The game of chess has its origins in the 8th century and is believed by historians to have originated in India.
Back then, the game was known as Chatrang, and it went through significant developments before it became the game we now call chess. Today, this simple strategy game is played across the globe by over 605 million players worldwide.
Chess can seem complex, but learning the basic rules is actually very simple. If you want to learn this game, or improve your skills at it, you will need to have your own chess board.
But which one should you pick? With chess being so ubiquitous, there are now hundreds of different sets, each with their own unique features and drawbacks.
Perhaps you want a traditional set made from a nice material such as wood or metal. Others may be looking for something a little more fun, such as a themed set with pieces based on characters from their favorite franchises.
From travel sets to giant chess boards with extra large pieces, there is something for everybody.
With that in mind, today we will be showing you some of the best chess sets available to buy, so you can start getting better at this ancient game.
If you are coming to chess as a complete beginner, or you have a child and want to buy them their first set, then this is the product for you. The chessmen in this set are modeled after the traditional Staunton design.
You also get a spare queen for each side, which is very useful for pawn promotions.
All of the components of this set, including the board and the chessmen, are made from walnut wood. This gives it an authentic appearance that is still very easy to understand for younger players learning for the first time.
One feature that helps beginners is the algebraic notations that are written in a very large and easy to read font.
The board folds in half and there is storage space in between the two halves for keeping all your pieces safe. Sadly, there is no cutout space for storing the extra queens, so they may need to be kept loose.
To help beginners to the game, this set comes with a digital guide that details the history of the game and common strategies you can use to improve.
- Comes with a digital strategy guide.
- The board folds in the half, giving you a convenient space to store your pieces.
- Comes with spare queens for pawn promotions.
- No storage space for the spare queens.
Also available at: Walmart
This set will be too expensive for most casual players, but for your money you will get a recreation of a classic chess set.
The Bauhaus set was invented by Josef Hartwig in 1923 named after the German art movement that inspired its design. I can personally say that this is one of my favorite chess set designs, and this recreation uses components made of high quality bud rosewood.
The black pieces and squares are made from the aforementioned rosewood, meanwhile the white pieces and squares are made of maple.
All of the components are very high quality and the board looks absolutely amazing once it is set up. One issue is that new players may struggle to tell the pieces apart, since they differ so greatly from the classic Staunton design.
However, if you are willing to learn which piece is which, then there is a lot to love about this stylish chess set.
You can use the chessmen with the board that they come with, or if you prefer, you can put them on a different board that has algebraic notations. While it isn’t the best set for complete beginners, it is a must-have for any collector.
- Luxurious sets based on a classic design.
- High quality components made from bud rosewood and maple.
- Very durable.
- Pieces may be hard to tell apart for beginners.
Also available at: RoyalChessMall
If you have a child who is obsessed with Harry Potter, then this chess set will make the perfect gift.
With chessmen based on the incredible pieces seen in ‘The Sorcerer’s Stone’ this set looks amazing and is a great way to get younger players into this classic game.
All of the components are made from durable plastic, so they are unlikely to break if dropped.
You get two bags for storing the pieces, both of which are embroidered with the Harry Potter logo. The box that the set comes with also helps to provide a compact storage solution, which makes this set reasonably easy to transport.
Even though they aren’t made from wood or metal, all of the pieces are highly detailed.
However, this set is probably not the best for players who are serious about getting better at chess. The board doesn’t have algebraic notations and is a little bit too small for the tall pieces.
This can cause the board to easily become cluttered and difficult to read at a glance.
- Highly detailed chessmen based on ‘Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone.’
- Officially licensed by Warner Bros.
- Comes with bags for storing the pieces.
- Tall, intricate pieces make it difficult to read the board at a glance.
Also available at: BarnesAndNoble
The great part about chess is that you can play it almost anywhere, and you often don’t even need another player.
However, carrying a large wooden board around with you isn’t always feasible, which is why this magnetic travel set is such a great option.
The plastic board for this set doubles as the box for the chessmen, so you can carry a game of chess in your pocket wherever you go.
All of the components are made from highly durable HIPS plastic, meaning they feel great to touch and are unlikely to break if dropped.
There are buckles on the underside of the board which allow it to lock shut when folded in half. This will help you avoid losing your pieces, which you will need to watch out for as they are very small.
The chessmen attach to the board with magnets, so you can play on a train or boat without anything sliding around on your board.
To prevent the magnets scratching the surface of the board, there is a piece of felt placed on the bottom of each piece. If you are looking for an affordable and convenient travel set, then this product is a great place to start.
- Pocket sized travel set, so you can set up a game no matter where you are.
- Magnetic chessmen with felt bases to prevent scratching the board.
- The board folds in half and locks shut, providing an easy storage space for your pieces.
- Pieces are very small and easy to lose.
Also available at: Sears
As someone who enjoys both chess and checkers, I couldn’t resist adding this set to this list. The pieces and board for this set are made from a combination of maple and walnut for a classic aesthetic that looks very stylish.
Not only do you get a full set of chessmen, but you also get all the pieces you need for a game of checkers as well.
The best part is the storage space for your pieces, which comes in the form of a drawer built into the board itself.
This makes the set much easier to carry around with you, and it is reasonably lightweight, so you shouldn’t have any issue transporting it.
