How to buy chess sets - options and considerations

At ChessUSA, we have an amazong assortment of products – from chess sets and chess boards to chess computers and other games, such as backgammon, dominos, and mah-jong.

Sometimes, that makes it just a little bit difficult to find the perfect gift. Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to buy a chess set for a friend or loved one and find that there are over a hundred different options. It certainly does not help when the person buying the chess set has little or no knowledge about chess or chess sets.

Don’t worry, we’re here to help making your chess game (or other game) purchase a little bit easier. We have created a list of many of the types of chess sets, chess equipment, or other games that people are often looking for. Not only do we give some background in to how to start your search for the perfect gift, but we also give tips on how to find the perfect chess gift.

If you're looking for a chess board, we have a full guide for helping you choose the right one. You can see the whole guide here:

Our Guide on Buying Chess Boards (no pieces) Learn More Traditional Chess Sets (Chess Pieces and Chess Board) these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Staunton Chess Sets Traditional Chess Sets (also known as Staunton Chess Sets) are one of the most popular types of chess set that people are looking for. Unfortunately, it is also one of the more difficult to find the correct set. Often, the chess pieces and chess boards are bought separately. To make it easier to match the correct chess board with a set of chess pieces, we offer the chess boards as “options” with any of the set of chess pieces. This saves time in that it puts all of the chess board options in one place. Further, we have already matched up the appropriate size chess boards for the chess pieces.

Staunton Chess Sets come in a large variety of shapes and sizes. While they often come as a flat chess board and chess pieces, they also sometimes come as a folding chess set that includes storage. Both of these are popular options, but you will often find the quality of the pieces are better in flat sets. You can find out more about the folding staunton sets further down on this page, but we have included a few that have more unique or high quality chess pieces in this section of our guide.

Still, buying a Staunton chess set may still seem confusing and overwhelming. Chess pieces come in a variety of sizes and woods, with prices ranging from thirty dollars to several hundred dollars. To this end we have created a number of introductory Staunton chess sets – they are the same weighted, hand-carved chess pieces that we sell, but already matched up with a suitable chess board for one price.

Traditional Chess Sets (Travel or Magnetic) these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Magnetic / Portable Chess Sets Portable or Magnetic Chess Sets come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Some of the most important issues to consider would be: Will this chess set be an adequate size? Will there be storage for the chess pieces? Can I save my position and come back to the game later without removing all of the chess pieces?

One of our most popular magnetic chess sets is the Best Magnetic Chess Set. What makes this chess set special is that not only do the magnetic chess pieces hold particularly well, they have individual slot storage to carefully save each of the pieces during play.  Many chess sets are folding, meaning that if you wish to pause your game, you may have to take all of the chess pieces off the chess board. The compartments mean you're much less likely to lose a chess piece during the game. 

Additionally, these sets come in mutilpe sizes and wood options.  It ranges from a miniature version (only 6") up to a large size that is nearly 12".  Personally, we find the 'small' (8") and 'medium' (10") to be the most useful; not too small to see the pieces while still small enough to easily transport.  The small and medium size best magnetic chess sets are excellent to take on a plane or bus. Overall, it is a great all-rounder for magnetic chess sets.

Traditional Chess Sets (Folding with Storage) these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Magnetic / Portable Chess Sets Folding Chess Sets are one of the most popular styles of chess sets used as gifts. These chess sets include their own chess pieces and have compartments to store the chess pieces when not in use. This makes folding chess sets ideal for people who may not have the space to leave a chess set out on display. Usually these sets are a bit larger than the magnetic options. While still portable, they are best used in a stationary location as opposed to while on the move.

Folding chess sets come in a large variety of sizes, usually from as small as 10” to as large as 21”. They also come in a number of woods and styles. Due to their variety we recommend you browse our complete selection if you are interested in a folding chess set, however, we have chosen some of our more popular and unique folding chess sets to highlight.

The Senator is a popular folding chess set due to its nice size added to its unique styling. Unlike many folding chess sets with relatively simple style chess pieces, the Senator has a unique eastern European style in the design of both of the chess pieces and the chess board itself. If you are looking for a folding chess set that is also a bit unusal or unique, the Senator may be for you.

Alternatively, there are 'elite' versions of these folding sets that have a more traditional design if you're less inclined to the rustic flair. We also have several options that come with bags - perfect for if you want to bring your folding chess set to a friends house or on vacatiton.

Buy a Chess Set - Traditional Traditional Staunton Chess Sets Flat Chess Sets Shop Now Traditional Staunton Chess Sets Folding Chess Sets Shop Now Traditional Staunton Chess Sets Best Sellers Shop Now Traditional Chess Sets (Tournament and Club) these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Chess Club and Tourament Sets If you are looking for a chess set to use for a chess club or chess tournament, look no further than our Tournament Chess Sets. Traditionally, chess players do not use wood chess pieces or a wood chess board when playing in a tournament or chess club. There are two reasons for this. First, a tournament sized chessboard is quite large and unwieldy. Second, you do not know who you will be playing with. No one would want to risk that their opponent may not respect their nice, hand carved wood chess pieces!

