Normally, the tale of a chess game ends with the capture of a king.
The story of this unique piece of gaming history, however, starts with the execution of one.
Chess enthusiast King Charles I of England, to be precise, who went to see the executioner in January of 1649 after being found guilty of high treason. When he went to meet his maker, he took with him two treasured possessions: his Bible, and this amber chessboard, which this week sold at a London auction for a record £601,250 — almost $970,000.
Made in Prussia in 1607, the board passed into the hands of the English Royal Family and found its way to Charles I via either his father, James I, or his brother, Henry Frederick. After Charles’ execution it was taken by Bishop William Juxon, who ministered to Charles after his death. It remained in the Juxon family until the 1700s.
Sculpture expert Erik Bijzet of London auction house Sotheby’s described the board as “a tour-de-force of amber working,” in an interview with The Daily Mail.
“We only know of four comparable boards, none of which have seemed to survive in good condition,” he said.
In addition to being a chessboard, the object also unfolds into configurations allowing it to be used to play backgammon, one of the oldest known games in the world, and Nine Men’s Morris, a simple strategy game of Roman origins.
Here’s hoping its new owner, an unnamed private collector, has better luck than Charles