil the fun, but I thought the mistake was too big to let it happen, so I contacted the management of the Design Festival.
They had already noticed the wrong lay-out of the board; it will be corrected.

Peter Doggers's picture

Thanks Frits. In fact I did the same yesterday and then forgot to mention that here.

Castro's picture

@Peter Doggers
What is the gain in not answering me? Or what explains it?

Are your "Nay" related to my first sugestion, or also (if you continued reading?) to "put an alternate link"?
Anyway, one could imagine that at least "someone" is indeed noticing that google maps turns the page "remarkably heavier", couldn't he?

Peter Doggers's picture

Because I prefer to discuss technical stuff like this via email.

Castro's picture

Ok, thx I'll check the mail.

As for the wrong corner square, sadly it is a so common mistake, one could no longer apreciate it if some artist did it on purpose (I mean as an artistic subversion). It's like an old joke. And, unless it would be on (artistic) purpose, it just shows lack of chess-related culture gathering or, at least, a lack of care. This said, one can also accept it is no big deal. It's realy a detail, and a conventional one. There was a time when it was irrelevant, and another (most ancient) time when the squares were all of the same colour. (So, forgive them Father, they don't know what they do :-) )

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