The game of chess is considered one of the best games you can play to improve concentration and thinking skills. Whether played competitively or just for fun, the game of chess can challenge players of all ages and skill levels and can be a great way to cut down on screen time for the whole family. When it comes to buying the best chess sets, you should purchase one that matches your skill level and the purpose behind buying it.
To make it easier for you to find the perfect set, I’ve reviewed several sets available on the market, so you can choose the perfect set for you and your family.
I’ve reviewed the best models designed for the pros, beginners, or the family, and models that are budget-friendly and durable.
Below, you’ll find a comparison chart that includes six of the top-selling sets on the market, how each set rated, and other important information you need to know before you make your final choice.
Chess Sets Comparison Chart
Best Overall – Amerous Magnetic Wooden Chess Set
This magnetic chess set by Amerous includes hand carved wooden chess pieces that attach to the board magnetically, so you can move the board from room to room without the fear that your pieces will slide out of place. The magnetic design will also allow you to play a game of chess on a plane, train, or in the family car, making it a great way to entertain the kids on your next family vacation.
The board itself is very lightweight, yet durable, and features a foldable design that adds to the set’s portability. The board’s compact design will allow you to easily slip it in your suitcase or carry-on bag, making this set very travel friendly.
This board is top of the line, due to its high-quality wooden materials, and the slick playing surface. The set also includes two extra queens.
- Magnetic chess pieces
- Made out of high-quality wood materials
- Lightweight design
- Includes two extra queens
- Perfect for home use or travel
- Does not include carry case
- Does not have storage compartment for chess pieces
This set is handmade, featuring beautiful hand carved wood chess pieces, a foldable, portable design that makes the set travel-friendly, and the type of durability in a chess set that you need for a model that’s intended for kids. While the set lacks a carrying case or storage compartments for the chess pieces, the beautiful design and overall durability make this unique set a steal for the price.
Best Choice for Beginners – A&A Wooden Chess & Checkers Set
This classic Staunton wood chess set is handcrafted from birch wood. The king measures in at 3 inches, which is slightly smaller than the traditional size. Serious players may consider this slight size difference a drawback. Each of the chess pieces are loaded with hand carved, elegant detail. The set also comes with a total of 24 wooden checker pieces, which adds to this set’s versatility.
The board is foldable and includes a locking mechanism to prevent the board from opening during transport. The board itself is handmade with a beautiful maple, walnut, and beechwood inlay that’s eye-catching and makes this board display worthy. When closed, the board has the type of compact design that many buyers are looking for in a set they can take on their next vacation.
- Hand carved chess pieces
- Board is made from walnut, beechwood, and maple
- Locking mechanism prevents board from opening during travel
- Includes a set of wood checkers
- Includes 2 extra queens
- Compact design
- King is slightly smaller than standard size
- The price
This board offers twice the fun with a set of hand carved chess pieces and a set of wood checkers. The board is made from high-quality wood, and features storage space with individual slots that will prevent damage to the beautifully hand carved chess pieces.
The manufacturer currently offers a 100% money-back guarantee, allowing you to return the set for a full refund. This gives chess fans every reason to pull the trigger and give this set a shot.
Best Budget Friendly Option – Chess Armory Wooden Chess Set
This large wood chess set by Armory measures 15×15 inches, for easier game play. The board is made with a gorgeous walnut inlay, and an interior that’s covered in felt, complete with straps, which allows you to store your chess pieces neatly, to prevent loss and damage. The set’s king measures in at 3 inches, which is slightly smaller than traditional sized kings that are commonly used in tournaments. The board includes a locking mechanism, which prevents the board from accidentally opening during travel or transport. The foldable design makes it easy to store and travel, a huge plus for anyone who wants to use their chess set on the go.
- Includes storage for chess pieces
- Pieces have felted bottoms
- Foam inserts and straps for pieces prevent damage
- Locking mechanism prevents board from opening
- Low price
- Made from walnut
- King is not regulation size
- Does not include extra pieces
This compact walnut portable chess set by Amory is lightweight, yet durable. The highly portable design will be a huge plus for most buyers who don’t have the space to leave a chess set out or those who want to take their chess set with them on their next road trip or vacation. The included storage compartments, complete with foam inserts and straps, will keep each chess piece securely in place while ensuring the pieces are not damaged during transport. This budget-friendly buy is a great choice for players of all skill levels in need of a portable set that’s built tough and designed to last.
