If “checkmate” is a term that’s unfamiliar to you, it’s likely you’ve never enjoyed a game of chess played to completion. This two-player board game is enjoyed by millions across the globe, and it only requires a 64-square game board and 32 game pieces to play. While that may sound relatively simple, what makes chess popular and has kept it that way for hundreds of years is the strategic thinking, abstract reasoning and ability to predict required for successful gameplay.
Chess, of course, has rules and requires practice to become a skilled player. There are six different types of chess piece and each can take specific actions. These include where they start on the board, how they can move and what actions they can actually perform. Remember the pieces and their individual tasks, and you’re good to go.
If you already love chess, skip on and check out our top chess set picks. If you still need convincing this is the game for you, think about this. After each player has made one single move in a game, there are 400 possible board setups. After two moves each, there are 197,742. After three rounds, there are 121 million. In short, if you’re looking for a unique and brain-stimulating experience that pits you against the person across the board in a true battle of wits, chess is the game you’ve been waiting for.
What Are the Best Chess Sets?
The best chess set depends on what you’ll be using it for! Some are made to competition regulations and abide by certain size requirements, while others are made for recreational home use. Others are built for decorative purposes and made out of marble, stone and other ornate materials. While these sets technically can be played, you’re better off duking it out on a standard wooden one for convenience’s sake. Here are three things to keep in mind when buying a chess set:
Quality of Material: You want your chess set to be made of solid wood or similarly weighty, durable material. Some chess boards lay flat while others are made of fabric and can be rolled up for easy storage. Regardless, you’ll want your pieces to stand securely and the board to be clear so you can focus on the task at hand — winning.
Weight & Construction: With weight comes sturdiness, so you want your chess set to be firmly planted wherever you put it. You’ll also want to make sure it’s got feet on all corners or felt on the bottom so it won’t scratch or buff the table you put it on.
Storage & Portability: Many chess sets out there can be folded in half and stored easily, and sometimes you can store the pieces inside the box itself. If you’re going to be traveling with your chess set, a fabric board that can be rolled up and stored in a suitcase is ideal, or a smaller wooden chess set that won’t take up too much space.
Whether you’re an amateur chess player still honing their skills or an obsessive master, we’ve put together 15 of the best chess sets available. These include options for every kind of player, whether you want to play at home, on the go or even in the garden. You’ll also find sets that are worthy of display simply for their classy appearance.
1. Chess Armory 15″ Wooden Chess Set
Chess players far and wide love this chess set from Chess Armory for its large 15″ x 15″ playing board and the quality inlaid walnut it’s made out of. The board comes with a felted-interior case with straps for storing pieces as well as hand-crafted staunton-style chess pieces. The king is about 3″ high to give you perspective. This folding set also comes with metallic hinges for an easy and secure closing, and all of the pieces have felt bottoms to prevent scratches on the board. This chess set also comes in a 17″ size for those who want a larger playing surface.
2. House of Staunton New Fischer Spassky Chess Set
If you’re looking to buy a chess set, a Staunton is one of the best. They make classically designed chess sets that are renowned worldwide for their elegance and quality, and despite the higher price point you know you’re getting a set that’ll last for a while. This set is a full tournament-sized set complete with a 1.625″ diameter base for all the pieces and a 3.75″ king. It’s an exact replica of the chess set used by chess legend Bobby Fischer when he won the 1972 world championship. It’s a no-frills set without a lot of ornate detailing because it’s made for hefty competition and intense gameplay. If that’s what you intend to use it for, you’ve found the set for you.
3. Chess Armory Wooden Chess Set
The Chess Armory Wooden Chess Set with Felted Game Board is an ideal choice for anyone just looking for a standard playing set that’s easily stored at home. The wooden set includes a 15″ by 15″ folding board with plenty of space for storing the felt-bottomed, hand-crafted pieces when you’re finished. In addition, the box interior includes elastic straps to hold all the pieces in place, while the outside latch ensures the box stays closed. If you want a compact and foldable board that still looks like a premium product, this is the best chess set you’ll find.
4. QuadPro Magnetic Travel Chess Set
BEST TRAVEL SET
This QuadPro Magnetic Travel Chess Set includes everything you need to enjoy a game of chess on the go. You’ll find a drawstring bag for holding the game pieces together and a 10″ by 10″ folding game board which has an internal space for storing the game pieces when they’re not being used. Each magnetic piece also sports a soft material bottom to prevent scratching and noise during play.
5. Winning Moves Games No Stress Chess
BEST FOR LEARNING HOW TO PLAY
If you’re like me, you’ve probably learned and forgotten how to play chess about a dozen times. Not to worry — it’s not hard to learn if you’ve got the right board to teach you how to play. This game board from Winning Moves Games guides you into setting up all the pieces and includes an innovative deck that shows you how to move each piece. You progress through the deck and learn all the moves for each chess piece. It can be played at a few different levels of difficulty and once you’re ready to go, you can flip the game board over and play a game of standard chess.
6. The Noble Collection Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set
BEST NOVELTY SET
If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll certainly recall the memorable scene at the end of the first film when Harry, Ron and Hermione take on a larger-than-life chess set. If the idea of doing that for yourself appeals, be it on a slightly smaller scale, it’s definitely worth investing in this beautifully crafted wizard chess set. It’s officially authorized and includes an 18.5″ by 18.5″ game board as well as two sets of highly-detailed pieces and individual bags to store them in. For anyone who loves both Hogwarts and chess, this Harry Potter chess set is the game for you.
