The 10 Best Chess Sets
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in September of 2015. The game of chess transcends language barriers and can provide endless opportunities for challenging fun. Perhaps one of these imaginative sets will give someone in your family a lifelong love of the game. We have included models that will appeal to young beginners, along with some more traditional and elegant boards for those looking to spruce up their game rooms or living spaces. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 05, 2021:
In this update, we removed the Trademark Games Deluxe due to availability issues. We also removed the Chess Armory due to quality issues like the fact that it doesn't sit flat and the squares on the board don't quite line up in the middle where it folds in half. Finally, the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary was removed because the design of the pieces made it very difficult to tell which one was supposed to be which, making it more of a novelty display piece than a set that's fun to play with.
In adding new options to the list, we wanted to emphasize variety. There were already plenty of high-quality classic sets represented, so we wanted to add models that bring something unique to the table. While none of these are meant to be display pieces, they all have practical advantages that make them worth considering.
The 3 Man In The Round doesn't have the highest quality board or pieces, but it offers a unique variation that allows a third person to get in on the fun. The pieces move traditionally, but the round board has some extra lines and rules that help adapt classic chess into a 3-player game. Those who have been playing chess for a long time might appreciate the novelty and the different strategies that apply to this version.
The WE Games Travel is both affordable and portable. The board folds down to a pocket-sized rectangle and the magnetic pieces stay in place nicely. Though if you do lose a few, you can use the two included blank pieces to replace them. This one is a great way to keep a game going over the course of several lunches, whether you're a student or an office worker, and, of course, it's a good choice for travel.
The Winning Moves No Stress introduces new players to the rules gradually. It comes with "action cards" that describe how each piece moves. In one variation of the game, these decks are shuffled and players must move whichever piece corresponds to the card they draw each turn. This encourages players to try moving all of the pieces and can be less overwhelming than normal play. The board has helpful labels on one side that clearly show where the pieces go at the beginning of a game. Once players have the hang of it, they can flip it over to the "standard" side and play normally.
December 30, 2019:
After some consideration, we have elected to remove the CHH Dragon. While it's attractive, the king and queen look incredibly similar, which can be frustrating for those who actually want to play. We've also opted to remove the AGreatLife Wooden; the felt used for storage can stain the pieces, which doesn't make it unplayable but is annoying nonetheless. We still like the Street Fighter 25th Anniversary and Chess Armory, however, luxurious and budget-friendly choices, respectively. The Agirlgle International remains, as well, even though it seems perhaps a little overpriced. The metal pieces are quite eye-catching, though, and will appeal to those who like a very polished aesthetic. For those who are on the go, the Wholesale Chess Forest Green should fit the bill, since it functions as a portable travel chess set that's a cinch to pack and carry. And, finally, we added The House of Staunton Library Grandmaster as the pick that's hard to beat. Chess players will recognize the name, as this maker is well-known for producing quality work. This particular set comes in a variety of colors, so there is one for all.
Pianki Medieval Venetian Period When we say that the Pianki Medieval Venetian Period is expensive, we mean it, as this set costs more than some cars. But the elegant 24-karat gold and silver-finished bronze are well worth the cost for the chess fanatic who demands nothing less than absolute luxury. pianki.com
Chess House Personalized 21-Inch Whether you want to show off a little, or you need a thoughtful gift, the Chess House Personalized 21-Inch is sure to fit the bill. The engraved inset can be customized with the recipient's name, and there are plenty of fonts to select from, so there's one for all stylistic sensibilities. chesshouse.com
City Chess Set Fans of architecture or city life are bound to love one of these City Chess Sets. Each is based on a beloved American city, including Chicago and San Francisco, and features iconic buildings as the chessmen. They're on the pricier side, but would make an excellent conversation starter in your home or office. city-chess.com
How To Choose a Proper Chess Set
If you plan on purchasing a wooden board, you'll want the base of each piece to be made out of felt.
It's easy to approach buying a chess set as a one-size-fits-all proposition. But chess is a unique game and the majority of chess sets feature their own nuances. Choosing a proper set often comes down to considering one's needs.
