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Updated December 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom line
Pros
Cons
Best of the Best
AMEROUS 15 Inches Magnetic Wooden Chess Set
AMEROUS
15 Inches Magnetic Wooden Chess Set
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Feature-packed
Bottom Line

A great-looking set that provides a lot to love for beginners and experts alike thanks to its quality.

Pros

The entire board folds in half with a felt interior for storage. Each chess piece has a magnetic base so that you don't lose your place during paused matches. The pieces are hand-carved.

Cons

Doesn't come with traditional chess notation for experienced players.

Best Bang for the Buck
KAILE 3 in 1 Chess Checkers Backgammon Set
KAILE
3 in 1 Chess Checkers Backgammon Set
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Most Versatile
Bottom Line

Multiple games and added portability features make this a great pick for frequent travelers.

Pros

Each plastic game piece can withstand a good amount of play or falls. The chess pieces themselves are magnetic. It is very compact when folded for easy storage.

Cons

The magnets on the bottom have been known to fall out.

The Noble Collection Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set
The Noble Collection
Harry Potter Wizard Chess Set
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Movie Magic
Bottom Line

Designed to look like the iconic set from the movie franchise, this is an excellent choice for fans.

Pros

Inspired by the set seen in "The Sorcerer's Stone". Comes with bags for each color which makes it easy to organize. The board is durable and easy for newcomers to set up.

Cons

Some smaller parts of each piece can be broken quite easily.

Srenta Fine Glass Chess Set
Srenta
Fine Glass Chess Set
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Elegant Look
Bottom Line

A beautiful set that looks great as a decoration thanks to its high-quality design.

Pros

Has a great aesthetic that makes it work well in a modern styled apartment. Compact design. Each piece has a felted bottom so that it slides well without causing scratches.

Cons

The board is on the smaller side compared to other products.

Chess and Games Shop Muba Handmade European Wooden Chess Set
Chess and Games Shop Muba
Handmade European Wooden Chess Set
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Unparalleled Quality
Bottom Line

With fine attention to detail, this carved set is great for collectors and expert players alike.

Pros

The carved pieces have a handmade feel that you can appreciate with every game. Includes chess notation for professional players. Has felt inserts within the board for every chessman.

Cons

The pieces feel a bit lighter than some users expected.

HOW WE TESTED

We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Models
Considered
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Consumers
Consulted
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Buying guide for best chess sets

Chess sets run the gamut in terms of appearance, from simple and utilitarian to ornate and display-worthy. Some people buy chess sets because they want to play chess; others buy them more for looks than for actual chess play. If you’re in the market for a chess set, there’s likely one to meet your needs.

There are inexpensive plastic chess sets made for kids and other beginners. There are also highly detailed sets that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. Of course, if you’re fond of the game, you could also play it online, eliminating your need for a chess set at all. But there’s something special about feeling the chess pieces in your hand and moving them across the board.

If you’re considering a chess set purchase, it helps to first look at the myriad choices available so you’re sure to get something that suits both your budget and your aesthetic taste.

four seniors playing chess
Chess dates back at least 1,500 years. The game, in its earliest form, appeared in India.

Top considerations when choosing the best chess set

Standard chess pieces vs. non-traditional pieces

If you’re just learning the game, you may find a chess set with standard chess pieces most helpful. Notably, there are some chess sets with “non-traditional” piece designs that can make it difficult to distinguish, say, a rook from a bishop. But beginners need to be able to focus on the game, which is easier with standard pieces.

Who would want a chess set with non-traditional pieces? Anyone who is looking for something unique and possibly display-worthy. Non-traditional pieces may be simple geometric shapes, or they may be highly detailed to resemble soldiers from past eras in world history.

Color of pieces

Although traditional chess sets contain pieces that are black and white, other colors are available as well. For example, wooden chess pieces may be stained a light or dark shade. There are also chess sets with colors like red, green, or blue and sets with metal pieces of silver, pewter, bronze, and gold.

Chess piece material

Wood is a common chess piece material, especially for sets of average and higher-than-average prices. Inexpensive sets often consist of plastic chess pieces. As for non-traditional sets, you can find those with pieces made of unique materials such as stone, glass, and metal.

Chess piece size

The average chess set has pieces that are approximately 2 to 4 inches tall, making them easy to grab and move. The king, the tallest piece, is typically about 3.75 inches tall in a tournament-quality set. The pawn, which is the shortest piece, is about 2 inches tall.

If you want a chess set for traveling, something smaller is ideal; consider a set with tiny pieces that measure an inch or two in height. And if you want a “novelty” set to be used outdoors, you might consider a set with pieces that stand several feet tall.

Chess piece weight

Some chess pieces have extra weight in the base, which many players appreciate because it feels reassuring in the hand. The weight gives the pieces stability when you place them on the board. It also helps to prevent them from tipping over if you accidentally bump them while moving other pieces.

