Selecting The Right Chess Board And Chess Set

There are many decisions that need to be made when thinking about buying one of the many chess sets available on the market today. The first and one of the most important is, are you going to be playing chess with it?

This sounds like a crazy question, but believe it or not, knowing whether your new set is for decoration or actual play is important. The reason is because most people find it difficult to play chess when they’re trying to constantly determine which piece is which. For instance, with some of the theme chess sets, (where the pieces might look like Disney or Star Wars characters) you may find that you may have to ask more than once which piece is the king and which is the queen because they look so much alike. Or maybe the pawns are almost the same size as the bishops, making them hard to differentiate. If so, it makes it hard to stay focused on a plan of attack when part of your attention is used to determine which of the chess pieces are which.

If you’re looking for a chess set for decoration, the sky’s the limit when it comes to theme and cost. You can literally get any design and pay any amount depending on the rarity of the chess board and chess pieces as well as the materials used to make them.

If on the other hand, you’re looking for a chess set to play on, then there is only one type of chess set design to buy and that’s Staunton.

Staunton pieces

However, before I bought a Staunton chess set for play, I would ask myself, is it for the home to be used when friends come over or will I be going to chess tournaments and competing with it?

Again, with regard to price, the sky’s the limit for the same reasons previously mentioned. If you want to have a chess set around the house to play with against friends and visitors, you may want to get a nice wooden chess board and some really nice chess pieces. You could pay almost any amount for  Staunton chess sets and chess boards, again determined by the size of the chess pieces and board, what they’re made out of and how intricate the design is.

One thought to keep in mind that can be an issue when buying chess pieces separately from the chess board is making sure the pieces fit properly on the chessboard. If the chess pieces are too big for the squares, it makes playing the game very difficult. Obviously, a chess piece is too big if the base of the chess piece is bigger than the square on the board. However, chess pieces are also too big for a given chess board if the base of the chess piece even takes up much of the entire square on the board.

If you decide you want a chess set for play in competition, then buying expensive chess pieces and a wooden chess board is probably not going to be the best move. Most everyone who plays in chess tournaments has either plastic or inexpensive wooden chess pieces along with roll-up vinyl boards.

Roll up vinyl board

The vinyl chess boards work great because they are easy to pack up for travel. One last thought on roll-up boards. They’re called roll-up boards for a reason, don’t fold them! If you do, they will never lay flat and that’s another possible distraction because the pieces are tilting and looking as if they are going to fall over. Also, roll your vinyl chess boards backwards with the squares on the outside so when you unroll them, they will lay flat.

Throw in a nice chess bag to hold all of your chess pieces and chess board and you’re almost ready to play in your first tournament.

Chess bag with vinyl roll up board

All you need now is the right chess clock. You have basically two choices here, analog or digital. Analog chess clocks have been around a long time. They have two hands like a regular clock and a small flag that drops or falls when someone runs out of time.

Digital clocks have much more versatility than analog chess clocks. They allow you to play all types of time frames including increment (where time is added on every move) and delay, where time runs for a period of time (usually 5 seconds or so) before the actual tournament time begins to run. It would be unusual to see increment play at a tournament, however delay is seen, especially at local clubs.

Analog chess clock

Digital chess clock










If you’re thinking chess gifts for the chess player in your family, then the right chess pieces, chess boards and chess clocks are great ideas whether it’s for a birthday or the holiday season.