First, some basics. A regulation chess board features 64 squares, tiled in black and white (or shades of brown in the case of brushed wood). Regulation boards measure 20 X 20", with each square measuring 2.25" (There are even regulation sizes for each piece.) Regulation boards may be important if you are a collector or a purist, but a board's size holds almost zero bearing over the dynamics of each game.
As an alternative, consider that you are buying a chess set for a child. One of the keys might be to find an ornate chess set that causes the child to relate. This might mean purchasing a chess set which features cartoon-character pieces, or a brightly-colored board. Themed chess sets tend to intrigue a child, and that, in turn, might encourage the child to learn.
If you plan on playing chess on a train or in a car, you'll want the pieces to be magnetic, so they don't get swept around the board. If you plan on purchasing a wooden board, you'll want the base of each piece to be made out of felt. If you plan on playing in the park, you may want a soft-tarp board that you can carry in your bag. If you plan on playing on the beach, you may want a fold-up board that doubles as a carrying case for its pieces (and anything else).
If you're buying a chess set for display, you may want to choose a set that matches the palette of a specific room. If you're buying a collector's set, make sure that the set comes with a warranty, just in case any of its 32 pieces happen to get broken, warped, nicked, or bruised.
Several Simple & Fun Ways To Improve Your Chess Game
An average chess game provides the possibility for more than 140 billion different board positions. This is why chess grandmasters recommend that aspiring players practice by playing complete games as often as possible. Playing repetitively is the best way to get in tune with how to execute complex maneuvers, and it also enables a player to see how opponents might respond to an unexpected attack. As you become more experienced, you can deconstruct each game to determine where - and why - a certain strategy got vanquished. More often than not, it is the opening of a game that will determine the balance of power later on.
The New York Times prints several chess puzzles every week, and it also maintains an archive of interactive chess puzzles on its website.
One popular form of chess is known as blitz chess (or speed chess). Blitz chess requires playing with a 6-10 min game limit, split equally between players. Within that time frame, both players make a rapid-fire sequence of moves with the goal being to think, react, and execute quickly. A lot of players prefer blitz chess because it allows them to sneak in multiple games on the fly.
In terms of building a foundation, it helps to study some of the most popular chess openings of all-time. Openings like the Queen's Gambit and the Grunfeld Defense continue to be used because they are effective. That is to say these openings set a player up to mount an attack while also protecting the back line. You can find step-by-step instructions for executing several of the most well-known openings by visiting YouTube, or various other chess websites online.
If you're up for a challenge, you might consider trying to solve some complex chess puzzles. Chess puzzles are based on determining the best course of action after looking at a board position from a professional chess game. The New York Times prints several chess puzzles every week, and it also maintains an archive of interactive chess puzzles on its website.
A Brief History of Chess
The earliest known origins of chess hark back to the 6th Century in India, where the game was known as chaturanga, a word used to describe the four main divisions of the Indian military (i.e., infantry, cavalry, elephantry and chariot brigade). Chaturanga proved to be wildly popular and by the 7th Century it had spread to Persia, where it was called shatranj, which literally means "100 worries." The Persians were known to call out "Shah!" whenever a king was under attack, and "Shah Mat!" (i.e., "The king is helpless") whenever the king was pinned down, thereby rendering the game to be over.
The change in style, which was controversial, eventually became the rule.
By the 11th Century shatranj had spread throughout Northern Africa, subsequently making its way into Europe, and, most importantly, Russia. The Europeans were the first culture to approach chess as a complex game based on multiple layers of intellect. By the 1300s chess had attained a uniquely powerful appeal. Muslims played chess, as did Christians and Jews and Buddhists. Strangers could bond over a game of chess without ever speaking a word.
The most significant change in how modern chess is played occurred during the late 15th Century in Western Europe. Up to that point the queen was only capable of moving one square in any direction. Enthusiasts noted that the game would feel more dynamic if the queen was able to move as far as she pleased in any direction. Games would end quicker, proponents maintained, and there would be more reason to stop pawns from reaching the opposite end of the board. The change in style, which was controversial, eventually became the rule.
During the 17th and 18th Centuries, chess became the subject of countless books and strategic manuals. Competitive players began to develop unprecedented styles, as average players learned how to bait and gambit and taunt. By the middle of the 20th Century, professional chess had developed into a game with diplomatic implications, at least throughout Russia. Today, chess continues to be played by more than 600 million people worldwide.