I still can't believe this 'pawnographic' chess logo existed

Thos logo shows two naked people entwined playing chess
(Image credit: Chess World Championship)

Back in 2018 the World Chess Championship caused a stir and set the internet aflame with its stylised logo inspired by the Kama Sutra. You read that right, professional chess got sexy. But the initial complaints overlooked one huge error, can you spot it?

To recap, the World Chess Championship rebrand was for the 2018 competition being held in London and was created by studio, Shuka Design. We've had some terrible logo redesigns recently, including the new Kia logo that commits the ultimate design crime, but is this raunchy chess logo worse? Clearly, no one is reading our 20 top tips for great logo design

Back in 2018 there was genuine outrage for WCC's new sexy logo, The Times called it 'pawnographic (opens in new tab)' and many took to social media to vent anger and poke fun at the WCC logo's new direction. Some remarked it's a literal image of people 'check-mating'. Below are just some of the remarks from 2018.

See more
See more

At the time the head of World, ChessIlya Merenzon, backtracked a little and told Chess.com (opens in new tab) this logo rebrand was actually one of many and not meant to be taken too seriously. It was a stunt. This came at a time when chess generally was trying to find a new younger image – two years later The Queen's Gambit broke records on Netflix.

Behind the sexualised look of the logo many chess fans were just as offended, and indeed more so, but one glaring error. Have you spotted it yet? The 2018 logo has a chessboard with 6x6 squares instead of 8x8 – they got the chessboard size wrong.

This wasn't the first time the WCC tried something new. In 2012 design studio Pentagram was hired to create a new logo, one with a graphic approach and a subtle optical illusion. The black and white chessboard becomes an isometric design that "belies the intelligence and complexity of the game," according to Pentagram's website. Scroll down below and see this logo 'move'.

A chess logo and optical illusion

(Image credit: WCC / Pentagram)

In 2023 the Shuka Design logo has been dropped but the bold Pentagram optical illusion design continues to be used by the World Chess Championship (now simply World Chess (opens in new tab)) and has informed much of the current branding, including new simplified versions of the hexagon board as well as brash pixel art logos that evoke video gaming.

The lesson here is to not be afraid to take risks and try new things, so to speak. We have a wealth of logo design tutorials to read if you're interested in taking your brand in a new direction. Take a look at our guides to the five logo design apps for beginners and this advice for how to craft a powerful logo shape.

Read more:

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Ian Dean is Digital Arts & Design Editor at Creative Bloq, and the former editor of many leading magazines. These titles included ImagineFX, 3D World and leading video game title Official PlayStation Magazine. In his early career he wrote for music and film magazines including Uncut and SFX. Ian launched Xbox magazine X360 and edited PlayStation World. For Creative Bloq, Ian combines his love to bring the latest news on NFTs, video game art and tech, and more to Creative Bloq, and in his spare time he doodles in Corel Painter, ArtRage, and Rebelle while finding time to play Xbox and PS5. He's also a keen Cricut user and laser cutter fan, and is currently crafting on Glowforge and xTools M1.