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Leisure Sports & Games

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.

House of Staunton Wooden Magnetic Travel Chess Set

This House of Staunton chess set has been built to withstand anything your travel plans have in store. The beautifully carved pieces remain in place with high-powered magnets on a chess board that is protected by a cabinet set in gorgeous golden rosewood and maple. Playing with House of Staunton's set is quite enjoyable too, with pieces you can actually grip instead of other chess sets where the men are tiny and barely discernible between one another. Each piece is finely crafted, with a king height of one whole inch.

Just in case you arrive at your destination before a game is finished, simply leave all the pieces where they are and close the chess set, locking it with the brass clasp to keep it shut. When gameplay is finished, the chessmen reside in red foam storage spaces to keep each one safe from being misplaced. Measuring at 9 1/4 inches high and 7 1/4 inches wide, this travel set is no bigger than your copy of Harry Potter, so it fits inside any convenient carry all.

Travel Magnetic Chess Set

This travel set is all magnetic to withstand movement and jarring impacts to the pieces or the board. The very nature of traveling involves motion and this can prove tough for playing chess, what with all of those little pieces standing up next to one another. Knock one over, they can all get leveled with ease. But Yellow Mountain has placed powerful magnets into the base of all 32 chessmen so they stay put on the metallic chessboard that comes with the set. But not too powerful that you can't move them with ease when you're trying to get the opponent's king in check. The board is almost 10 inches in size with a queen that measures just under two inches tall. Play for hours on end and when you're done with the game, just place all of the pieces in the storage compartment underneath the board and fold it up.

House of Staunton Checkbook Magnetic Travel Chess Set

The folks at House of Staunton have come up with a chess board that will fit effortlessly into the inside pocket of a sport coat or jacket. This foldable board opens up to a 6-by-6 inch chess board with green and white squares and algebraic notations along the margins. The vinyl cover conceals a metal interior, which provides backing for a set of small magnetic round discs bearing icons to represent all of the pieces in the game. Each disc comes with a powerful magnet which works exceedingly well at keeping the piece firmly in place on the board. Fold the board up and slip it away in the middle of a game, when it's time to play again you'll find all of the pieces remain exactly as they were. The point of a portable chess set is to keep your game intact between destinations and these magnetic pieces do the trick perfectly.

Christine 7" Pocket Travel Magnetic Chess and Checkers Board Game Set

Another easily portable set that keeps the game intact on the go, this travel set from the Best Chess Set folds out into two sections for a board approximately seven inches across when its open. The surface relies on magnetics to keep all of the pieces in place before and after every move. Each round disc has a tiny magnet for stability and features an outlined icon denoting which chess piece you're moving on the board. Keep in mind, these pieces are flat and small; so moving them takes a little effort to grab or slide from square to square. Shut the board, the pieces stick in place so you can pick up the game where you left off when you can resume play. The exterior of the case is covered in black leatherette, so it looks like a wallet in your pocket instead of a chess set.

ChessCentral Magnetic Travel Wood Chess Set

This is a high-quality, portable version of a standard wood chess set, and features all of the detailing you'd expect in a set twice the size. The chessmen are made of Golden Rosewood, and each one is minutely detailed and finished, even with a King height of .75 inches high. Since this is a portable set, the bases are magnetic so they stay on the board no matter where you're playing a game. When you're finished, just stick the pieces into the felt-lined drawer beneath the board's surface so you don't lose any of them. It's true, you can probably get a full-size set for the same price as this travel version, but why not get the best of both worlds with this one instead?

Mad Catz Saitek Mephisto Chess Challenger Computer

This is undoubtedly the best electronic chess set on the market for anyone who either wants to learn the game or is looking to sharpen their skills beyond their current capabilities. The set has been programmed with an incredible amount of features with over 60 degrees of difficulty so anyone can play against a worthy opponent, a coaching mode so you can practice moves in a variety of situations, and it'll even give you helpful tips during gameplay if you get stuck. As your skills improve, you can access the computer's study mode which has over 20 famous games stored within so you can play against some of the world's best players and moves. The board has bright LED lights which clearly delineate every move made, and comes with mock pewter pieces that look and feel like real metal. All you need is four "C" batteries to play, or you can plug it in with the included AC adapter. Believe me, you'll likely be playing with this chess set for years to come and still be unable to try everything it's capable of doing.

