The chessboard is the battlefield where all you have learned and practiced about the game gets put into action. You can’t play the best chess openings until you’ve got a board to play on.
Sun Tzu advised Generals to choose the ground upon which to fight. Luckily, chess players (like you) get to do exactly that. You can select a chessboard that suits you without having to visit a chess store.
Choosing a chessboard and chess set is partly a matter of practicalities and partly a matter of taste. Do you prefer the feel of a wooden chessboard over vinyl? Everything will be a lot easier if you know what you are seeking.
You would never walk into a car sale yard with no idea about what you want to buy. While it might be possible to find the “perfect” board, more likely, you will need to compromise on some aspects.
As there is a broad market of chess equipment out there, you are spoilt for choice and overrun with dozens of offers!
In this article, we want to facilitate your choice of the correct type of chessboard by concentrating on the following six criteria to make an excellent choice on the right chess board for your purpose:
- Travel versus Home
- Aesthetics versus Practicality
Ask yourself these questions to choose the chess board that is right for you:
Is the chess board for home, or for travel?
Your first decision when choosing a chessboard is whether you want to play games on the go or at home.
You won’t want to be carrying a heavy or highly ornate set while you are on the road, as it will mean less room for other vacation essentials.
Nomadic chess players will want a board that fits easily into their luggage and won’t suffer wear and tear while moving around.
Such portable sets are likely to be less beautiful. The high-end boards are more suited to stay in the home, which this article will explain later.
If you want a board that is easy to travel with, you could go with a folding board or a small hollow wooden chessboard that lets you keep the chess pieces inside.
Speaking from experience, the hollow board is much more convenient because the pieces you don’t carry pieces in a separate bag. However, a folding wooden chessboard set can be a lot bigger if the size is important to you.
You might also want to consider a magnetic board, so you can play while traveling on buses or airplanes without the risk of the pieces scattering everywhere. Chess is excellent for alleviating the boredom of those long trips.
You can, of course, have more than one chessboard – a bigger, fancier one for the comfort of your own home and a smaller, more austere one for when you are on the road.
Is this board for playing chess or mostly for decoration?
If you are looking for a chessboard for games at home, you will need to consider the question of aesthetics versus practicality.
Maybe you are looking for something to impress your visitors with – the presence of a chessboard can undoubtedly signal to others that you are an intellectual (much in the same way people order shelves full of chess books, even if they never read them).
If the set is purely for decoration, colors become more important – you might choose a chessboard that matches the curtains, for example. You may also go with esoteric, antique designs for the pieces on the board.
Consider buying a wooden chessboard if the room you are decorating has wooden furniture and shelving.
Chess boards are not universally made up of black and white squares. They can be dark brown and light brown (like a wooden chess board), dark blue and light blue, red and pink, or any other combination so long as there is a distinguishable “dark square” and “light square.”
Colors that resemble wood or stone are more conservative – the equivalent of a black suit and blue shirt. Brighter colors show off a bit of flair and can be a lot of fun.
But if you want to play with this set, you should probably choose a design with easily recognizable chess pieces. Difficulty in telling the difference between a pawn, bishop, and rook quickly becomes exasperating.
If the set is for serious play or practice, choose a chessboard and pieces with the “Staunton” design or some similar form that makes it evident to the players which piece is which with only a glance.
Do you prefer a large or small board?
The size of the board depends on whether your chessboard is for the home or travel. It also affects the cost, as naturally larger sets will be more expensive.
Playing with a larger chessboard is particularly important for the visually impaired – it is challenging to play games with small sets if your eyesight isn’t the best.
If you are buying the board separately from the pieces, you should match the size of the pieces to the squares. Ideally, the king’s base should fill 75% of a square on the chessboard.
If you buy the board and pieces together, you shouldn’t need to worry too much as they should already be the right size for each other.
What materials do you like?
Look at other people’s chess boards, decide upon your preferred material, and how important this is to you against other factors when you choose a chessboard.
