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Differences Between Cheap and Expensive Chess Sets

By Edited Jun 27, 2014 0 0

Which Chess Set Should I Buy?

Some chess sets cost a few dollars while others cost several hundred dollars. What is the difference between them? Which one should you buy?

There is so much choice that it is easy to get lost. Fortunately, you will be able to understand better which board is best for you after reading this article. It deals with everything you need to know to buy a chess set.

To Be Displayed or To Be Played?

The first question you should ask yourself is whether you want to display the chess pieces or play with them. In the first case, you can use beautiful and original chess design, in the second case, I would recommend going for some simple design: nothing fancy, nothing too complex, etc...

This last comment is also valid for kids. You can find some really cute pieces from movies/cartoons (Mario for example) but if the aim is for them to learn chess, I would stick to more traditional shapes.

Please note that the International Chess Federation recommends the Stauton model. [1]


You can find many kind of material including glass, marble, metal, ... but the most common ones are plastic and wood. 

Plastic pieces are good enough to enjoy a game but wood pieces are generally more appreciated. 


Example of a Plastic Set

Best Value Tournament Chess Set - Filled Chess Pieces and Black Roll-Up Vinyl Chess Board
Amazon Price: $16.99 $13.79 Buy Now
(price as of Jun 27, 2014)
This is a pretty cheap set. The mat is easy to take with you as you can roll it. It is also easy to clean.

More Options

If you go for wood pieces, you then have some extra options. 

They can have a billiard cloth pad underneath for better movement on the board (and to avoid scratching it) and they can be extra weighted for stability and better feel.

This set for example has pretty much every you could want (made in wood, with cloth pad, extra weighted, ...) and is affordable. It includes a wooden box for the pieces but does not include a board.

About the Size

The world chess federation recommends to use a board size from 5 cm to 6.5 cm (size of a square) [1] which corresponds to about 2' to 2'5.

It is also stated that the King's height should be about 9.5 centimeter or about 3'75. This is however quite big and for personal use, 3'25 should be big enough (like in the set I linked to above).

Finding the correct board size for given pieces may be challenging [2]. Fortunately, chess shops (online and offline) generally tell you which size to use (recommended board size in the pieces product description, for example).

Travel Chess Sets

If you like to travel and want to take your chess board with you, you should check travel chess sets

There too, you have several options. Plastic or wood, magnetic or non magnetic, foldable board or not, big or small, etc... This is then mostly a matter of personal taste. Whether you intend to play in trains/planes, etc... and then should consider the magnetic option, whether you prefer a foldable board or not, etc...

Example of a Portable Chess Set

Made in wood, with cloth pad and foldable.


I hope this helped you to better understand the different options you have when you buy a chess set and that you can now find the one that best fits your need and budget. Have a nice time with it!



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  1. FIDE "02. Standards of Chess Equipment and tournament venue for FIDE Tournaments." World Chess Federation. 4/08/2013 <Web >
  2. "Chess Set and Chess Pieces Sizing Guidelines." ChessUSA. 4/08/2013 <Web >

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