Excalibur King Master III Chess

You can have your electronic chess set with you anywhere you'd like with the 911-3, the first of two electronic sets on our list. The game uses tiny three-dimensional charcoal and silver chessmen that magnetically adhere to the board to keep them in place. 89 levels of chess, 433 possible level variations, and 16 levels of checkers are all here for hours of enjoyment. You also get a teaching mode which is helpful for players of just about every skill level difficulty from beginners all the way up to expert players. In case you get interrupted during the game, the memory function will store your game so you can pick it back up from where you left off last. All of this contained in a slim housing that provides you with the board and a storage area underneath to keep full sets of magnetic chess and checkers pieces safe and sound.

Millennium Europe II Chess Master Multi Game Computer

This unit brings up to eight gameplay options in just one set. The computer is programmed for 30 levels of chess and when you're playing against the computer, you can adjust the settings from passive to highly aggressive depending on the type of opponent you wish to face. But it doesn't end there, the Europe II also offers 16 levels of checkers or draughts that are also compatible for a player of any strength level. There are six more choices as well, including 10 levels of Othello or Reversi, Halma, 4 in a Row, Nim, Fox and Geese, and Northcote's. There are even 100 levels of practice and other skills related activities making this unit truly unique for players of all ages.

A basic user interface, sensor-equipped board, and LCD graphic display screen make gameplay easy to master both alone or with a friend. You also get tutoring functions and training challenges to help you develop as an expert player in any of the included board games. The magnetic game pieces stay attached to the board with even hard jostling of the unit and when you're done, stick the pieces back into the integrated storage compartment.

Excalibur 740D Phantom Force Electronic Chess Set

This electronic chess set is fully interactive and modifiable with over 136 levels of difficulty. The most compelling feature of the Excalibur Phantom Force is its unique ability to move chess pieces on the board by itself. The unit comes with a full set of three-dimensional chessmen and when you play against the computer, those pieces shift on their own at each move the machine makes. You can even set the computer to play itself, allowing you to watch an entire game be played without any human interaction whatsoever. This is a great way to analyze moves, better understand how the game is played, and let's admit, it can be quite amazing to watch all of those chessmen moving from square to square without any assistance. The computer can also speak to you in three different languages, French, Spanish, English; and announce its moves in algebraic notation. Other great features on the 740D include teaching modes, time control levels, a dual chess clock, and it can even rate your skills as a player while offering tips on how to improve your ability.

Croove 8 in 1 Electronic Chess Set

It may be less expensive than the Europe II but that's an asset instead of a liability with the Croove. You get eight games with this unit including chess, checkers, othello, halma, four in-a-row, fox & geese, Northcote's Game, and nim, each with multiple modes and difficulty levels available. 12 chess modes let you play the flagship game anyway you want and five playing styles that make your digital opponent play from passive to aggressive. One or two player settings let you play alone or with a friend and the unit will keep score for you with an LCD display screen and a magnetic sensory board to keep the pieces in place even on bumpy trips. Two sets of pieces for chess and checkers are included and come with a storage case to carry them with you.

WE Games Ultimate Tournament Chess Set

This combo set from Wood Expressions meets all tournament regulations. Two sets of triple-weighted chessmen come in black and cream colors, with a king piece that measures 4 inches in height. Plus, they're triple-weighted so all the pieces stay put and nothing gets knocked over. In fact, these pieces are so heavy that the combined weight of the entire set of thirty-four pieces is over two pounds and includes two extra queens. The board in this set is made of heavy-duty silicone, so it rolls up tight and unfurls completely flat without buckling or creasing, and the pieces won't wobble or look crooked in the middle of your game either. All of it fits into a zippered black canvas tote bag that comes equipped with a strap, so you can throw it over your shoulder when it's time to move on to dominate the next tourney. The price of this set is a little expensive for first-timers, retailing at around $60.

Executive Staunton Tournament Chess Set Combo

This set meets all tournament regulations as every one of the best picks on our list, but what makes the Executive worth a look is found in the details once you take a closer look. The pieces feel heavier than those found in some other sets, and each has deep, ornate carvings that give them a beautiful appearance. High-grade vinyl gives the board durability which lies flat when it's time to play. Some retailers offer the bag in four colors and designs while the vinyl board can be found in five color schemes, including the traditional green. The bag this chess set comes in is well-made, with secure stitching, sturdy zippers, and a wide array of pockets which accommodate all of the chess set's components. There's even room for other stuff like a clock, scorecards, or whatever else you need to bring with you.

