- Best Wood Chess Set
- Best Tournament Chess Set
- Best Club Chess Set
- Best Travel Chess Set
- Best Electronic Chess Set
Best Chess Set
Chess is played with a variety of game pieces on a checkered game board with 64 squares arranged 8x8. For the most part, it’s a pretty simple game but there are many variations intended for different playing environments, age ranges, and skill levels. Some chess sets will be better suited for beginners, there are portable versions to take on the go, and certain sets are manufactured to specific tournament standards. You even have a choice of materials the set is manufactured with such as wood, plastic, metal, or marble. In the case you're not sure which chess set is the best choice for you, take a look at our buyer’s guide which breaks down the different types available along with some considerations to keep in mind when purchasing a set either for yourself or as a gift.
Best Wood Chess Set:
A wood chess set can be a sophisticated and classic addition to your home. Not only will it provide hours of entertainment for all ages, it also doubles as a gorgeous decorative centerpiece that will fit in just about any room of the house. This list features only wooden chess sets and choosing one is actually a lot simpler than you think. This relies on personal preference far more than choosing a tournament or club set where you have to be careful about meeting regulation compliance and dealing with portability concerns, wood sets are really about what you like the most. But there are a few basics to keep in mind and that's where we came up with the selection criteria for selecting five of the best wood chess sets to put on our list.
For starters, every set we chose is made entirely of wood, no plastics, marble, or metals anywhere here. These are sets made from all types of exotic woods, with boards and chessmen carved by hand with loving care. Carving is actually a great way to ascertain quality so we looked at the pieces in each set, ensuring the detailing of every piece leaves no question as to which is which; the knights and king are the best pieces to inspect as their carvings require the most care and attention. Our criteria also examined the sizing of the pieces in relation to one another and in proportion to the board. The king determines the proper size of the board as the base of each piece should not take up more than three quarters of the size of a square.
As for the boards, each pick on our list comes with one as part of the set; this is not always the case, but for our list, part of the criteria dictated a board was included. We also examined the wood that was used in the board to determine its quality and durability. These sets are not meant to be bought, used, and discarded, they can be passed down from generations if properly cared for. These wooden chess sets offer long-lasting durability and exquisite craftmanship that even the most dedicated chess aficionado will be happy to display in their home.
Sometimes it just pays to buy the best. Look no further than the legendary House of Staunton - the most trusted name in chess for generations. This "set" doesn't include a board; it's only the pieces, which are fashioned after the rare Dublin Pattern. This is a limited edition series of which only 50 have been produced. Read Full Review
This set from Cambor is really beautiful. It features Staunton styling, a choice of wood combinations, and it even meets tournament regulations for players who want a set suitable for competitive play. The weight and visual aesthetics of this set dictate that you find a place for it and leave it there, this one is not to be moved around or stored away after you've finished with it. So it might not be the best choice for households with little hands and fingers that might mistake the pieces for toys.
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This set from Monarch comes with heavily detailed chessmen, which can be stored inside two drawers underneath the board's surface. The cabinet is made of walnut with detailed decoration and subtle coloration to give it an antiquated look. The board is available in three sizes. Read Full Review
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Genuine House of Staunton chess sets are the premiere choice for discerning tastes, offering superior craftmanship and quality of the highest caliber. These chess sets do not cheap, but they will last for generations. Read Full Review
Wegiel makes the list with the Ambassador, combining a mixture of fine wood materials to craft a set that looks gorgeous. It's not too large or cumbersome, so if you prefer storing out of view, this one folds up once you're finished playing with it. The pieces can all be stored underneath, with green felt lined spaces to hold each individual piece separately. Read Full Review
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Best Tournament Chess Set:
Congratulations! You've honed your chess-playing skills enough to take on other players in tournament play. That means you're going to want to invest in a tournament chess set. But don't think you can just show up to the event with a magnetic travel set and a folding board, the set must meet strict gaming regulations. You're also going to need to transport this set with you to every tournament you play in, so it has to be easily portable.
This list features five of the best chess sets suitable for tournament play judged along simple yet distinct criteria. First off, these sets comply with standard tournament regulations which means that the pieces measure between 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 inches tall and the board is 20 x 20 inches in size. As for the boards, our criteria dictated we find picks featuring either vinyl, nylon, or silicon boards; these materials make it easy to literally roll them up like a yoga mat and stores easily in a tote bag. Portability was another consideration as part of our selection process so most of our sets come with a bag or some other way of conveniently carrying these sets with you on the go.
The most important criteria dealt with the pieces that were included in each set. Double, triple, even quadruple weight are all acceptable since the heavier the pieces, the sturdier they will be. High-quality sets also use strong, thick plastic for long-lasting durability and the pieces in these sets certainly don’t disappoint. Lastly, the mark of a good piece can be seen in the carving of each character and the presence of green felt at the base will make moving each piece in these sets an effortless gesture.