7. Wooden Mosaic Patterned Chess Set
This beautiful mosaic chess set is made of decorative wood and has a filler varnish that adds nostalgia and uniqueness to the design. It comes with 32 chess pieces and is a standard size for all game play. It can be used for real games or just as decor, whatever you prefer.
8. MegaChess Oversized Premium Chess Set Pieces
BEST PATIO CHESS SET
Many homeowners, hotels and luxury apartments now feature an oversized chess set. These larger-than-life chess sets can be found on rooftop gardens, courtyard lounges and private patios. This oversized chess set from MegaChess lets you create your own giant chess game. Customers can either purchase a plastic chess board separately or create their own board using paint or chalk. This giant garden chess set comes with 32 game pieces that range in size from 16 inches to 25 inches in height. The pieces are made from HDPE plastic and require little maintenance.
9. US Chess Federation’s Quiver Chess Set Combo
BEST SET FOR CHESS CLUBS
If you play on a regular basis, like at a chess club or with friends, this US Chess Federation’s Quiver Chess Set Combo may be the right choice for you. It includes a full set of single-weighted, regulation chess pieces, a roll-up, vinyl chess board and a quiver-style chess bag which makes the set especially portable. The set has been exclusively made by the United States Chess Federation and exceeds both US Chess Federation and FIDE requirements, meaning it can legally be used for official tournaments. That fact and its portability makes this an especially good choice for clubs and schools.
10. ICORE Electronic Travel Chess Set
If you love chess but often find yourself short of a partner to play with, the ICORE chess set is perfect for you. It’s got a chess teacher built right in that discusses legal moves, threats to your pieces and more. It comes with eight different brain games built-in as well as 12 modes and 30 unique levels you can choose from depending on your experience level. The chess board has a large LCD screen and adjustable contrast, and it’s got games you can play as a single player.
11. Fun Family Chess Set
BEST FOR BEGINNERS
If you’re new to the game and want to learn how to play in a fun and easily understood way, look no further than the this beginner learning set from Brain Blox. It comes in a color-coded, learn-as-you-play format that’s great for kids and adults alike who are intrigued by this simultaneously simple and complex game. The solid wood board comes white-washed with velvet underneath. The solid wood chess pieces also come in a velvet pouch for easy storage.
12. 16″ Marble Chess Set Euro Design in Marina & Black
BEST MARBLE SET
Everything is better in marble, which is why this classy Euro chess set from the Chess House is the perfect marble version of the beloved board. It comes with a marina and black color combination that’s beautiful and sophisticated and includes marble’s natural veins and swirls that make the design unique. The chess pieces follow the recognizable Staunton design that’ll feel familiar to experienced players.
13. Classic Game Collection Metal Chess Set with Storage
BEST IN-BOARD STORAGE
This chess set from Classic Game Collection has elegant metal pieces that contrast against the wood nicely. The chess board is beautifully inlaid with crafted wood and the board is raised so as to double as a storage area for the pieces. This chess board is a bit smaller than other ones on this list at 12″ x 12″ — the kind also stands 2.5″ tall.
14. Sonora Geometric Chess Set
Doesn’t this look just like a chess set that would be on the table in a high-rise waiting room in a James Bond movie? It’s beautiful and yet the edges are a bit intimidating — which is what makes it the perfect splurge if you’re a chess set collector. The unique design makes it stand out while the neutral colors also help it blend in. The pieces and board are acrylic, so they’re more durable than straight up glass. It’s just as functional on display as it is being played, and anyone who comes across it will admire it either way.
15. NYC Skyline Chess
BEST FOR GIFTING
This chess set is another unique design spin on the classic board design and features buildings and structures from around the Big Apple as the pieces. Brownstones are the pawns, the Guggenheim is the rook and One World Trade stands tall as the mighty king. This makes a great gift for New Yorkers as well as any chess set collectors looking for something unique.
16. WE Games Mini Chess Set
BEST MINI SET
This miniature chess board is magnetic and measures 5.75 x 3.25 inches when folded. It’s magnetic, so it’s super easy to play with the flat pieces while traveling in a moving car or on a plane where one swift shift can topple all the pieces over. This set also includes extra pieces in case one goes missing and has algebraic notation on all sides making learning super easy.
17. The Frank Camaratta Signature Luxury Chess Set
Okay, this is an expensive chess set — but it’s gorgeous and if you’re a chess fanatic it might be a worthwhile investment. It’s also made by House of Staunton, the chess set masters. It’s a hand-carved, weighted chess set made out of Boxwood and Genuine Ebony. All of the master pieces are heavily weighted and feature black English leather base pads on the bottoms, as well as golden stamps. The set includes 34 chessmen and four queens, all of which have been hand polished and set by Mr. Camaratta himself. It’s a great balance between beauty and function, as the set is designed to be played but also serve as a gorgeous house decoration.
18. fayle Professional Analog Chess Timer
BEST CHESS CLOCK
Want to play like the pros do? Then you’ll need a chess timer, and this analog one is a classic design we love. It’s perfect for all kinds of chess games including speed chess, and has a daily error of no more than one second.