Instead, proper tournament supplies consist of a roll-up chess board and plastic chess pieces. The roll up boads are traditionally vinyl but also some in silicone and mousepad styles; the boards (as well as chess bags) are options you can often add to a set to customize to your exact needs.  Our most popular chess set for tournament use is our professional tournament combination set. This is an affordable chess set that includes solid plastic chess pieces and a roll-up vinyl chessboard that is available in several colors. Our second most popular chess set is our weighted professional combination set. This chess set looks exactly the same but the chess pieces have metal weights in their bases for a heavier feel.

There are several other tournament sets available. These sets may be slightly larger, or have a different mold to have more of the look and feel of an expensive chess set while still being affordable. You can also buy the parts individually if you just need a board, bag, or pieces and not a full set.

Instructional and Teaching Chess Sets these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Teaching Chess Sets If you are looking to get a chess set for someone who is new to the game, there are several instructional chess sets available. These chess sets are helpful in that they are not only a fully functional chess set, but they also have aids to remind you how the chess pieces move.

If the new chess player is younger, you may want to consider options like "Once a pawn a time". This chess set includes a visual description of how the pieces move with a work storybook combination to keep children engaged. In addition, it comes with a chess book that colorfully explains the game and how the pieces move.

If the new chess player is older, the Bobby Fischer: Learn to Play Chess may be right for you. This chess set is larger, with no written out descriptions. However, it has all the moves shown directly on the board as a quick reference guide.  It is a good reference for players who are aware of the rules for chess but need a reminder on what chess piece does what.

Theme Chess Sets and Pieces these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Theme Chess Sets Choosing a theme chess set is probably the most difficult of all. Unfortunately, they are also the most difficult chess sets to offer a recommendation for. Figurine chess sets come in virtually every theme, from Crusaders and the American Civil War to Aliens and Dinosaurs. Often these sets are for the chess pieces only with the chess board as an option. Some of these chess boards provide storage for the chess pieces, and others carry a theme, such as a medieval fortress. It all comes down to personal preference.

Another consideration is the material. Most figurine chess pieces are made out of polystone, which is a stone and resin mix. However, there are also figurine chess pieces made from pewter, crushed marble, alloy metals, and occasionally even wood. While metal chess sets will be the most durable, the popular polystone chess pieces are generally affordable and extremely well detailed that hold up to handling remarkably well. Polystone is a bit more fragile and is best as a 'display' set, while pewter and metal pieces can stand up to the rigors of regular play.

If you do not know what theme chess set to go with, t/hink about the interests of the person outside of chess. Do they like Animals? History? Fantasy? Sports ? We have categorized our theme chess sets to make the hunt a little bit easier.

Alternately, sometimes people are looking at theme chess pieces to accurately represent traditional chess pieces but in a figurine form. The most popular option for this would be the medieval theme chess pieces. Here you will find knights, crusaders, and more, where the king is a king, the bishop is a bishop, and the knight is a knight.

Chess Computers these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Chess Computers Finding the right tabletop chess computer can be difficult. In general, tabletop chess computers have more similarities than differences. Many of them have the same size and style of chess pieces and chessboard. All have the ability to take back moves, or receive a hint. Most chess computers have many levels and can play novices and experts alike. While there are many gimmicks that made chess computers different from each other, the main difference is the speed of the processor. Although all computers can play at an expert level, a $40.00 chess computer may take several minutes to make the same move that takes a $100.00 chess computer a few seconds.

There are two types of tabletop electronic chess sets. The most common are pressure sensory chess computers. In these chess computers, in order to move your chess pieces you push down on the piece you are moving, and then push down again on the square you are moving to. A display screen will show your computer opponents move, which you will carry out in the same manner as how you move your own.

The second type of tabletop electronic chess set are autosensory chess computers. These are much less common and generally more expensive than pressure sensory models. Instead of pushing the chess piece down, you can simply lift up your piece and put it down on the square you would like to move it to. A sensor records the move automatically, so no pushing is necessary. Just be careful not to slide the chess pieces across the chessboard!

While there are a number of minor differences between different models, In general, the rule of thumb is to get the strongest and fastest chess computer for your budget. If you get a chess computer that is too weak, you may find that you will outgrow it and that it is no longer able to challenge you in a game that takes a reasonable amount of time. The more powerful the chess computer, the more room there is for you to continue to be challenged as you improve.

There are many other chess computers available with a number of specialized features, such as additional display screen, the ability to play checkers as well as chess, oversized chess pieces, and more. You can see all of the chess computers but we recommend the DGT Centaur because it feaures nice, easy to see squares with big pieces - it offers hints on possible moves, and adapts to your ability so it always plays a challenging game.

A final note about chess computers - there used to be many hand-held models from peg machines to calculator style hand-helds. These have largely disappeared as you can use your own personal smart phone with an inexpensive (or free) app for this purpose.  LIkewise, software is now almost entirely downloaded so we no longer carry the physical DVDs of chess teaching and training programs.

