Published: Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 5:53 PM     Updated: Tuesday, January 11, 2011, 10:22 PM

Rachael Recker | The Grand Rapids Press


Rachael Recker | The Grand Rapids Press



GRAND RAPIDS — Everything’s all fun and chess games until a giant knight made of ice topples and dramatically explodes on Rosa Park Circle’s ice rink.

Chunks of intricately carved ice went skidding across the public outdoor skating rink, upon which a black 15-by-15-foot chessboard had been painted on Tuesday.

About 150 onlookers cried “Ohhhh!” as they watched film crews, local media and freelance photographers capture the “accident” as the about 4-foot-tall ice piece slammed into the rink.

It undoubtedly will make for some dramatic reality TV when the Food Network airs footage of the chess game during its six-episode series, “Ice Brigade,” about local ice sculpting company Ice Sculptures LTD.

The larger-than-life chessboard pieces and ensuing game at the rink between the new TV stars and local chess masters were sponsored by the Downtown Alliance and the Grand Rapids Art Museum. Ice Sculptures LTD. crafted all 32 piece.

Set to premiere in mid-April, the series will follow the day-to-day activities of the company’s owners, fedora-donning Randy Finch and Derek Maxfield, and four employees: Derek Foltz, Susan Walters, Shawn “Chops” Winnell and Jovannah Nicholson.

Covering her mouth with both hands, eyes wide with shock, Nicholson gave herself away as the reason for the knight’s fall from crystalline glory.

She and her fellow sculptors had been attempting to keep 32 large ice chess pieces from sticking to the rink in the 28-degree conditions. The “warm” temperature was causing the ice to melt slightly, and snow was cementing the pieces to the rink.

Nicholson had pushed the stuck knight a little too hard.

Onlookers ultimately had to wait 45 minutes for a chess game that was slated to begin at noon. Unlike most lengthy chess battles, the first “Ice Brigade” versus West Michigan chess masters showdown lasted a mere five minutes, with the win going to the pros.

A smaller ice chess set will be placed on a chessboard on the GRAM’s Wege Plaza for the public to play with until spring, said the GRAM’s Marketing and Public Relations Director Kerri VanderHoff.

Finch and Maxfield are co-authors of the ice sculpting text book, “Ice Sculpting The Modern Way.” They created mechanized ice Ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds for a “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” episode in October 2001. They also have created ice sculptures for numerous celebrities and musicians, including Weird Al, Shania Twain, KISS and Kid Rock.

Filming for the Food Network series is slated to wrap on Jan. 15.

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