Usually, the most attractive materials such as wooden chessboards and marble chessboards are more expensive and are also less durable – a wooden chessboard can get scratched, and marble can be chipped.
Still, this shouldn’t be a problem if you don’t travel with your board.
On the other hand, plastic chess sets are cheap and durable, but they feel mass-produced and less authentic.
Numbers and letters on the edges, or not?
Some boards print the letters and numbers that identify each square right on the edge of the board. Such sets show the letters – “a” through “h,” and the numbers – “1” through “8”.
This makes it easier to write down the moves on your score sheet, especially for beginners.
Although, having numbers and letters printed on the chessboard is considered by some to be a little amateurish.
They are a bit like training wheels on a bicycle. A chess player with decent experience should not need any help to know which square is which.
If identifying the squares is already second nature to you, get a set without them.
What is your budget?
As already mentioned, factors such as the material and the size will influence the price of the board. People spend thousands of dollars on other hobbies – think how much golf clubs and sports cars can cost – but it is very rare for even the most expensive chessboards to cost more than a few hundred dollars (unless you get a chessboard which is encrusted with gold, silver, and precious stones!)
Chess is a time-intensive hobby, and it can be worth the extra cost if a nicer set like a wooden chessboard with wooden pieces gives you a lot of pleasure and more enjoyable games.
If you are new to chess, perhaps get yourself a reasonably cheap set with plastic chess pieces first to make sure the game holds your interest – and once you decide it is something you want to take more seriously, you can upgrade to a better set.
A great way to motivate yourself to improve is to promise yourself a new chess set once you reach a particular milestone or manage to beat a specific opponent!
Chess Boards: More Quick Questions and Answers
1.) How much does a good chessboard cost?
The cost of a chessboard can range from under ten dollars to several hundred dollars.
2.) Why are chessboard sets so expensive?
The material and way they are made determine the price. Chess sets are a lot like clothing – you can buy a suit in a store for a lot less than one tailor-made for you.
3.) What is a good chess set to buy?
There are a lot of factors to consider in determining what a good chess set is. It would be best if you considered things like size, whether it will be used in your home or will you travel with it, and your budget.
4.) What chess sets do pros use?
The most commonly used chessboards and sets for tournament games are vinyl chessboards that support pieces 3.75 inches. Staunton is the most widely used and accepted chess piece.
5.) What size chess board should I buy?
The size of the chessboard depends on if you will use it to play games while traveling or mainly in your own home. You want a set that is large enough for you to see the pieces clearly and move the pieces easily.
Start with pieces that are 3.75 inches and a chessboard to support this size chess piece.
6.) Are chess sets worth money?
There are chess sets made from precious materials and gems that are worth lots of money. For example, the Jewel Royale chess set costs more than $1.3 million. Yes, million.
7.) What is the oldest chess set in the world?
The oldest chess set that most closely resembles modern chess pieces is the Isle of Lewis chess pieces. These date back to around 1150. Earlier pieces from the Indian board game chatrang have been found and are from about 760 AD.
3 of the Most Expensive Chess Sets
3.) Jim Grahl Custom Chess Set – $450 000
The cheapest of the three chess sets on our list is the 14th Century European-style chess set.
The collective weight of the pieces is around one lb. (approximately 453 g). The material for the pieces is solid silver and 14-carat gold.
Ebony wood with silver embellishments makes up the board.
Because the sets are custom made, allow a year for delivery.
2.) Royal Diamond Chess Set – $500 000
Bernard Maquin designed the set, which is sold by the Charles Hollander company, in 2005. The work was done by hand and took artisans a total of 4500 hours.
This chess set is made from 1168.75 grams of 14-carat white gold and about 9900 black and white diamonds. In total, the precious materials weigh 186 carats.
1.) Jewel Royale Chess Set – $1.3 million
Although only one piece got made as an example, Boodles will make you the entire Jewel Royale chess set for around $1.3 million. The example piece, a king, is available for about $60 600.
These custom-made chess sets take approximately four months to complete and ship.
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