How to Choose a Chess Set these chess pieces fit perfectly What to Look for in Staunton Chess Pieces: Choosing a Chess Set Ok ... So you probably noticed we have many chess pieces to choose from; literally hundreds with many being the traditional wood Staunton type. For some, choosing one set out this vast selection may be a bit daunting. Well ... here is another installment of our guidelines that have helped our customers. This little aper├žu should help in making a selection of wood Staunton style chess pieces. The choice of a staunton chess set is not an exacting science, but instead, relies heavily on personal taste and preferences. But there are ways of determining what constitutes a nicely designed set from one that is somewhat generic or ordinary. You need to decide first off if you are looking for a set that fulfills more of a functional need, or if your looking for something that does this and offers a high degree of quality and artistry.
Setting your Priorities

As is the case with most decisions in life, you need to determine your priorities when choosing a chess set. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this chess set for serious playing or for decoration?
  • What is my budget?
  • What kind of chess board do I have?
  • How big are the playing squares on my chess board?
  • Will I be traveling with this chess set?
  • Are "brand names" and their advantages important to me?
  • Is this a chess set you intend to keep for generations or as a collectable?

We will examine these questions and other issues one at a time. Don't feel this is a daunting task, it is actually a simple matter of looking at a set and seeing if it is attractive to you. It is sort of like buying a car, if it's pretty you'll probably buy it. Of course, you should be well informed about the quality and construction of an automobile before making a purchase. That is the scope of this article in relation to chessmen.

these chess pieces fit perfectly Questions Answered Is this chess set for serious playing or for decoration? Is this chess set for serious play or for decoration? This question may seem obvious but actually there are things you should consider. Aren't all sets made to be played. Well, not actually. Some sets are wonderful to look at, but do not play well. What does that mean, you ask? Well ... consider one of our themed crushed stone sets, like the incredible hand painted theme and fantasy chess sets. Absolutely gorgeous! But when you play a game with it, it may be difficult to identify the pieces as to what they are. Bishop, queen or pawn.

This was one of the reasons why the "Staunton Pattern" came about in the first place in the mid-19th century; it was 1849 to be precise. There were many chess sets out there with no standard, and they were unstable physically. The call went out for simple, easy to identify set of chessmen. John Jaques & Sons of London answered the call and started to commercially produce Nathaniel Cook's pattern for chessmen. This is what we now know as Staunton style chess pieces; the pieces we all know as traditional chessmen. If you want to read an article on the history of the Staunton Pattern you can go to the article named "Brief History of the Staunton Pattern".

Now, if you play tournament or your interest is in serious play, then the choice would obviously be a Staunton pattern set of chessmen. Above is a very good example of a well design Staunton style set of chessmen. This is our Imperator Chess Set which is both a classic design and impressively detailed.  These sorts of chess pieces come in multiple woods and sizes - the red color you see above is "Padouk", an exotic hardwood. (This happens to be my personal favorite. Read our review on the set to find out why we think it's so special. Click here!)

You would choose a Staunton pattern if you want to have a clear, intuitive chess set to identify during game play or if your just a traditionalist. If you are not concerned so much with this issue and are looking for a chess set to add to an existing decor then you could choose a set that relates to that decor or the theme of the decor. For instance if you have a collection of Louis XIV furniture we have chess sets that are appropriately themed. In fact we offer a chess set with Louis XIV and his court. If southwestern styling is your thing we have a large assortment of Cowboy & Indian chess sets or a chess set about ranchers named "Range Wars". Choose these types of chess sets if decoration is your only consideration. But if you need something purely for playing the game of chess, choose a Staunton chess set. Conversely, Many Staunton chess sets work well in almost any decor; they are simply less decor specific.

these chess pieces fit perfectly Questions Answered What is my budget? A simple question, and one you need to ask yourself. Our chess sets range from under twenty dollars for basic Plastic Tournament Pieces or club chess sets to thousands of dollars. You certainly do not need to 'break the bank' for a chess set. We find the sweet spot for a nice quality chess set that will last starts around 150.00. The biggest factor in price is the material and detail of the carving.

