Randolph Man Admits Obsession With Every Kind of Chess Set

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People / Jul. 17, 2008 12:00am EDT

By Chelsea Rose Sargent

Randolph Man Admits Obsession With Every Kind of Chess Set By Chelsea Rose Sargent

John Mazzucco of Randolph admits he has developed an "obsession" with old chess sets. (Herald / Bob Eddy)John Mazzucco of Randolph admits he has developed an "obsession" with old chess sets. (Herald / Bob Eddy)

"How do you move a king through time? You move him to B4."

That’s the inscription on a mug given to John Mazzucco by his daughter.

"She is "growing tolerant of my obsession," Mazzucco said.

That obsession is reflected in a collection of chess sets and chess-related items that Mazzucco has been collecting for the past 15 years.

Mazzucco has loved playing chess since he learned how when he was five years old. He recalls the exact day, July 5, because he had just broken his collar bone the day before. In an effort to make him feel better, Mazzucco’s older sister taught him chess on a park bench in the projects of the Bronx.

He remembers growing up and looking into windows at chess sets he yearned to play with, but the ethic of saving and self-denial that was instilled upon him in the Bronx stayed with him for years.

"One day at a yard sale I said, ‘I’m going to treat myself,’" Mazzucco said, recalling that fateful day when the flood gates opened and he bartered for the first chess set that he wanted.

Since then, his collection has bloomed.

"Some people specialize in particular styles. I tend to go all over the board," Mazzucco explained. He collects the boards from Harry Potter and Muppets sets to old wood Staunton (that’s the standard shape of piece that you’re probably used to seeing) pieces, to a set composed of Old Crow Whiskey Bottles, to a set that can be lain down to piece together into a puzzle, to intricately carved Chinese sets, to painted metal sets, to decidedly modern sets.

There are animal sets, a disc set, even a small board used for playing while traveling by train where the pieces can be pressed down and locked in so as not to be shaken off.

Mazzucco likes to think about the games that were played on the chess sets before he owned them. Can you imagine what sorts of stories a set carved by prisoners in a war between France and England must contain?

But for Mazzucco, the love of chess does not end at collecting chess sets; it expands into every area he can think of. His chess room is peppered with chess lamps and tissue boxes and music boxes and figurines and pictures and books. There are books on playing chess, books about the lives of great chess players and novels with chess themes.

Mazzucco enjoys collecting chess sets because it is "One of the rare things in my life that I feel I do not have to do."

Mazzucco shares this joy with collectors across the natio, occasionally contributing articles to "The CCI-USA News" and "The Chess Collector."

He plays as often as he can with a neighbor and goes to the Hanover Chess Club meetings on Saturdays. When he plays he usually uses a plain plastic set which has a nice weight to it and is smooth to the touch.

"If I have a headache and I play chess, the headache goes away," Mazzucco claimed. He’s just as happy losing as winning, and claims to be only a mediocre player. "To me it’s the process of playing – it’s the challenge," he said. Mazzucco even enjoys the adrenaline rush of getting into a tight position and having to gather his wits and see if he can turn the tables.

When reflecting on his collection Mazzucco finds that he finds the most joy in the ones with a personal connection.

"The one I love the most is not my most valuable. It’s not my rarest one. It’s not the one that I spent a lot of time looking for. It’s the one that my daughter brought back. It’s a plane stone set that she brought back from China."

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