Wherever you prefer to compete, you're going to want the proper gear with you to show your opponents that you're serious and ready to win. These five sets will do just that so check out what we uncovered and see which one is right for you.
The best tournament combo for the money, this set from Wood Expressions has everything you need to take on all comers. The chessmen look great, the board is made of silicone and it not only rolls up tight but won't buckle or fold to knock the pieces over, and it all fits in an elegant black canvas shoulder bag. Read Full Review
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The folks at Executive give you all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a durable and reliable tournament set. It has Staunton chessmen, and you even have a choice of colors for the bag and the board. Read Full Review
Priced at around $30, this travel set from ChessUSA is a great option for anyone who needs a reliable tournament set for heavy usage. Everything about this package, from the chessmen to the board to the choice of long or loop tote, is durable and designed to take on major wear and tear while offering the best in convenient portability. Read Full Review
The Portland Chess Shop brings one of the heaviest sets to this list of the best tournament options on the market at the moment. Everything about this pick features the highest quality materials, while the thick and durable vinyl board keeps it from rolling up during the game. For the price, you're getting a similar set up to some of the other picks on our list but there are a few trade-offs if you're comparison shopping here. Read Full Review
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This set from superstore Chess House has heavily-weighted chessmen that are suitable for a relaxing session of chess or a riveting game of blitz. Unlike other sets of similar quality and design, this one offers the vinyl board in a choice of multiple colors, including the standard green, and a carry-all tote that comes in thirteen possible colors. Read Full Review
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Best Club Chess Set:
Much like a tournament set, club chess sets are designed to be compact and portable so you can bring your gear with you to club meets, tournaments, or even a casual game in the park. We selected each of the following best club chess sets along three critical elements: the pieces, the board, and the bag. First and foremost, these sets all meet United States Chess Federation regulations which means that the chess pieces are 3 3/4 inches tall, the board 20 inches across, and the squares 2 1/4 inches wide. With the regulatory criteria established, we chose sets with pieces made of strong, high impact plastics and preferably weighted for sturdy heaviness on the board, to ensure each one stands firm where you put it. The detailed carving of every piece should leave you with no question as to which piece is which, so you're using the proper character on every move.
With respect to the boards, the ones we found are made of thick vinyl or foam plastic, so they can be rolled up and stored for easy portability. Speaking of portability, each of our sets comes with a quality bag that won't fray or break down the more you use it. This is important because without the bag, it will be tough to bring your chess set with you anywhere. These bags are designed specifically to carry the set so throwing it all into just any old bag really won't suffice. They come in tote, drawstring, or long tube-shaped bags and are made of vinyl, nylon, or canvas.You're going to find a large number of club set options once you start do a little homework, but we're confident that one of the five on our list will be the one you take home.
Drueke is one of the oldest and most reliable manufacturers of chess sets and gaming products; they've been doing this for almost 100 years. It's no wonder that this travel set comes in at number one on our list. It's easy to carry, looks great, and comes with chessmen that will stay put no matter how fast your game or the environment you're playing it in. Read Full Review
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Wholesale Chess offers a basic club set that is suited for every age and skill level. It meets all USCF regulation specs and comes with impact-resistant plastic pieces that aren't weighted but they are solid plastic, no hollowed out chessmen in this set. The vinyl board and nylon bag complete this low-priced pick that can easily fit in with any budget. Read Full Review
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Priced at around $30, this travel set from ChessCentral is a great option for anyone who needs a reliable tournament set for heavy usage. Everything about this package, from the triple-weighted chessmen to the vinyl board and draw-string tote is durable and designed to take on major wear and tear over hours of use. Read Full Review
The folks at The Chess Store give you all the bells and whistles you'd expect in a durable and reliable tournament set. It has Staunton chessmen, and you even have a choice of colors for the bag and the board. Read Full Review
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Like the name says, this is your basic club set with all the essentials needed for a simple game of chess. This is probably best suited for middle or high school students as a beginner set that they can bring to class (or chess club) and have it last for the entire school year. For the price, you can even get two, in case you lose a few pieces over the course of a semester. Read Full Review
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Best Travel Chess Set:
Chess and travel, two pastimes that go very well together. But the last thing you want to do is lug that heavy wooden board and all those pieces around with you. Nothing could be a bigger pain in the neck and you know you're going to lose a pawn at some point. That's why avid fans of both buy a travel chess set. Being avid fans of the game ourselves, we chose five of the best travel chess sets available right now, using simple and specific criteria.
