There are so many different chess sets out there, what’s the best chess set to purchase? It can be confusing to choose the right one. My advice is to purchase a tournament regulation chess set. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) states that each square on the chessboard should measure 2.25″ from one corner to the other. The size of the King should be 3.75″ tall and its base should measure 1.5″. The types of pieces you should look for are Staunton style. Virtually all chess tournaments use this international standard. To learn more about the history of Staunton, please visit the House of Staunton website.
The best chess set to purchase:
To save you time (and maybe money), I would recommend the following set:
The carrying case is a nice bonus. It is a must-have if you plan on playing at tournaments or your local coffeehouse. There are more expensive sets you can buy of course but I would stick with this one. The pieces are not weighted. This can be a challenge during blitz chess. Players will sometimes tip over a piece during time scrambles. To solve this problem, you can buy the double or triple-weighted sets. However, for your first purchase, you really can’t do better than this.
Some other notes about the best chess set to purchase:
Plastic vs. Wooden chess sets
Plastic chess sets are more functional than wooden sets. This is particularly true if you play blitz chess. Pieces often get dropped in the midst of a blitz chess time scramble. Plastic pieces just bounce around and come to rest somewhere.
Wooden pieces don’t bounce as easily. I once dropped a wooden pawn on a hard tile floor and its head broke off. I was able to crazy glue it back together but the pawn never looked the same. If this happens to the King or Queen, it can mean an expensive replacement. If you carry pieces around with you, plastic pieces are the way to go. They are less likely to break and are easy to replace. Lastly, plastic sets usually ship with an extra queen. Wooden sets do not!
Travel and pocket sets
For chess study, pocket sets make a lot of sense. They are portable and easy to transport. You can carry your set and your books all in one hand and take them wherever you want. I’ve taken my Drueke magnetic pocket set everywhere, from a McDonald’s to a local park.
For preparing to play in tournament games though, you should play with a tournament-regulation sized set and here’s why: It is important to replicate the tournament playing experience wherever possible.
Switching from small magnetic pieces to a regulation set can take some getting used to. During my first tournament game, I was taken aback by how big the squares were. This was compared to a smaller set I was using to prepare for the tournament. Travel sets are the best chess set to purchase when the focus is portability and flexibility.
Build or buy
On a separate but related topic, I came across an interesting YouTube channel that has videos on how to create a wooden chess set. If you have the skills (and the equipment) you can make your own high quality wooden set by following Conrad’s instructions.
It’s important to note that Conrad now only shows you how to create each piece but the chessboard too. If anyone tries this, please send photos and information that I can share with the rest of our readers. My guess is that the time it takes to make a set would be best spent on buying one but you tell me! The best chess set to purchase might be making your own!