Some chess pieces have internal LED lights that cause them to glow on the board.

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Important questions to answer before choosing a chess set

What are your plans for playing chess?

Play during travel: If you plan to travel with your chess set, a smaller one with a sturdy carrying case is a good idea. If you plan to play chess in a moving vehicle, you may want the board to support magnetic pieces so they don’t slide around.

Tournament play: If you plan to play chess in local tournaments, you may need to bring your own board to the venue. A set with a sturdy carrying case as well as tournament-appropriate pieces (and gameboard) is desirable. Tournament-size chess boards measure 21 inches on all four sides. The individual squares on the board measure 2.25 inches on all four sides.

What items are included in the set?

At minimum, a chess set should include the 32 game pieces. Each side should have its own color and consist of 16 pieces. Individual pieces in a set include the following:

  • Eight pawns per side
  • Two rooks per side
  • Two knights per side
  • Two bishops per side
  • One queen per side
  • One king per side

Some extra items may also be included:

  • Game board
  • Carrying case
  • One extra queen per side (for promoting a pawn)

What is your experience level?

Your degree of experience with the game may impact the type of set you need. Beginners may wish to seek a set designed for those still learning to play. For example, the manufacturer may print hints around the edge of the chess board, including the following:

  • Illustrations identifying each piece
  • Descriptions of each piece’s strengths and weaknesses
  • The number of spaces each piece can move
  • The direction each piece can move
  • How to capture pieces
  • How to set up the board
  • Identification marks for the columns and rows on the board
two women playing chess
DID YOU KNOW?
Historically, chess pieces carved from ivory were common. Today, you can find some antique chess sets with ivory pieces. Some of the oldest ivory chess pieces date back more than 1,000 years.
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How much do chess sets cost?

Inexpensive

Low-cost chess sets can be purchased for $5 to $25. The pieces are usually made of plastic, although some wooden chess pieces may fit into this price range. For the lower price, the pieces may be on the smaller side. If a board is included, it will probably be made of inexpensive cardboard. A carrying case is typically not included with a purchase in this price range.

Mid-range

The average price for a chess set here is $25 to $75. These sets may include high-quality plastic pieces or wooden pieces. You may even find some sets with pieces made of non-traditional materials like metal. If a board is included, it will likely be made of wood or plastic. A carrying case of wood or fabric may also be included. In fact, for some purchases in this price range, the wooden carrying case doubles as a chess board when it is opened and laid flat.

Expensive

The most expensive chess sets tend to cost $75 to $300, though there are also some “limited production” sets that cost several thousand dollars. These highly expensive sets may feature chess pieces made with precious metals or gems. High-quality wood, stone, metal, and glass are common high-end chess piece materials. These pieces may sport detailed carving or another unique look that makes them ideal for display.

Wooden boards and stone boards are often found in this price range. If an expensive chess set ships with a carrying case, it will likely be made of high-quality wood.

Want a chess set with a modern twist? Look for “pop culture” chess sets that feature characters from movies or TV shows.

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Tips for finding non-traditional chess sets

Do you want something unique? Look for chess sets with these themes.

  • Historical soldiers: Some chess pieces resemble soldiers from historical eras, such as Roman soldiers, Revolutionary War soldiers, Vikings, and soldiers from medieval times.
  • TV characters: Sets containing TV character pieces can be a lot of fun. Characters may come from shows like The Simpsons, Rick and Morty, or Scooby-Doo. You can also find chess sets with characters modeled after the characters of Peanuts and Pokémon.
  • Movie characters: Some chess sets include pieces designed to look like characters from popular movies. Think of blockbuster hits like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars.
  • Artistic characters: Chess pieces might feature Egyptian characters, Halloween characters, or various fantasy characters. These work well for both play and display.
  • Sports and gaming characters: Children may enjoy playing a game of chess with Super Mario Bros. characters or The Legend of Zelda characters. Professional athletes also appear in some chess sets.
  • Geometric shapes: Oddly shaped chess pieces that only slightly represent their traditional shapes are also available. These geometrically shaped pieces are minimalistic in design.
a man and a woman playing chess
Chess pieces of black and white began appearing with regularity in the 1700s, helping players easily distinguish each side.

FAQ

Q. Is a chess board always included with the purchase of a chess set?

A. No. Some chess sets include the board and the pieces, but others only include the pieces.

Q. Are chess boards and sets available in different sizes?

A. Yes. For this reason, it’s important to choose pieces that match the size of your board. The standard guideline is to choose a board that fits four of your pawns in a single square.

Q. What types of wood are available in wooden chess sets?

A. Common options include boxwood, ebony, rosewood, and walnut.

 

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