Sunday, February 12, 2012

How to Buy a Chess Set

I am a chess set lover, so I own a few. Or is eleven more than a “few?”

But the style, material, size, color and piece weight are all a matter of preference.

Chess sets are often highly decorative and can be displayed as a beautiful ornamental piece in the home as well as having a practical and entertaining use. You can easily pay a lot of money for an exquisite set and keep it as an heirloom.

The most important thing you need to do before buying your board and pieces is to identify its purpose. Is it for heavy use, travel, tournaments, study or just for show, or a combination of uses? There are sets that can handle most of these functions, but no set can handle all of them perfectly.

Consider whether you just like the look of a chess set and would like one as a decorative piece. Or will the set be used for studying, or will it actually be used for games. Tournament directors usually demand a standard "Staunton" set – 3” to 4’ size with “2 to 2 1/2” squares – for serious chess play.

If it’s to be used on a regular basis then invest in a set that is practical and durable, and easy enough to carry around if need be. And it should be inexpensive enough so if the set is lost of stolen, it is not the end of the world.

Saying that, I think it is essential to invest in at least one quality product as it can last a lifetime and a beautifully crafted set will be admired and even encourage you to play more than a cheaper version might.

Look carefully at what the board and pieces are made from. If you intend on taking it to tournaments or chess clubs then you need something substantial that won’t show the wear and tear too much, but not too heavy as you will get fed up carrying such a weight around!

A portable set is advisable for trips and whilst traveling around as they’re compact, manufactured from lightweight materials and often magnetic so you can play in the car, on the plane or practically anywhere you like. Smaller size sets are perfect for studying.

There are plenty of great choices of quality plastic and wooden chess sets available online that are reasonably priced too. We have links to some great online chess supplier sellers on the side of the blog that all have an extensive range of chess sets, boards and travel bags, that can be bought separately or as a set.

Chess boards can be made from plastic, plastic, rubber, glass, wood or even finer materials like stone or metal casting, be aware that the finer crafted they are, the more fragile they’ll be. Some fold up or roll up for easy transport.

If you decide to go for a wood board, the longer it lasts, the more beautiful it looks! They are particularly solid and wood always improves with age.

My recommendation is a triple weighted standard plastic set (3¾ inch king) with a vinyl board (2" to 2 ¼” squares) for tournaments. The chess set's base diameter of the king should be close to 75% of the size of the squares on the board. The 3 3/4 standard set usually has a 1.75" inch base. Perfect for the 2" squares, but maybe you will like the look of the 2 1/4" squares.

I prefer a similar size standard wood set for home use. Boards are totally a matter of preference and practicality.

I have no preference of wood over plastic chess pieces. I love them both. I think a wood set classes up a vinyl board, and a high quality plastic set looks just fine on a wood board, and matching plastic with vinyl and wood with wood works too of course.

Again, feel free to go with your own tastes as budget allows.

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