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ChessUSA Preparing for the Holidays: Chess Buying Guide

Chess Set Buying Guide 2016

2016 Chess Holiday Buying Guide – Chess Sets

Finding the right gift can be exceptionally tricky when you’re looking at a chess set or other traditional game. There are literally hundreds to choose from, and you can often pair different pieces with boards. In theory this is fantastic; you can find the exact item you’re looking by combining exactly the right pieces with exactly the right board. After all, chess sets are often considered a work of art. Practically speaking though, this can be difficult if you’re shopping for a loved one and get overwhelmed with all the choices. This year, I have put together a chess holiday buying guide to show you many of the standard options.  If you are thinking of getting a loved one a chess set this holiday, I’m here to help. 


Chess Sets for Travel or Display

The first major decision to make is whether you’re looking for a portable or display chess set. Portable sets include tournament sets, magnetic sets, and folding sets with a large variety of options to choose from.  Our display sets are gorgeously crafted from high-end materials that you’ll be proud to incorporate into the decor of your home.

Magnetic chess sets work best for the chess player on the go. While often smaller than other sets, if you suspect the recipient will spend a lot of time traveling, these sets are a fantastic idea.  My favorites are a new line we carry; they come in four sizes and two different colors. The magnets are extremely powerful and they come with a zipper case with storage for each piece. The best feature is that while most magnetic sets on the market are folding – meaning that you cannot store the pieces mid-game – our sets have individual foam slots for each piece.  Since storage is handled by the case itself you can easily store pieces during a game, which helps reduce the risk of misplacing a piece during play.

Magnetic Chess Set with Carrying Case
8″ Rosewood Magnetic Chess Set with Carrying Case
8″ Ebonized Magnetic Chess Set with Carrying Case
9 3/4″ Rosewood Magnetic Chess Set with Carrying Case
9 3/4″ Ebonized Magnetic Chess Set with Carrying Case
11 3/4″ Rosewood Magnetic Chess Set with Carrying Case
11 3/4″ Ebonized Magnetic Chess Set with Carrying Case

See our full line of Magnetic Chess Sets here


Folding sets are often larger than magnetic sets and come in an extremely wide selection in terms of style and size. Our rule of thumb is that 15 – 16″ is an easily playable size and makes for a convenient travel set.   The largest (21″) are full tournament size boards and, while they pack up nicely, are  a tad more cumbersome and often work best as a set you’re planning to put away when not in use. You can take them to a friends house, but they’re not the sets you would want to keep in a backpack or bag at all times.  All of our folded sets listed here have storage for the pieces on the inside and a number have the notation around the edges of the board for tracking moves.

I have always really liked the Consul and similar designed folding sets. We import these from Poland and I think they have a styling that is both traditional – you can easily tell which piece is which – but also unique enough to stand out from a ‘plain old chess set’ you might get from a toy or department store. The Consul is 19″, which is a nice size without being too overwhelming and it also comes in smaller (The Senator, 16″) or larger (The Ambassador, 21”) sizes.

Consul Folding Chess Set
19″ Consul Folding Chess Set

See our full line of Folding Chess Sets here


Chess Sets for Display

Finding the right display chess set traditionally has been tricky; there are dozens of boards and hundreds of chessmen to choose from. We’ve made it a little easier this year by combining some very popular designs in several price ranges.  This should give you a good head start on choosing a fine chess set if you haven’t got the time or inclination to build your own. The main question to consider is simple use; will your set be mainly for play or as a decorative fixture in your home?

If you’re looking for a good, high quality set that can be played with daily, I strongly recommend our new chess sets with storage case. These chess sets are actually quite portable and can be in either category, but I’ve chosen to put them as a display set because they are nice enough to be left out. The high quality storage bag offers a place for the hi-gloss wooden chess pieces. It will also hold the board if you want to travel with it.

Rosewood Chess Set with Carrying Case
13 1/4″ Honey Rosewood Chess Set with Carrying Case
13 1/4″ Ebonized Chess Set with Carrying Case
15 1/2″ Honey Rosewood Chess Set with Carrying Case
15 1/2″ Ebonized Chess Set with Carrying Case

There are several other good options for every-day display sets. I suggest that your guiding principle for these sets should be that the pieces are nice and sturdy without little ears or crown points that can be easily chipped. Some of our more decorative sets can be fragile when put to daily use. No one wants to accidentally damage their high end luxury chess set during a game of blitz!

Of course, if you are looking for a fantastic display piece for any home, I can’t recommend the Luxe Legionnaires chess sets enough. These sets come with a fantastic, Spanish-made Mark of Westminster Presidential Chess board – complete with mosaic and beveled edging. The pieces are the classic Legionnaire design; high quality and tastefully detailed without being over the top. These sets come in both ebony and crimson rosewood in two sizes – an executive 3″ king height with 18″ board, or full tournament size 4″ pieces with 21″ board.

Crimson Rosewood Luxe Imperator Chess Set
3″ Pure Ebony Luxe Legionnaires Chess Set
3″ Crimson Rosewood Luxe Legionnaires Chess Set
4″ Pure Ebony Luxe Legionnaires Chess Set
4″ Crimson Rosewood Luxe Legionnaires Chess Set

There are plenty of other options on our site. For some, the best part of the right chess set are those little details that fit the recipient’s own aesthetic. We have prebuilt flat wooden traditional chess sets starting around $79.95 and a variety of sets that include storage as either a box or built in compartments within the chess board. Take a look in our flat chess set section at all of the options. There is something for everyone and if you don’t find what you’re looking for remember that you can always build your own chess set from our massive selection of chess pieces and chess boards!)

See our collection of flat traditional chess sets here

Additional Chess Gift Ideas

Of course, some people are just getting started. We have a number of great beginner chess sets for the novice just getting ready to play their first games. These sets are good because they either have clear, instructional books included on how to play chess (often very kid friendly) or they actually have the moves of the chess pieces on the board or pieces themselves as a reminder for the young and old alike.

See our full line of Instructional Chess Sets here

Tournament chess sets are always worth consideration as a gift idea.  They are big and inexpensive and are often the sets used by clubs, schools and tournaments all over the country.  A nice weighted tournament set starts around $14.95.  From there you can add a bag, upgrade to a high quality crease-proof silicone board, add a clock, or choose from a number of board and piece colors to customize your own tournament set. 

See our full line of Tournament Chess Sets here

I hope this helps get you started! We have some exciting things planned later this week as we get ready to roll out some special savings for Black Friday and beyond, so follow us and keep your eyes peeled!

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