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Travel Chess Set Styles (besides Magnetic)

Travel Chess Sets

Not long ago I made a post on magnetic chess sets – I wanted to do a quick post on travel sets – and as you can imagine, there is a great deal of overlap. However, not all travel chess sets are magnetic (one could argue that all magnetic sets are for travel) This post will fill in the blanks of the other types of chessboards and chessmen often used for travel.

Other types of Travel Chess Sets

While magnetic chess sets are often used for travel, their main drawback is their size. Many people find them simply to small to use effectively if you are playing someone else.

While it may work for a casual, quick game in a car – it’s probably not the most suitable option if you’re looking to relax and play a game of chess while on vacation. The chess pieces are tiny and hard to move, and the small squares often cause a distraction. If you are looking for a travel set and a magnetic one is not for you, there are two options worth considering: wood folding chess sets and tournament chess sets.

folding chess sets

A huge assortment Folding Chess Sets for Travel

Folding Chess Set

A folding set shares a lot in common with magnetic chess boards with a few notable differences. The most important? Many of these sets are much, much larger. While magnetic chess boards are usually no larger than 12″ or so, there are folding chess sets from 15″ up to 21″ long. That is tournament size, but due to the fact they fold in half they are still suitable for travel (although many are better placed in luggage as opposed to carried in hand!)

The idea is that you can transport the chess set easily, and then take it out and play on location. Think of it less something to be used on the way, but more as something a little nicer to be used at the destination. A travel chess set like this will have bigger chess pieces, will always have built in storage to put the pieces away, and comes in a number of designs both traditional and unique.

Many purchase folding chessboards as a go-to every day use set at home or for children. They can easily be stored in a closet or under a bed, and a set that is 16″ or so can be folded up and put in a backpack or overnight back quite easily.

Finally, folding chess sets have the option of being much more unique than any magnetic sets could be. The line of chess sets we get from Poland is a great example – the Ambassador, Senator, and Consul all have individual slot storage and elaborate carvings on the board as well as an eastern European design for the chess pieces (You can tell because the king’s cross and the top of the queens are the opposite color). Not only are these sets portable, but they are also very attractive and different.

chess combination travel chess set

Some of our tournament travel chess sets

Tournament Combination Chess Set

The other very common option for a travel chess set is the tournament combination set. These chess sets are the ones most frequently seen in clubs, schools, and tournaments and have a few notable elements.

These are the best option for a full, tournament sized travel chess set. The chess boards are generally 20″ by 20″ with full sized chess pieces that have a 3 1/2″ to 4 1/4″ king height. The way to make such a large chess set suitable for travel? The chessboards are made from materials that can be easily rolled up, making a durable, light, and portable option for a travel chess set. They have a number of various options that make customization easy for the travel chess set you want.

The chess boards traditionally have been made from vinyl, but there are two other ‘fancier’ options now regularly available. The first are “mousepad” chess boards, which have a rubberized backing much like a mouse pad for your computer, and silicone chess boards – because these are baked, they will always retain their shape, and are much thinner and less stiff than a mousepad board. You can scrunch these up in to a ball and they will always pop back out in to shape!

The next advantage of chess combination sets is that they have the option of having the largest chess pieces and the heaviest (by far!) of all the travel chess set options. There are a number of styles and colors and many are extremely well weighted. If you see some folks playing chess in the park, it’s usually with weighted tournament chessmen.

They also have a number of chess bags available to store and truly turn the combination set in to a travel chess set. These range from inexpensive loop bags (a pouch for the pieces with a loop underneath to store the roll-up chess mat) to padded long bags that have pouches for each color of chess pieces, internal storage for the chess board, as well as a place for a chess clock and chess score book.

Not only are these chess sets larger with greater customization available compared to other travel chess sets, but they are also the most affordable – you can generally get a set of chess pieces and a chessboard for under ten dollars, or get a heavy set with all the upgrades for still under thirty or forty.

Why is this other item not more of a travel option? How can I make it one?

Finally, I thought it is worth mentioning the chess sets that are not for travel. It is often asked how to make the fancier, hand carved wooden Staunton chess pieces or the fragile resin theme chess pieces more suitable as a travel chess set.

The fact is, they’re not. There are not many options for bags or travel cases for flat wooden chess sets because they are not only cumbersome, but that is not what they are meant for. Those chess sets should be left for display or careful play at home. If you are really looking for a travel chess set, just pick up another set and leave your flat sets at home!

I hope you found this post informative.


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