Premium Chess Set – Renaissance Knight Chess Set
This beautiful chess set is made with a pewter base and glass chess board top. The set includes figurines that are made from pewter with a polyresin base. The board is much smaller than what you’ll find with a traditional chess set. Staunton, or traditional chess sets are 15 inches, while this board is 13.5 inches. Additionally, the king is also much smaller at 2 inches. The board does not have a foldable design, so it cannot be stored away when not in use and it’s not recommended for travel. Because of the pewter and glass design, the set is also not recommended for young children. Instead, this set is more designed for décor purposes, however, it’s still a playable board, despite its smaller design.
- Beautifully crafted pewter chess pieces
- Board is made from pewter and glass
- Compact design
- High-quality figurine style set
- Heavy, stable board design
- Does not include storage
- Not portable
- Board and chess pieces are smaller than traditional sets
This unique chess set is sure to be the focal point of any room. The elegant pewter and glass design is eye-catching, but the smaller size of the pieces and board make it more suitable for decorative purposes than a serious chess board you would use daily. While the board is playable, its much smaller design may be a deal breaker for the serious chess player.
Best Multi-Game Set – Pressman Chess/Checkers/Backgammon Set
This set offers excellent value for chess lovers and families on a tight budget. The set includes chess pieces, backgammon pieces, and checkers. The three classic games are perfect for players of all skill levels. The set is also a great choice for parents who are looking for a budget-friendly buy and a set that’s durable enough for younger children. The board is double-sided, and comes with full size chess pieces, checkers, dice, and a set of instructions.
- Includes three games
- Double-sided board
- Foldable board
- Low price
- Smaller than average chess pieces
- Board is flimsy
This chess set is perfect for kids over the age of eight. It includes checkers, chess pieces, and a set of dice, with a double-sided board design that allows you to have a fun family game night playing classic games including backgammon, chess, and checkers. Perfect for kids and adults, and the family on a tight budget searching for a way to cut down on screen time. These classic games will provide hours of entertainment for the whole family.
Best Portable Chess Set – US Chess Quiver Triple Weighted Tournament Chess Set
This is a tournament quality chess set by US Chess that includes chess pieces that are triple weighted and a quiver bag that holds the pieces and board, making the set highly portable. This set is specifically designed for scholastic players, and tournament and chess club use. The regulation triple weighted chess pieces are made from plastic, while the chess board itself is made out of vinyl. The king measures in at the traditional size of 3.75 inches, complete with a 1.5-inch base. This set also offers a highly portable design, simply roll up the board and place it in the included quiver, for fast and easy transport and storage.
- Highly portable
- Includes two extra queens
- Chess pieces are triple weighted
- Includes traditional size king
- Perfect for chess club or tournament use
- Heavy chemical smell straight out of the box
- Chess pieces may feel too light to some players
Seasoned players or beginners who are serious about learning and mastering the game of chess will fall in love with this pro-quality set by US Chess. This set includes traditional chess pieces, a flexible chess board that allows you to play on the go and a large quiver, complete with an adjustable strap that will allow you to store all of your chess gear neatly and conveniently.
Chess Sets Buyer’s Guide
They game of chess is loved all over the globe. People gather in libraries, living rooms, parks, and pubs to match their wits over the cherished board. But why is it that people are so willing to devote so much time to the game? Most likely, it’s the fact that chess is very intellectually challenging, which is good for your mental well-being.
Before you buy a new chess set, first ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the set going to be used at home only?
- Do you need a chess set designed with portability in mind?
- What is the skill level and age of the person or people who will be using the set?
- Is this set for display only?
- What does your budget look like?
- Is durability important?
- What type of chess set will suit your needs?
The answers to these questions should help you get an idea of the type and style of chess set you’re looking for. Before we dive into the different features you need to look for in a chess set, let’s discuss the different types of sets out there…
Types of Chess Sets
Below, you’ll find a list of the most common types and styles of chess sets available. They are:
- Travel Chess Sets
- Tournament sets
- Teaching chess sets
- Folding chess sets
- Figurine sets
- Electronic sets
A traditional chess set, also referred to as a Staunton, is one of the most common types of chess sets that people buy. However, finding the right type of Staunton set can be tricky. Why? Because these sets often have boards and pieces that must be purchased separately. This can make it difficult to find pieces and a board that are compatible with each other.
Traditional sets are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Most come as flat boards and pieces, but you can also come across a folding set that comes equipped with storage for your chess pieces. Both options are popular, but you’ll usually find that flat sets offer the best quality in terms of durability and the chess pieces.