First off, any set making the list has to be built for gameplay on the go. These best sets are designed to be portable, with boards that can fold and close to protect a game in progress when it has to be interrupted by travel plans. Next, the chessmen all offer some type of anchoring component (usually magnets) to keep them firmly in place on the board. You will find that these chessmen come in two different types, either miniature versions of traditional chess pieces or flat discs; both types small enough to withstand a lot of motion and the magnets are powerful without being difficult to maneuver.
Finally, we considered the size of each set by examining if it was compact enough to be easily portable. It's one thing to use a club or tournament chess set that you can carry around in a bag, its another to have a true travel set that you can slip into your pocket or backpack for easy, instant accessibility. When you're ready to go on an adventure and you want a good travel chess set by your side, these are the five you want to choose from before you head out.
The chess set that can go anywhere because the pieces simply will not fall off. The strongest magnetic board on our list closes up to the dimensions of a standard hardcover novel, so it's easily transported in a carry-on or large purse. Best of all, the wood cabinet shuts over the chessboard so you can stop play and resume later at any time and the pieces will remain exactly as you left them. Read Full Review
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Yellow Mountain's travel set makes our list for a few reasons, it looks great, the magnetic contacts keep the pieces locked in place and it's compact enough for unlimited portability. The gold and silver chessmen are a nice twist on the usual black and white motif and they can be stored underneath the board when not in use. Best of all perhaps, the price is manageable for any budget. Read Full Review
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The first of our two picks that is the easiest to carry around. The prestigious House of Staunton makes the list again with this thin and portable metallic chess set. No three-dimensional pieces here, but instead, little magnetic discs with chess piece icons emblazoned upon each. Read Full Review
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Any company named Best Chess Set better deliver on that promise and if they do, then they surely deserve a spot on our list Lucky for them, the Christine 7" pocket travel magnetic set lives up to the moniker. It's ultra-slim much like the House of Staunton checkbook set, making it easy to slip into any coat pocket and this one uses tiny magnetic discs much like the other version as well. The difference here is that the Christine also lets you play checkers too. Read Full Review
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ChessCentral offers a solid wood chess set that is the perfect size for a game on the go. This portable set comes with finely chiseled wood chessmen that look great - even at a fraction of the size of some other pieces on our list. It combines magnetics and wood in one very attractive travel option. Read Full Review
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Best Electronic Chess Set:
So you love to play chess, but have no one else to enjoy it with. Perhaps you want to learn how to play, but there's no one to teach you. Maybe you've become so good at the game no one wants to play with you anymore and challenging some strange old man at the park isn't your idea of a good time. Then you may want to consider purchasing an electronic chess set. In this age of technological wonders, you can now play chess against a machine that can talk back, sense your next move, and even teach you how to play the game more effectively.
These picks for best electronic chess set using simple criteria, the first of which was skill level. Not all electronic sets are built the same, some are more challenging than others, while some are suited for beginners who are just learning about the game. However, these electronic chess sets incorporate valuable educational components to teach you how to play. These chess sets also have multiple skill levels that can be adjusted for the user, but in some cases even the easiest setting can be a tough challenge. A set that is too difficult will totally frustrate those who are trying to learn the game so consider who the intended user is going to be and how good they are at the game.
There were other factors we considered such their portable size and storage options so playing pieces aren’t lost while you’re on the go. The size and capacity of the internal computer of these picks allow for capabilities such as saving games in progress and providing additional visual/audio features like LED lights or voice prompts to enhance gameplay; some of our picks even offer alternative games such as checkers and other classic games. Overall, each of these picks offers a complete package for enjoying quality electronic chess in any environment.
This one literally does it all. You get over 60 levels of difficulty when you play against the machine's computer, or you can even play against another living, breathing opponent. The unit comes with LED lights to indicate moves the machine makes and stores all of yours in its memory so you can review your game afterward to see where you went wrong...or relish how you reached that all too elusive victory. Read Full Review
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Excalibur makes the list with the 911E-3, a challenging electronic set with 89 difficulty levels as well as a teaching mode and even a referee mode so two players can have a game head to head. If chess isn't your thing, that's fine too, Excalibur programmed this unit with a checkers function as well. It's also easy to carry around with you anywhere. If you want an electronic chess set to take on the go; this one is programmed for hours upon hours of gameplay with three-dimensional chessmen that can be easily stored so you don't lose any in your travels.