Chess USA Elite Tournament Combination Set

Chess USA Elite Tournament Combination Set

ChessUSA brings their Elite Combination set to the list, a workhorse of a tournament set that includes 34 high-grade plastic chessmen in black and ivory, including two extra queens in the group. The plastic is not cheap and flimsy, but instead thick and durable with smooth texture and Staunton styling. The black and cream colored board is made of tear-resistant vinyl and rolls up easily, it's covered in tournament regulation 2.25 inch squares on a 20 x 20 size board. Unfurled, the playing surface lies flat and won't curl. All of this comes in your choice of a long, tube-shaped tote bag or a loop bag, each one offering its own advantages to make it tailor-made for the consumer's specific needs. The longer bag holds everything including board, pieces, and there's even room for a clock, while the loop bag offers a zippered pouch with a nylon loop to hold the board.

Portland Chess ShopQuadruple Weight Tournament Natural Chess Set

The quadruple weighted chessmen make this set worth the money as the combined weight of all the pieces you get from Portland Chess equals four pounds. They're constructed of heavy-duty polished and carved plastic, the queens have pointed crowns, and all of the pieces meet standard tournament size regulations. The vinyl mat comes in black and white with algebraic notations along the edges and it's made of thick stock that will prevent it from rolling or retracting once you lie it down on any surface. Unlike some other picks on the list, this set doesn't come with a carrying bag, but you do get a handy strategy guide that can teach you how to play the game with easy to follow instructions and illustrations to make the learning process easier. As a nice bonus, extra queens are also included.

Chess House Heavy Club Chess Set

The major selling point of this portable tournament package is the playing pieces crafted of solid plastic, triple-weighted and given a matte finish. The set comes with 34 of them, including two extra queens, which is pretty much the norm for an option at this price. They feel great, and their combined weight of just over two pounds in total should give you a sense of the strength and durability of these chessmen. The board is made of soft vinyl so it will need some break-in time to prevent it from curling up when it's time to play. On the other hand, the 24-inch-by-9-inch bag has been designed to carry everything you need for a day of tournament play, including padded clock pouches that can accommodate a chess clock of any size and a shoulder strap for easy portability.

House of Staunton Dublin Series Timeless 4.0" Wood Chess Set

House of Staunton Dublin Series Timeless 4.0" Wood Chess Set

For around $695, you can own an authentic House of Staunton chessmen set that has been patterned after the now-rare Dublin pattern popular in the late 1800s. These chessmen are a perfect replica of the Dublin pieces, and have been lovingly hand-crafted in boxwood and genuine ebony. The Kings measure four inches in height and every piece has been heavily weighted for a distinctive feel synonymous with the House of Staunton. These sets are unrivaled in their beauty and craftsmanship, each one featuring a brass commemorative Manufacturer's Plaque signifying that they are authentic House of Staunton originals. Only 50 of these sets have been made, each one is a true collectors item.

Solid Maple Tournament Staunton Chess Set

Cambor has a wood set that offers chessmen constructed of polished, hand-carved walnut done in the traditional Staunton pattern with green felt applied to the base of each one. The pieces are finely proportioned to one another in relation to a King that measures 3 3/4 inches high with a base diameter of nearly 1 3/4 inches. This makes them compliant with tournament regulations for competition. Cambor also includes board and you get a choice of materials there, as you can have it made from two different wood combinations, walnut/sycamore or walnut/maple. Both come with inlaid mosaic borders and 2 1/4 inch squares for accordance with tournament rules.

Monarch Walnut Chess Set with Storage and Extra Queens

This set from Monarch looks beautiful. Featuring a board made of walnut, it's been accented with decorative trim and rounded features to give it a classic look. Two side drawers fit each group of chessmen beneath the board's surface for easy storage when not in use. The chessmen are made of natural wood, detailed with simple, elegant designs in two colors (brown and blonde) which match very well with the colors of the board. The Kings measure 3-1/2 inches, and the set includes double queens in each color. The best thing about this set, however, is that it's available in three sizes. Each version offers the same attention to detail and visual aesthetics. Whether you need the 15, 17, or 21-inch size board, you're guaranteed to get an exquisite wood chess set at a reasonable price that will last for years to come.

House of Staunton Club Series Chess Set and Board Combination

This is a set well suited for the chess connoisseur or skilled veteran, and if that's you, then you're going to love this fancy combo package. The board is fashioned from a mix of mahogany and maple woods, featuring 2-inch wide squares and a satin finish surface. The chessmen have been carefully crafted by hand, carved with great detail and heavily weighted to keep them from moving out of place. Each one has been finished with a billiard cloth base pad, and the entire set of pieces come stored in a velour-lined mahogany slide top box. They call this one the Club Series set which might imply it's well-suited for club play even if it's better intended for home use, but you can certainly take it with you for a club meet as it complies with all official USCF specifications.