Considering chess pieces are sold in many different sizes and types of wood, you may find the process of shopping for the right board and set of pieces a little confusing and frustrating. You’ll need to do your research when you’re shopping for pieces that are compatible and keep the board’s dimensions in mind.
Travel Chess Sets
A travel set is designed so that the pieces will stick to the board. These boards tend to come in a couple of varieties, peg and slot, and magnetic. Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Magnetic sets tend to look nicer since the board is not covered with holes for the pieces to stick into and you can purchase a bigger wooden magnetic set that is every bit as nice as a standard board. However, with larger magnetic sets, the pieces don’t securely fasten to the board and may be prone to falling off.
A peg and slot style board are much more secure, but the pieces can stick in the board and can be difficult to remove. There’s also issues with the pegs which can snap off if the piece is handled too roughly. This will render the board useless.
Magnetic or portable chess sets are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Before you buy one, consider the following questions:
- Is the set an adequate size
- Is there storage available for your chess pieces?
- Can you save your position and come back to the game later without removing the chess pieces?
If you’re looking for a chess set that can be used for a tournament or your chess club, then check out a tournament style set. Typically, a chess player uses a tournament board when they are playing a match in chess club or in a competition. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, tournament sized boards are unwieldly and very large. Secondly, you don’t know who you’ll be playing against. No one wants to risk that their opponent may not respectfully use their costly hand carved chess board and pieces.
Instead, a tournament style board usually consists of a rolled-up chess board and pieces that are made out of plastic. These sets are usually affordable and very durable, but they lack the beauty of traditional boards.
Teaching Chess Sets
If you’re looking for a chess set for a beginner, there are many instructional sets available. These sets are often very helpful, and they come with aides that will remind the user how the pieces should move.
Folding Chess Sets
A foldable chess set is one of the most popular styles on the market. These sets usually come with their own pieces and are equipped with storage compartments where the chess pieces can be stored when not in use. This makes a foldable chess set ideal for people who love to play a game of chess on vacation, take a chess set with them for a weekend getaway, or people who do not have the space to leave a chess set out on display.
A foldable set comes in a wide variety of sizes, usually ranging from 10 inches up to 21 inches. You’ll can also choose from different types of wood and styles.
Foldable chess sets are a great choice if your main priority is portability.
Figurine Chess Sets
A figurine chess set is often chosen for decorative purposes only. You can find a figurine set available for pretty much any theme. Keep in mind, these sets are often very pricey and are not quite as durable as a traditional set.
These sets come with figurines that are made out of wood, alloy metals, crushed marble, or pewter. While a set that’s made from metal can be very durable, a set that’s made out of polystone is usually the more affordable choice. The pieces are often well detailed and can hold up well over time.
An electronic set connects to your computer or phone via Bluetooth or USB and utilizes sensors in the board and the pieces to detect the location of each piece. These parts are used to easily record games and moves and can provide a more user-friendly interface when you’re playing against a computer. This type of board is often found in chess tournaments to record a player’s moves during a live broadcast.
If you’ve ever viewed an online feed of a chess tournament that features live updates, then most likely the game is being played on an electronic chess board. An electronic board is often designed to resemble a wooden chess board and the pieces are usually similar quality to what you’ll find with a luxury wooden set.
Other Important Features
For experienced chess players, finding the right board can be a matter of personal preference. Many pros prefer buying boards that are traditional size, as opposed to gimmicky boards that are more for decorative purposes. Those who travel are looking for a board that’s foldable, flexible, and easy to pack up and go. Parents who want to get their children interested in chess often focus on durability over quality or regulation size. Whatever the size or style of chess board you choose, you can still learn how to play chess like a pro, just make sure you find a set that includes the features you need and a design that works for you.
When you’re shopping for a chess set, aside from the style of the board, there are other features to take into consideration to ensure that you end up with a board that works for you and the whole family.
- Size and weight
- Pairing pieces with a chess board
- Weighted/unweighted/lightly weighted chess pieces
- Storage options
- Carrying case/bag
If you want a set that’s durable and looks great, I recommend using a wood chess set. The prices of these boards can vary based on wood type and size. If you prefer to purchase your pieces and board separately, start off first by buying the pieces and go from there. There are many different types of wood used for chess boards and pieces, and the quality can vary significantly from wood to wood.
Bud rosewood boards feature a rich dark green with plenty of red or mahogany. These boards offer the best color and are often the most expensive.
Like bud rosewood, a rosewood board features a rich and dark grain, but you’ll find that the wood has more brown in it, as opposed to red or mahogany.
