It's Your Move

It’s Your Move

ike Givan likes a challenge, whether it’s work or sport. So it’s only natural that his game of choice is chess, and that he would use his professional skills to heighten his enjoyment of the game — literally. Introduced to chess by his father, Givan has played since he was 7 years old. “My grandfather, however, got me interested in construction,” Givan explains. “He was a master carpenter.” Today, the 39-year-old architect for the New York City School Construction Authority has transformed this horizontal, mind-bending game of strategy into an upright, three-dimensional experience called Givan Vertical Chess.

Made from polished glass and exotic wood, like cocobola from Central America and African ebony from Zaire, the chess set is six feet long and six feet tall, with pieces designed from welded nuts, bolts, and washers. “I use two different color woods to help differentiate spaces for moves,” he explains. It takes Givan from seven to 10 days to custom design a set, and the purchase price starts at $7,500, based on the wood, and glass used, and the scale of the set. One client he’s working with is Charlie Garner, running back for the Oakland Raiders. “You have to program your brain differently to play vertically, but if you’re a chess player, it’s not difficult to figure out.” For more information, log on to

Getting Started
USE THE RIGHT INSTRUMENTS: Knowing what tools to use at every phase of any construction project is extremely important, stresses Givan. “Using the wrong instrument can destroy your wood, making the process even more expensive.” Check out The Complete Manual of Wood Working: A Detailed Guide to Design, Techniques and Tools for the Beginner and Expert (Alfred A. Knopf; $25).

TAKE YOUR TIME: “Architects are problem solvers,” explains Givan. “Not all ideas that sound great in your head translate well into a design. It may take several design plans before you get it right.” Givan started with less expensive wood before graduating to maple and then to exotic woods. He did four designs before he completed the final project.

READ UP: If you’re new to chess but want to learn to play, pick up The Everything Chess Basics Book: The Rules, The Moves, and the Strategies — All You Need to Know to Play the Game (Adams Media Corp.; $14.95).