Inside the drawer there is a foam lining with cutouts to keep all of your chessmen and checkers neat and tidy.
Both the board and the various pieces have felt bottoms to avoid scratching surfaces they are placed on. Felted bottoms also help to make your game more quiet, so you won’t disturb others around you.
The chessmen are also weighted, making them less likely to slide around or move while you are playing.
- Board and pieces have felt bases to prevent scratching your table.
- A drawer built into the board with a foam cutout for storing all the pieces.
- You get a full set of chessmen and checkers pawns.
- There may be occasional, minor, imperfections in some of the pieces.
Also available at: Walmart
The great thing about a chess set, is that some of them can make excellent decorations. This set has a wonderfully crafted artisanal design that means you could leave it set up on any table in your home, and it will look great.
With handcrafted chessmen made from sycamore and hornbeam wood, you would expect this set to be very expensive, yet it is surprisingly affordable.
Once again, the board can be folded in half and there are felt cutouts on the underside for storing your pieces. The board is made from a combination of beech and birch wood for a beautifully authentic feel and texture.
There are also algebraic notations along the side, which is an essential feature for anyone intent on improving their chess skills.
The chessmen are beautifully intricate and large enough that they make the board very easy to read at a glance. They have weighted bottoms with felt bases to make moving them around the board much more satisfying.
This set is a great choice for both beginners and veteran players who want a board that is simple, yet stylish.
- Artisanal set that looks amazing.
- Weighted chessmen that can be stored in compartments located on the underside of the board.
- Algebraic notations along the side.
- Some pieces are weighted more than others.
Also available at: Sears
Buying a new chess set is always fun, as there is such an amazing variety of styles and designs to choose from. With so much choice, it may be easy to get overwhelmed and not know which product will work best for you.
Here are a few important considerations to bear in mind when shopping for a new chess set.
The type of board that you want will often come down to how experienced you are with the game and what you are looking for.
If you want a novelty set, then there are plenty of those available, such as the Harry Potter one we looked at earlier.
However, the issue with less professional boards is that they can make it easy for beginners to start playing, but difficult for them to improve.
Chess is all about various arrangements of pieces and being able to recognize certain positions, so you can exploit them to your advantage. As such, you want the board to be large enough that you can clearly see which square each piece is standing on.
If the pieces are too big for the squares, or the squares too small for the pieces, then the board will be difficult to read. This will impede your ability to recognize certain formations, and learn how to respond accordingly.
It’s not to say that it is impossible to overcome this difficulty, but it is an unnecessary hindrance when there are lots of boards geared towards helping people learn.
If you want to take your chess game to the next level, it will be worth buying a board with algebraic notations along the sides. This makes it easier to know exactly which squares on the 8 x 8 grid your pieces are standing on.
If you are learning from a book, or other source, you may frequently be told to set up the pieces in certain arrangements for practice exercises. Algebraic notations make this process much faster and help you to better understand the board.
As well as the board, you also need to have a good set of pieces. There aren’t too many considerations when it comes to finding a good set of chessmen.
If you are a beginner and want something that is instantly recognizable, then go for a set with pieces modeled after the Staunton design. This design makes it very clear which piece is which and is the most traditional style for chessmen.
If you want a travel set that you are going to play with in various locations, then it will help to get a set with magnetic pieces.
This will make them more difficult to lose and help to prevent them sliding around if the surface you’re playing on isn’t completely stable. Weighted chess pieces can also help to achieve the same thing.
To prevent scratching your board, it is a good idea to make sure your Chessmen have a piece of felt on the base. This also makes the pieces much quieter as they are moved around the board, for a more satisfying experience.
Some sets may also come with spare queens for pawn promotions. When you are still an amateur, it can be easy to end up with games where you have more than one queen on the board at once.
Sets with spare queens are a good choice for children, as generally more advanced players will prevent you from ever having more than one queen on the board at a time.
Many sets will come with a bag or box for storing your chessmen. This is useful as it helps you to keep everything in one place and prevents you from losing pieces.
Personally, I always like to buy boards that can fold in half, with compartments for the chessmen, or have a drawer built into them for storing the pieces.
Being able to store the pieces inside the board is very satisfying and also convenient. It means if you want to take your chess set with you to a game that isn’t being held at your house, the only thing you need to carry is the board itself.
If you go for a folding board, I highly recommend buying one with cutouts on the underside. This keeps the pieces very secure and safe and stops them rattling around inside the board during transport.
This will help to prevent your pieces from scratching each other.
While it isn’t essential, some sets come with digital or physical learning aids to help people get better at chess. If you are buying a set for a beginner, consider buying one that comes with these kinds of resources.
Knowing about certain formations and how to work around them will help you to elevate your chess game and develop more advanced strategies.
Frequently Asked Questions
When Was Modern Chess Invented?
As we said at the beginning, chess can trace its origins back to 8th century India. The game went through a few different variations and was modified by the Arabs, Persians and eventually medieval Europeans.
It is uncertain exactly when chess became the game we know and love today.
However, historians estimate that the modern version of chess emerged somewhere between the end of the medieval era and the beginning of the renaissance.
This would put the date for its conception somewhere between 1450 and 1500AD.