Ebony boards are black or very dark in color. Unfortunately, these boards tend to crack easier compared to boards made out of other types of wood. Keeping the board at the right humidity level can help.
This medium brown wood is expensive, however it’s more affordable than rosewood sets and quite durable.
Size and Weight
When you’re shopping for a chess set, you’ll come across the size, which is described in inches. Size refers to the height of the king, and in a standard tournament set, the height is 3.75 inches. Sets where the king is larger than four inches tend to be directed more towards display only, however, the larger pieces increase the cost of the set, but tend to be more ornately carved. You can often gage the price of a set based on the detail in the carving of the knight.
Pairing Pieces with a Chess Board
Once you’ve chosen a board, you’ll need to match them with the right sized pieces. The standard king height is 3.75 inches. More important than the height of the king is the width of the base. Kings are traditionally the widest and tallest pieces on the boards and the rest of the pieces will be proportional to the king.
When you purchase a board and a set of pieces separately, you’ll want to fit the king to the square size, then you’ll know the rest of the pieces will also fit.
According to chess rules, a 20-inch board is the standard chess board size, but you can commonly find 13-inch and 15-inch boards. Chess board dimensions will be good to know but the square size is much more important. the base of the king should be about 75% of the square size. This means if the base of the king is 1.75 inches wide, you’ll want a board that has a square size of around 2.3 inches.
Weighted/Unweighted/Lightly Weighted Chess Pieces
Beginning in the mid 19th century, top of the line chess sets included pieces that were weighted with lead. On many of these chess pieces a hole is cut into the bottom of the piece where the weight is inserted. Bottoms of chess pieces are often covered by felt so the pieces will not scratch the board. In lower quality sets, you may still see a hole, but no weight has been added, so you must add a weight yourself.
When you’re shopping for a chess set, you should also consider the skill level of each player. For younger players, I would suggest starting off with lightly weighted or unweighted pieces or a starter chess set. These sets are easy to store and carry and are almost indestructible, making them perfect for children. These sets are also available in a variety of fun colors, and are priced affordably, which means you can always upgrade to a nicer set once your child grows out of the starter set.
You’ll find a couple of different storage options with some top-of-the-line sets, or no storage at all. Some boards that feature a foldable design will allow you to store the chess pieces on the underside of the board. This will keep the pieces neatly organized and can prevent damage or loss. Another option is a chess piece box.
The box may or may not have individual carved out slots for each specific piece. The box is also handy when it comes to preventing damage and loss. Not all sets will come with these storage options, and for many, that’s not a deal breaker. However, it’s definitely a nice extra and one that will add to a set’s portability and overall value.
Some sets will also come with a carrying case or a bag, complete with a shoulder strap. Both options are perfect for people who want a highly portable set that’s easy and convenient to transport. Many tournament style sets will come with some type of case or bag, which will make it easier for the player to bring their set for the next chess club meeting or competition.
Like most things in life, the more you pay that nicer to quality the set will be. However, there’s no reason to spend a lot for a set, especially if you’re new to the game. The price for a new set can range from as low as $10 up to $1000 per set. Most types of tournament sets have an average price that ranges from $20 up to $40. Typically, the larger and heavier the chess pieces, the higher the price tag.
Wood sets can range in price from $20 up to several thousands of dollars. For beginners, it’s always a wise choice to go with a nice entry level wood set, so you should plan on paying around $70 up to $150. Of course, you can also find some that are priced more affordably than that.
What Impacts the Price of a Chess Set?
There are three main factors that can impact the price of a board:
- The type of material it’s made out of.
- The knight. The knight is one of the most expensive chess pieces to produce. Knights are often hand carved and are more ornate than the other pieces. In fact, it can take a several days to carve one knight.
- Branding. While two identical boards can leave the same factory for the same cost, by the time they reach consumers, one may be going for two-three times the price because of the brand name.
Whether you’re an experienced chess player or a beginner, before you dive in and buy a new chess set for your home or upcoming tournament, let’s learn a little more about the benefits of playing chess.
The Benefits of Chess
The game of chess offers many important benefits, including:
- Theory of mind
- Improves memory
- Flow state
- Improves planning skills
- Work as a therapy
- Protects against dementia
- Can help minimize symptoms associated with ADHD
Now, let’s take a closer look to each of these aspects.
