Chess Set and Chess Pieces Sizing Guidelines
we receive email and phone calls with people asking questions about
chess piece & chessboard sizing, as well as color matching
issues. We have provided this page as a resource for answering some of
these questions. It is to be used as a guideline only, since the final
selection of your chess set is a matter of subjective interpretation.
Our hope is this guideline will give you a starting point from which to
make a proper selection for your particular taste. Of course, you can
always give us a call if you have more questions than is covered by the
scope of this page. After all, some of us do like to hear ourselves
1-1: A nice little chess set that looks balanced is a
of the most common questions asked by our customers is "What
size chess board should I use for my chess pieces?",
or visa-versa. Let's examine our options together.
Tournament Sizing Standards
sizing of chess pieces to a chess board is mostly a matter of personal
taste. Tournament play is the exception to this, since very clear
specifications are given by the governing bodies as to the specific
sizes of pieces and boards. For example, the US Chess Federation, the
governing body for chess in the United States has specific "Equipment
Standards" outlined in their rules. For chess pieces they specify a
King that measures 3 3/8" to 4 1/2" with a base diameter of 40-50% of
For chessboard proportions the USCF specifies:
chess pieces should fit comfortably on the chess board, being neither
too crowded nor too isolated on the squares. The king and
queen, for example, should be subject to easy placement on a square
without touching any edge. Chess boards for standard sets
should have squares of approximately 2 - 2 1/2 inches (5.08 -
6.35cm). One convenient test is that the square formed by the
bases of four pawns should be about the same size as any square on
their board." - The USCF's Official Rules
of Chess/compiled and sanctioned by the U.S. Chess Federation. -4th
Ed., ISBN 0-8129-2217-4, David McKay Company, INC., pgs. 165-166
happens to be one guideline given for a specific application; it is
used when playing in USCF sanctioned tournaments. To see how this looks
refer to Fig. 1-2. You can see that the four pawn method gives a fairly
balanced appearance to the set and board in this case. But what happens
if your chess set has unusually wide bases on the pawns? Or what if the
king has a base diameter of less than 40% of the height?
1-2: A chess set that meets USCF standards
Nonstandard Chess Sizing
examine some options when your chess sets, boards, or your personal
taste differs from the tournament standards. We shall attempt to give
you specific examples for "Staunton pattern"
pieces and "non-Staunton" pieces.
are some examples of some "Staunton pattern"
sets we carry along with sizes of boards they work with. You can also
use this for reference, and comparison, on sizes, colors and dimensions
within the selections. Bear in mind, the four pawn guideline may not
work in the case of many chessmen available, since each manufacturer
makes its pieces with different styles. Consider also your personal
sense of the aesthetic.
you look at our descriptions of chess pieces you will notice that we
always include the height and base diameter of the kings. This is
because we have found an effective method of choosing a board for a
given set of chessmen. This is called"The
It's a simple little guideline that says the kings base diameter should
be 75% of the playing square diameter of your chessboard.Simple!Well
not really, there are always exceptions to any rule, but for the most
part we find this works fairly well with most "Staunton pattern"
you examine Fig. 1-3 & Fig. 1-4, you will see"The
application. This king measures 1 3/4 inch base diameter and the
chessboard has playing squares measuring 2 1/4 inches. This works out
so the kings diameter is about 75% of the size of the square.
Figure 1-2: An
example of the "The 75% Guideline"
Figure 1-4: The
complete view of "The 75% Guideline"
examine what chess sets would look like outside this guideline. Figure
1- shows a chess set that has pieces that are larger than the"75%
As you can see the chessmen seem crowded on the board. The result is it
is difficult to play a game. It also impairs anyone viewing the
chessmen from having the ability to clearly appreciate the beauty of
1-5: A crowded chessboard
the opposite is also true. Figure 1-6 depicts a set where the pieces
are smaller than the"The
In this case the pieces seem lost on the chess board. There is so much
space between pieces, the positions during game play become unclear,
especially during the endgame phase, when there are few pieces on the
chessboard. Aesthetically the chess pieces also give the appearance of
being not very impressive.