Chess Clocks these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Chess Clocks and Timers Buying Chess Clocks is not as difficult as you may think. Although many people are unfamiliar with chess clocks, that are important aspect of a tournament game (or a game where you have a really slow chess partner!). In chess, you time by total game time, not by move. Therefore, you may spend 1 minute on one move, then 15 minutes on the next. You can use up your time any way you want, but if you run out before your opponent – you lose.

There are two types of chess timers. Analog Chess Clocks are the traditional style that have been used for decades. These clocks have two faces with a standard 12 hour clock on them. You simply divide the total playing time in half between the two players. As the time runs towards the hour, a red flag will raise. When time is up, the red flag falls, and you have lost on time. These chess clocks can be either wind-up or battery operated. These are not used often anymore as they cannot accommodate important features such as delay or bonus time.

Digital Chess clocks have been growing in popularity. They offer all the advantages of the analog clocks, but allow for many more different timing options. In addition, digital chess timers have large LCD displays that make it easier to see the amount of time remaining. If you plan to play a lot of fast-paced games, a digital chess clock is a must. While some digital chess clocks can be very expensive, many are not much more than the cost of the older analog chess timers. It ultimately depends on what features you need for your clock.

If you are looking for a digital chess clock, the DGT North American Chess Clock is a good choice. This electronic timer gives you everything you need in a sturdy design. It is ideal for both tournaments and blitz games and a host of both built in a customizable time controls.

Chess Multigame Sets these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Multi-Game Chess Sets Sometimes a chess set isn’t enough. When you want more than just a chess set, you look to the multigame chess sets (chess, backgammon, and more - all in one). These will include other games such as checkers, backgammon, Chinese checkers, cribbage, dominos, and more. These are ideal as a gift for someone who likes more than just chess, or someone where you feel a chess set alone is not enough. Although there are sometimes some very unusual game combinations, the most common combination chess sets include chess, checkers, and backgammon.

These games are mixed within their respective game categories.  The most common are chess and checker sets, as checkers uses the same board as chess.  For chess, checkers, and backgammon it is likewise quite easy - the backgammon checkers can be used on the chessboard to play traditional western checkers. If you're looking for a chess set that includes backgammon, it will be available in both our chess set and backgammon category.  Of course, some of the multigame chess sets have many more games such as checkers, dominos, cards, poker dice, and cribbage and are 3 in 1, 5 in 1, or even 7 in 1 game sets.

Thereare many multi-game chess sets as well as multigame chess tables, with a wide variety of game combinations. 

Backgammon Sets these chess pieces fit perfectly Buying Guide Backgammon Sets (attache style) Here at ChessUSA, we sell much more than just chess sets. While the chess sets may be most popular, we carry a wide range of other games including dominos, cribbage, mah-jong, poker supplies, Go, and much more. One of the most popular of these other games are backgammon sets. Like chess sets, buying a backgammon set can be tricky. There are many backgammon sets in many different styles and most come in both 15” and 18” sizes. Luckily, each backgammon set comes with everything you need – the backgammon pieces, cups & die, and board itself are all included.

Many backgammon sets are made of vinyl, but we also carry several other materials. Popular among them are backgammon sets made from suede, leather, wood, and so on. The most popular is wood, because unlike vinyl, suede, or leather there is no stitching involved. This also has a unique sound as the backgammon dice hits the field.  Professionally in the USA, backgammon sets with a cork playing surface are preferred. This is the traditional playing surface for tournament backgammon.  Our nicest backgammon sets usually come from the mediterranian - Greece and Turkey.  They have some fantastic designs that are as elegant as a chess set and suitable for display in your home.

Of couse, there are so many different sets it ultimately becomes a choice of personal preference. We also carry an assortment of backgammon accessories such as dice and checkers in various sizes.

Our Chess Pieces Collection these chess pieces fit perfectly Choosing Chessmen What is Staunton? You'll see the term a lot around here. While there are all sorts of theme chess pieces, the traditional design are called "staunton" and the terms are interchangeable. Here's a history lesson on why. Our Chess Sets If you are shopping for a chess set, chess board, chess pieces, or anything chess, you have come to the right place. There is no larger selection of chess sets anywhere. The woods of standard chessboards (a primer) Learn More Chessboard sizing guidelines (a primer) Learn More See a chart for how different chess pieces 'fit' Learn More CHESS SETS FROM AMERICA'S LARGEST CHESS STORE these chess pieces fit perfectly ChessUSA Your Move Chess & Games Chess USA is America's leading retailer of chess sets, chess pieces, chess boards, and more. In fact, for 30 years Your Move Chess & Games has been the leading retailer of all things chess! Not everyone can view the hundreds of chess sets we have on display in our New York Chess Store, which is why we strive to have the most detailed chess website anywhere on the internet. After All, with hundreds of chess sets, chess boards, chess pieces, club chess accessories and more, we need to be detailed! No matter what you are looking for, from chess set or tournament chess supplies, our knowledgeable staff is ready to help. Your Move Chess & Games, America's Largest Chess Set Store. It's Your Move!