The most expensive wooden chess sets might cost upwards of a thousand dollars, but the truth there is largely a 'cap' on value with chess pieces.  A pure ebony or padouk chess set may cost as much as 600 - 800 dollars, but many others are available for under 500. The difference might be the carving detail and size, but it also might be the wood quality. The brand name also matters as named brands often offer more support for replacements down-the-line. For any chess set over 500, look to see what features it has that makes it stand out above other sets in its class, and whether or not you're simply paying for the name.

these chess pieces fit perfectly Questions Answered What kind of chess board do I have? If you already own a chess board or intend to buy a specific size board, this obviously will determine, at least, the size of the chessmen. If you want some guidelines as to how to match the sizes of chess pieces and chess boards check out Chess Piece & Chessboard Sizing Guidelines. This guideline page will answer this question quite completely.

Also, some thought should be placed on the wood types used in the board and how the match or contrast the chessmen. If you want to study up on woods we have some articles written about woods for both boards and chess pieces. For boards, check out Wonderful Woods for Chessboards. For pieces, look at Wonderful Woods for Chess Pieces. Furthermore, the relationships in terms of matching or contrasting wood colors is outlined in the Chess Piece & Chessboard Sizing Guidelines page.

these chess pieces fit perfectly Questions Answered How big are the playing squares on my chess board? Once again this question is dealt with in the Chess Piece & Chessboard Sizing Guidelines page. The size of the playing squares are not only important for tournament play (there are specific allowable sizes), but also you don't want to crowd the chess pieces you choose.

Sometimes a customer will really love a set of pieces that are simply too big for their chess board.  It's easy to be impressed by tournament size (and larger!) chess pieces, but sometimes that is simply not suitable for the chess board you have or the space you have.  We have several guides on sizing, but for a quick and easy chart to see the size of chess pieces versus the boards their on and if they will fit appropriate, see our Chess Pieces and Chess Board Sizing Reference Guide.

See a chart for how different chess pieces 'fit' Learn More See our Guide specific to chess club and tournament sizing Learn More these chess pieces fit perfectly Questions Answered Will I be traveling with this chess set? This is an interesting question. Many players take along their chess sets wherever they go. If you fall into this category it makes sense to purchase chessmen that can take the abuse of the road. Most tournament or club players understand this, and usually buy heavy staunton plastic chess pieces. These chess pieces are usually less expensive and therefore easily replaceable if they break. However, others want a 'nicer' chess set good for both portability and display.

Some club players will choose a nice wood chess set also, but if you're having a portable set think about if it needs to be very small (for play on the go) or just small enough for transit (such as a folding chess set). Furthermore, choose a chess set that seems durable; in other words, a set that doesn't have very fine finials and such - most folding sets will come this way; instead of highly detailed staunton pieces they opt for durable options usable anywhere. You'll also notice that most portable chess sets are not as heavy as flat ones - this is to make them easier to transport.

these chess pieces fit perfectly Questions Answered Are "brand names" and their advantages important to me? This was alluded to earlier. In the chess world, there are not many "brand name" products. The few companies willing to put their name on their products, produce some of the truly finest products available. We mentioned one already; the Mark of Westminster who make some of the most distinctive sets of chessmen available. Another name in pieces you can look at are The House of Staunton. These chess sets are universally considered by most as the finest Staunton pattern sets made. Other high quality chess sets are made by Jaques of London, and in the past, Drueke.

The advantage of a brand name product is that usually you will receive a chess set that has much better quality control, and a predictable appearance. Also, the overall quality of the chess set will be much better. This includes the style, carving, finish, packaging, documentation, and other similar factors. If your looking for something outstanding, then consider the advantages of choosing a product with a brand name. Of course, these pieces are often more expense than unbranded chess pieces. Unfortunately most chess pieces do not have UPCs or GTINs, so it's a bit harder to compare them as you could another product. Many will look extroadinarily similar, but have differences when you see them up close - it could be lower quality woods, less details in the carving, less weight or balance on the pieces, or simply an inability to support the product if you have problems down the line. While it's best to look at chess sets in person, this obviously isn't always that easy (especially if you're not local to our chess store!). Always feel free to ask the question if it looks like the deal is 'too good'!

these chess pieces fit perfectly Questions Answered Is this a chess set you intend to keep for generations or as a collectable? This is related to the previous question. Brands like Jaques are considered collectable because of their history and quality; they were the folks who were first to produce the Staunton pattern in the first place. If you are looking for a chess set to hand down to future generations (heirloom item), it is a good idea to look for something that is of high quality, and will survive over many years of use. Chess Sets made from ebony are very long lived, primarily because ebony is such a hard wood. 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! Have a chess set already and just need to freshen up on the rules? We've got them! Chess Rules