Wegiel Ambassador Chess Set and Board

The most distinctive aspect of the Wegiel is that each piece and board is carefully crafted by hand and the results are pretty terrific. Even more impressive that the set only runs about $50 when it could easily cost more just from an aesthetic standpoint. There is a real attention to detail here that is evident from first glance. The pieces are well proportioned with a King measuring 4 1/2 inches high, a Queen at 3 2/3 inches and Pawns at 2 1/4 inches, they all feel heavy and sturdy, each one has been made from a combination of hornbeam and sycamore wood, and they all come with felt lined bases to protect the surface of the board. As for the board, Wegiel has crafted it using birch and beech woods. It measures about 22 x 22 inches, folding open and shut for easy storage. You can also store the pieces inside, making this the perfect package deal for chess fans who want a beautiful set without spending a lot of money. While the size of the board and the pieces aren't quite exactly tournament regulation, they're so close that it's almost like you're playing on the real thing.

Drueke 907.00 Roll Up Chess Board

Everything about this set is top-notch. Start with the chessmen as they're constructed of high-impact plastic with triple-weighted bases so you can play outdoors on a breezy day, or have a fast-paced game of blitz without knocking any of the pieces over. The board rolls up for convenient portability, and is made up of a malleable foam plastic that resembles a mousepad. The Cordura Taupe bag that all of this comes in looks like a high-end tote that you might find at a brand name retail store instead of with a moderately-priced travel chess set. Speaking of price, you can find this one for around $70.

Wholesale Chess Quality Starter Chess Set

This pick from Wholesale Chess is available for less than ten dollars. For that price you get a complete set of 32 solid plastic chess pieces with a King that measures a regulation size 3 3/4 inches in height and extra queens. The soft chessboard is made of vinyl and comes in five color options with algebraic notations along the edges. Bring all of your gear along in the included nylon bag which has been equipped with a zipper to keep anything from falling out as you travel. This basic set keeps the frills to a minimum, and at this price it's a great choice for beginners and veterans alike.

Chess Central Basic Tournament Chess Set Deluxe Triple Weighted Pieces

Chess Central Basic Tournament Chess Set Deluxe Triple Weighted Pieces

ChessCentral makes the list with this workhorse of a set. The package includes 34 triple-weighted, high-grade plastic chessmen in black and ivory, including two extra queens as backup. The plastic is not cheap and flimsy, but instead thick and sturdy with smooth texture and Staunton styling, making this a particularly effective set when it comes to durability. The board is made of tear-resistant vinyl, available in three colors, and features 2.25 inch regulation size squares. It's also easy to roll up and stow but unfurled, the board lies flat and it won't curl up no matter how long you've kept it stored. All of the pieces come in a handy-dandy vinyl drawstring pouch to safeguard them from damage or loss, so you're always ready to play no matter where the day takes you.

Deluxe Club Carry-All Chess Set Package

What makes the Deluxe Club Carry-All set worth a look is found in the details. The pieces are constructed from heavy impact-resistant plastic, weighted for stability, with deep, ornate carving that gives them a stunning appearance; for example, take a look at the knight and you'll see how the Staunton styling has been carefully crafted. High-grade vinyl gives the board durability and it lies flat when it's time to play without any folding or creeping up at the corners. Some retailers offer the bag in four colors and designs while the vinyl board can be found in five color schemes, including the traditional green. The bag it all comes in is well-made, with secure stitching and sturdy zippers and has a padded pockets to accommodate all of the chess set's components, and any other accessories, like the 50 Games Chess Scorebook that they've included in the set as well.

Chess House Basic Club Chess Set

Chess House is promoting this for scholastic use, so schools can buy them in bulk and get a great deal on a reliable and simple club chess set for students to excel at the game. The chess pieces are standard plastic with paper felt-base bottoms, and measure a regulation 3 3/4 inches in height. They come with a no-frills vinyl roll-up chess board that has algebraic symbols along the edges to learn and perfect your moves. The vinyl is good quality and lies pretty flat considering the material's tendency to buckle and bend. This is a fine set for any skill level player who just wants to have a game on the go.

Buyer's Guide

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.

Purchasing Tips

Sizing
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.

Quality
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.

Bestcovery Staff
Our research team searches out the best of everything so that you can confidently pick the perfect products and services for your needs.
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