If you’re the chess-playin’ type, then you know the importance of a good set. A board suited for travel keeps the game going while, er, on the go. A great-looking set can keep you engaged and wanting to play. The most stylish of sets can also spruce up a room as a design element and spark impromptu games.
Regardless of where you find yourself, if you’re looking for a good chess set, we have you covered. Here’s how to pick the right set for your needs, along with some of the best out there right now.
What to Look for in a Chess Set
While chess sets might look straightforward from the outside, there are a few things to consider before purchasing.
- Material: What the board and pieces are made out of can greatly affect your game. Certain materials are more durable, while others make for weightier pieces. And, of course, some materials flat-out look nicer—it just comes down to what you value.
- Size: If you’re a competitive player, you know the size of the board affects the size of the squares. The standard competitive size for squares (decided upon by the U.S. Chess Federation [USCF]) is 2 to 2.5 inches long.
- Pieces: Heavier pieces stay in place better and are less likely to be knocked over, so it’s typically recommended to find pieces with weights in them. Felt or padded bottoms can also help the pieces slide without scratching the board. The USCF also has a standard height for pieces, with the guideline stating the king should be 3.375 to 4.5 inches tall.
Now that you know all this, let’s look at some great chess sets.
Best Wooden Set: Weigel Handmade European Ambassador Chess Set
Weigel is known for its high-quality wooden chess sets, and the European Ambassador set is no different. Handcrafted from birch and beech wood, the board keeps things looking beautiful while still being able to clearly differentiate the different sides. The board measures at 21.65 x 21.65 inches and folds up for portability. (There’s also storage for the pieces in the board.) The squares and king are standard size, being exactly 2.24 inches long and 4.5 inches tall, respectively.
If you love the look and feel of wood and want a board that still plays well, this is it.
Wegiel Handmade European Ambassador Chess Set - Wooden 21 Inch Beech & Birch Board With Felt Base - Carved Hornbeam & Sycamore Wood Chess Pieces - Compartment Inside The Board To Store Each Piece
A beautiful, handcrafted set that plays as well as it looks.
Best Marble Set: RADICALn Handmade Marble Chess Set
If you want something a bit fancier looking, RADICALn’s marble set does a job giving a premium feel to the classic black and white chess look. This 15 x 15 handcrafted pure marble board looks and plays great. The pure marble pieces have a satisfying weight to them. The squares are about two inches long, but due to the board being handmade, there can be small variances. The king is three inches tall.
RADICALn 15 Inches Large Handmade White and Black Weighted Marble Full Chess Game Set Staunton and Ambassador Style Marble Tournament Chess Sets for Adults - Non Wooden - Non Magnetic - No Digital Dgt
Handcrafted from smooth marble, the board has a subdued yet premium look and the pieces are satisfying to play with.
Best Glass Set: GamieTM Glass Chess Set
A pure glass chess set can be a lovely thing to have in a room, and GamieTM nailed the look. The two sides are represented by clear or frosted glass, making it easy to tell to which side each piece belongs. The pieces have a nice weight to them, and the felt bottoms help to avoid damaging the board.
You can choose between a 7 x 7-, 10 x 10-, or 14 x 14-inch board. The square size on the 14 x 14 is 1.5 inches. (Unfortunately, the square sizes for the 7 x 7 and 10 x 10 are not available, and the king’s height isn’t available for any of them.)
Best Decorative Set: CHH Roman Gladiators Chess Set
If you’re looking to spend a lot on a very nice looking chess set, then this one should definitely be on your radar. It is a solid piece of glass suspended over a resin recreation of the Roman Colosseum. The base is incredibly detailed and would grab anyone’s attention the second they walk into the room. The entire base is 20.2 x 20.2 inches, but the board itself is 13.5 x 13.5 (with the square size being 1.5 inches).
The chess pieces are made out of silver and brass (for the white and black sides respectively) and are modeled after Roman soldiers and colosseum fighters, with each side having their own designs. The kings are three inches tall.
As an alternative, if you don’t want to spend nearly $300 on an extravagant chess set, we also recommend HPL’s Medieval Times set which is about half the price. Another great looking board, even if it’s not as detailed as the CHH set.
16.25" Roman Gladiators 3D Chess Set, Bronze & Silver Color
Highly detailed and made out of premium materials, this set is a great decorative piece.
Best Travel Set: A&A ALEX.H & ABEL.C Folding Chess Set
If you want a chess set that’s easy to take on trips, A&A’s got the board for you. This 10 x 10-inch board can be folded in half for easy transport. Need to move to a different room mid-match? Well, the board (and pieces) are fully magnetized so you can be sure the pieces will stay in place. Due to the board’s small size, the squares are only 1.1 inches, but the kings still come in at an ample three inches tall.
The box double acts as a carrying case, and a set of checkers are also included, although they aren’t magnetized.
10" Magnetic Folding Chess and Checkers Set / Suitable for Travel and Starters
If you need to move your chess set frequently, or want to take it with you on a trip, this magnetized and folding board makes that easier.
Best Tournament Set: Wholesale Chess Board
If chess is no mere game to you, you’ll want a board that meets every USCF standard.
Wholesale Chess is known for making professional chess equipment, and in line with that, this board meets all the USCF standards and regulations. It has the standard 2.25-inch-long squares, 3.25-inch-tall kings, notations for all the squares, and triple-weighted pieces. (It even comes with an additional set of queens.) The board itself is created out of a soft material and made to be easily rolled up and stuck in the included canvas bag for travel. When rolled out, the board is 20 x 20 inches.
If you’re serious about chess, this is the board for you.
Wholesale Chess Triple Weighted Pieces and Mousepad Board Chess Set (Black)
Professionals don't need any fancy pieces or extravagant boards, and this roll-out board makes practicing anywhere simple.