Le Havre, 1966

Jon Edwards

France issued its first chess stamp in 1966 to commemorate the International Chess Festival held in the town hall at Le Havre in April. The stamp shows a knight on a chess board with the symbols of a King and Queen at the top corners of the stamp. 6,470,000 stamps were printed. The stamp was designed by Clemant Serveau. It was engraved by Piel. The engraving process used was recess printed. The stamps were printed in Paris with a comb-perforation of 13.

The tournament had four divisions. Danish Grandmaster Bent Larsen won the Grandmaster division. Netherlands master Zuidema and the Russian master Zagurovsky tied for first in the Master's Division. Baslsahm from Israel won the Open Division. And the Swede Litsbergan placed first in the Junior Division.

French proofs have long attracted attention from stamp collectors owing to their scarcity and beauty. The printing of such proofs is quite limited. Usually, there are no more than 30 of each type.

For each French issue, an artist prepares an original drawing or painting for the proposed stamp. Often the same artist reproduces the same design on a die, a special soft steel. When completed, the hardened dies are used in hand presses to produce die proofs in various stages such as the one illustrated here. Only about 20 of each are made on thick, high-quality paper. After 1958, such Die Proofs bear an administrative seal. They are printed in various solid colors, primarily black, and bear the artist's signature in pencil.

Here is a presentation folder signed by the stamp's designer, Clement Serveaux. As is evident in the scan, the front page of the folder contains a portion of the stamp's design, the designer's autograph, as well as a first day cancel on the new stamp. Inside, the folder contains a two-page essay, "Le Tres Noble Jeu Des Echecs" written by Dr. Pierre Augeix, the President of the French Chess Federation.

First Day Covers and Maximum Cards were issued in Le Havre on April 2, 1966. As is evident, many different cachets and designs were used.

The same original design from Clement Serveaux that appeared on the presentation folder (above).

A card commemorating the great French master Philador. The placement of the pieces honors the Europe-Echecs Festival.

The position on the board was taken from a game played by A. Alekhine against an amateur. The beautiful checkmate occured after five piece sacrifices.

There was also a special postmark commemorating the Chess Festival. The postmark was in use from April 9-11