Theory of Mind
Playing chess allows a person to develop the ability to see from someone else’s perspective. A skilled player will learn how to anticipate their opponent’s next move. In order to predict what another person’s next move will be, players must develop the ability to adopt their opponent’s perspective and anticipate the action they’re likely to take. Behavioral scientists refer to this ability as theory of mind. Theory of mind is an ability that’s essential to building healthy social relationships and exercising empathy. A study conducted in 2019 found that playing chess helps a person develop this perspective taking ability, especially in younger children who practice the game.
Chess can also help improve memory. It’s probably not surprising to learn that skilled chess players have some of the strongest memory skills. After all, this is a game that involves memorizing combinations of moves and the potential outcomes of these moves.
Additionally, a skilled chess player shows a higher performance related to certain types of recollection, namely auditory memory. Auditory memory is the ability to remember what you’ve learned through hearing.
People who play chess also have a better than average ability too quickly recognize and remember visual patterns. Some researchers believe this comes from memorizing complex chess positions.
People who play chess can enter a flow state. Flow is a type of rewarding sense of total involvement in which the player operates at a peak performance level in a challenging task. Performers, artists, and athletes often describe entering a sort of time warp where they are completely focused on the task at hand.
Improves Planning Skills
Playing chess regularly can improve your planning skills. Chess is known for its long periods of silent contemplation, during which each player is considering their next move. A player can spend a significant amount of time anticipating their opponent’s response and attempt to predict the outcome. Careful planning and contemplation are one of the best cognitive health benefits of playing chess.
More Effective Therapy
Researchers have also found that playing chess on a regular basis can make therapy more effective. Some therapists will play chess with their patients as a way of increasing their patient self-awareness and building effective therapeutic relationships.
Chess is considered a creative therapy strategy and it allows a person to see their reactions to stress and the challenges that arise during a match. A therapist is present to help their patient evaluate their responses and to learn more about why their patients respond to problems the way they do.
Protection Against Dementia
In 2019, researchers found that chess can offer protection against the development of different types of dementia. This is due to the complex mental flexibility that chess demands. The game challenges memory, critical thinking abilities, visual spatial skills, and calculation. This can help reduce cognitive decline, postponing the effects of dementia as a person grows older.
Can Help Minimize Symptoms Associated with ADHD
Those suffering from ADHD can also benefit from playing chess on a regular basis. A study conducted in 2016 that involved 100 children of school age with ADHD showed a significant decrease in a participant’s overactivity and inattentiveness following the course of treatment.
Electronic chess has been shown to help stave off panic attacks. While there haven’t been many large-scale studies that can support this data, one that was conducted in 2017 showed that a person who suffered from frequent panic attacks was able to focus on a chess app on their phone to reduce the symptoms associated with panic attacks while increasing the sense of calm. This effectively prevented the panic attack from progressing.
For children, the game of chess offers many special benefits.
- Critical thinking skills
- Social and relationship building skills
- Problem solving skills
As you can see, playing chess comes with many cognitive benefits including the ability to improve your creative abilities, planning and problem-solving skills, memory, empathy, and intelligence.
When played on a regular basis, it can also help with the symptoms of many health conditions including panic disorders, ADHD, and dementia. Additionally, playing this type of challenging game can help a person find a sense of flow, or it can improve the effectiveness of therapy.
If you’re considering purchasing a chess set, you should keep in mind that it can be a stressful and time-consuming game, especially if your goal is to master it or compete in tournaments. Fortunately, these drawbacks outweigh the potential cognitive health benefits that this game offers.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do You Pick a Good Chess Set?
Choose a set that has weighted pieces. If you plan on playing a game of speed chess, having weighted pieces is very important. If you plan on using this set often, make sure it’s durable. Plastic sets are designed with durability in mind and can last for years.
Why Are Chess Sets So Expensive?
There are actually very affordable chess sets on the market these days. However, if you come across a pricey set, the reason behind the higher price tag is the amount of work involved in producing the set. This often includes hand carved chess pieces and a board that’s made from high-quality wood.
Which Chess Piece is the Most Important?
The king is considered the most important piece in a chess set. The king cannot be taken off the board. The aim of the game of chess is to capture an opponent’s king while keeping your king protected.
Now that you know more about the size, weight, and style options available, you can choose the best chess sets based on your budget, skill level, and portability needs. Each of the chess sets included in my buyer’s guide offer the type of quality, durability, and price that most buyers are looking for. Whether you need a new set for a beginner, want to purchase your first digital board, or you want a new beautiful wooden board, you’ll find it here in my list of the top six chess sets that are dominating the market.