Help! We're lost in a checkerboard sea!
situations occur commonly when some folks choose a chessboard to fit on
a table, or some other space set aside, in their home, and do not
consider the size of the chess pieces they own or intend to purchase.
If you already own pieces, your choice of chessboard should be limited
to the size of the pieces exclusively. If you are considering
purchasing both chessboard and chess pieces, then choose the board
first to fit your home, then pick pieces appropriate for that
chessboard, in that order.
you follow this guideline when selecting a chessboard and chess pieces
you can be sure that the proportions will be pleasing. If you want the
pieces a bit more close together than in the above images, add 5% and
if you like more space subtract 5% from the guideline. We feel that if
you increase or decrease the proportions greater than +/- 5%, you will
end up in the situation mentioned above. Follow this guideline for "Staunton pattern"
chessmen. But what about non-Staunton sets?
gets a bit more difficult, since the proportions of height to base
diameter varies greatly in non-Staunton chessmen. In addition, some
chessmen are wider at some point then the diameter of their bases. Such
is the case of the chess set pictured in Fig. 1-6, where the royal garb
of King George extend out beyond the diameter of the base. This
chessboard is the smallest size we recommend. This Palisander
chessboard has squares measuring 2 3/4", which is one of the larger
chessboards in our selection.
1-7: King George needs a diet or a new tailor!
is one of those cases where you probably need to give us a call. That's
one of great things about Your Move Chess & Games; we always
have someone here to answer any of your specific questions. If you have
any questions just give us a call and we would be happy to help you in
Colors and Contrast
common question by our customers is,"What
color chess pieces go with this color chessboard?",
or visa versa. Now we enter a world as vague as the Twilight Zone! We
have distilled this down to two basic issues. Matching the pieces and
chess board aesthetically or the pieces and board having high relative
contrast for the ease of playing a game. Let's examine the former first
and then return to understand the latter.
the pieces and chessboard together for an aesthetically pleasing look
is relatively simple. One usually considers the dark pieces and playing
squares of each, and then match them accordingly. Most white side chess
pieces, made from wood, are carved fromBoxwood.
With chessboards, the white square are usually made fromMaple,AspenorErable.
This should be of little concern. The dark side (no intentional
reference here to Darth Vader) can be comprised of many different
"flavors" of woods or materials. If you would like , go to our
Wonderful Woods pages to learn all about the subject of woods used in
When aesthetics is the primary concern, we usually recommend to
consider where the board will be used. Let's say you have a beautifulMahoganytable
that you plan to display and play on. Then obviously aMahoganychessboard
would be a good choice. Then you could choose pieces in aHoney Rosewood,
or even a Crimson Rosewood,
which would go with it very nicely.
shows our Brown
& Natural chess set with one of our large Mahogany chessboards.
As you can see the chess pieces and chessboard match nicely, in terms
1-8: A color matched chess set
explore the visually high contrast set which provides a clear playing
field for serious play. It is sometimes advantageous to have the pieces
& chessboard show a characteristically high contrast in color
between the pieces and the playing squares. The pieces do not match the
colors of the board, but instead contrast. This makes it very easy to
see the pieces and positions during a game. Figure 1-8 depicts a good
example of this type of high contrast clarity. The black &
white lacquered pieces are in good contrast to theWalnut & Aspen Drueke
chessboard with 2 3/4" playing squares
1-9: A high contrast chess set
this guideline was as fun for you as it was for me to write it.
Here to see our entire selection of Chess Sets
Here to see our entire selection of Chess Pieces
Here to see our entire selection of Chess Boards
Looking for Tournament Chess Sets?
If you're looking for a tournament set of chess pieces with a chess board included, take a look at our assortment of tournament chess sets via this link: Tournament Chess Sets
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