Chess Equipment

“I want to buy my son some chess equipment. But there is so much! Do you have any suggestions?” is an all too common question asked of me. So, here is a thorough walkthrough on how to buy chess equipment.

When starting out, you’ll need a chess board, a set of pieces, a bag to hold it all, and a chess clock. It is also encouraged to buy a notation booklet (also called a score book) as well for writing down all the moves of the game. Let’s begin with chess boards.

On the USCF Sales website, there are tons of board colors and designs. You can even customize your own board. But you should understand that the regulation colors for chess boards are

  1. White and dark green;
  2. Black and white;
  3. or wooden boards.

Blue, red, purple, pink, silver, gold, and all other types of colors do exist when buying chess boards. You can view all the customized boards and ideas for colors here and you can find more traditional colors here. However, most of these are just considered fun to own (and they do liven up chess clubs more). So, if your goal is to play in tournaments, consider getting a green/white or black/white board. For fun, and because it is cheap, you can obtain any other color you want for non-competitive games.

Customized boards have a few advantages over traditional pre-made boards. First, you can literally have your name imprinted on the board. This could be especially important for younger children who have trouble keeping up with stuff. Secondly, your school team can have their logo printed in the a8 and h1 squares on the chess board. You can see an example of this in the picture to the right and in this video:

Like customized boards, there are also Wildstyle boards, which feature tons of different images in the background of the chessboard. USCF Sales has everything from dragons and aliens to smiley faces and cupcakes. While these boards are not tournament legal, they can make a chess club way more interesting. I have given some away to kids who behaved well in the chess clubs I run.

Boards can also be made out of linensiliconpaper, or they can be made like an oversized mousepad. The linen boards fold nicely in half. The silicon boards can be scrunched up and shoved in a bag. When you bring it out of the bag, the board springs to life and lays flat. The paper boards are super affordable, especially if you are buying in bulk. Finally, the mouse pad boards are very durable and will last a long time. They do sit about a quarter of an inch off of the table which raises the pieces up a little bit.

You should also note that most tournament compliant boards are 2.375” squares. You can go slightly above that number as well. If you stick with that number, all pieces you buy will be able to work with the pieces you buy even up to the 4-inch pieces.

Now, once you settle on which board(s) you want to get, you’ll need a set of pieces. There are basically 3 things you need to know about purchasing chess sets:

  1. The color;
  2. the size;
  3. and the weight.

The only tournament legal colors are black/white, cream/black, and wooden pieces. So, if you intend on playing in tournaments, keep that in mind. If you don’t your opponent can complain that you aren’t using “standardized” or “regulation” pieces and you won’t get to use them.

Next, the size of pieces you buy is important. When reviewing piece sizes, they are all done based on the height of the king. So, if it says it is a 4-inch chess set that means the king is 4-inches tall and all the other pieces are smaller. The standard most common size is 3.75 inches. Going too much smaller than that is not a good idea if your goal is to be tournament compliant. Going up to 4-inches is fine for tournaments but unnecessary.

The weight of pieces varies between single, double, tripled, or in some cases quadruple weighted pieces (single weighted pieces are the most common). Buying a weighted set is very good if you want to play in tournaments or play speed chess (Blitz chess) with friends because the weights, located in the bottom of the chess pieces, keep the pieces from falling over when bumped. However, if you have a kindergartner, I recommend just sticking to “single weighted” as your mighty chess warrior may not have the muscles to lug around heavy pieces just yet.

Now that you understand the variables, you can determine which set(s) are for you.

If you’re interested to buy a board, bag, and set all at once, there are also combo deals. Some of the combos include clocks and score books. Combos are a good way to save money if you know you need everything.

Finally, if you need a chess bag, you have a few options: has all the bags you could ever want. There are different colors, styles, and you can even customize them. I hesitate to give advice on which bag to buy because I find it is more a matter of taste. The most common chess bags you’ll see at tournaments are the rectangular shaped bags.