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The Millennium Europe II is the first of our units that not only offers chess and checkers, but another six classic board games as well. There are varied degrees of skill to meet the challenge of players among all strength levels and a sensor desktop with full graphic display. The menu interface is easy to learn and offers up to 13 languages for interaction. Read Full Review
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You may think there's a ghost in this machine as the Excalibur Phantom Force computer unit has a slightly eerie feature that none of the others have on our list. This unit moves its own pieces around the board; no, not digital readouts, but instead real three-dimensional chessmen moving by themselves. But there is so much more about this chess set that makes it one of our best picks. Read Full Review
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Another resourceful unit with eight games in one makes the list in this set from Croove. It looks, performs, and offers similar options and features as the Millennium Europe II, but does it all at a quarter of the previous machine's price tag. This is a great choice for younger players who want to learn the game and for parents who don't want to spend too much for a good quality product. Read Full Review
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Chess Set Buyer's Guide
Traditional chess sets involve purchasing the chess pieces and a board separately but most retailers sell combination sets where everything has been paired up and are ready for play. If you're looking for something less traditional and easy to carry with you on the go, travel chess sets run smaller in size and can fit in a bag or a purse.
Electronic chess sets are basically advanced computers programmed to help the user become a better player and often they'll come with teaching software to help you learn moves and strategies to increase your skills. Many schools have chess clubs as part of their curriculum for which club and tournament sets are ideal.
These are also portable sets including weighted plastic chess pieces and vinyl/plastic boards. Due to the competitive nature of chess clubs and tournaments, there are specific regulations in place concerning the sizes of the chessmen, the board, and even the squares upon its surface that must be complied with in order to bring your set to formal competition.
Types of Chess Sets
Staunton Chess Sets
Staunton is the recognized standard used in tournament play. Considered the most traditional sets, they’re instantly recognizable by their ornate carvings and the well-balanced feel of the pieces. A number of variations exist with the Staunton style with differences in the carving of particular pieces, (specifically the knight), depending upon the derivative pattern you've chosen. The modern versions of these sets are typically wood and plastic, but they’re available in other materials such as marble with gaming pieces ranging in size from 2 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches in height.
Tournament/Club Chess Sets
Due to their intended use in tournament or club play, these sets typically include plastic pieces, a roll-up chessboard made of vinyl, with everything stored in a portable carry bag. The boards are available in various colors but green and white is the preferred color combination.
Official tournament play has specific regulations for the size of the board and pieces which are used as set forth by the United States Chess Federation by-laws. Their strict rules stipulate the height of the king must fall between 3 3/8 to 4 1/2 inches while the diameter of the base of each piece must be between 40-50 percent of the height.
Portable/Magnetic Chess Sets
A portable or magnetic chess set is the perfect choice for the traveling chess player. These sets vary in sizes and materials, but they're all designed for portability. The boards often have some type of integrated storage area for the game pieces and can fold into a compact carrying case or wallet-sized item
Some of these sets let you keep all the pieces in place even after it's been closed up thanks to magnets or pegs in the pieces which plug into tiny holes in the board. Depending on the size of your board the shapes of the pieces can vary also, ranging from flat circular pieces with icons of the corresponding game pieces printed on top, to three-dimensional miniature pieces with a magnet or peg in the base.
Instructional Chess Sets
As the name implies, these sets are instructional in nature and made to accommodate a range of skill levels. A teaching booklet and other instructional aides are typically provided to help you remember how the pieces move; sometimes simple instructions are even printed on the bases of the pieces themselves. These sets vary in size, the materials used, as well as their suitability for either a younger or older player.
Folding Chess Sets
Though similar to a typical portable set, folding chess sets include a full set of pieces and corresponding storage compartments when not in use. These sets can sometimes be bigger and heavier than a standard portable set but they’re available in sizes, making them easy to carry. Many folding sets are made out of wood or other high-quality materials, offering a wide range of board sizes from 10 to 21 inches.
Electronic/Computer Chess Sets
There are two common types of electronic sets available. A pressure sensor set requires you to push down on the piece before and after your move so the board can register the move. An auto sensor plays much like a regular board with interior sensors recording the move when the piece is placed down.
Electronic chess computers can teach you how to play the game better or offer a challenging alternative to playing against another person; some even offer a number of variable settings to increase or decrease the skill level of the computer. Most come with digital displays, instructional games, and other convenient features. These sets are available in variety of sizes with some being small to others measuring 13-20 inches across.
When buying a set of pieces by themselves, you’ll need to make they’re properly matched up with the board you select. Prevailing chess guidelines dictate the size of the king determines the proper size of the board. The base of the king should not take up more than three quarters of the size of the squares; otherwise the pieces will bunch up, thus hindering gameplay.
Like any other product, chess sets can vary in quality. Inspecting specific parts of a set should give you a pretty good indication whether or not they’re of high quality. You want your pieces to be double or triple weighted so they’ll feel heavy and solid in hand.
The carving of the pieces themselves is another way to ascertain the quality of the set. The knights, as well as the king, are the best pieces to inspect as their carvings require the most care and attention. How ornate or complex do these pieces pieces look to you? Are they finely detailed and well cut? If so, you have a good set on your hands.