12 Best Chess Sets – Reviews and Buying Guide 2017

Chess is one of the most played games, with no age restrictions, and a fun way to pass the time!

It gets even better when you think of the valuable life skills it instills in you as a player- like critical thinking, patience, strategy, reward ratio, among others.

As you continue enjoying this game, you’ll realize the need to get yourself better- beautifully crafted, top-quality- chess sets. Trust me; the modern sets out there will make even your younger ones, and other on-lookers want to play this game.

I spent the last 3 days doing some research on the best chess sets on the market today. Gladly, I found the 12 of the best…I spiced them up with some handy info that I believe you’d want to hear about them.

Without wasting a single second, let me give you the results of my research below:

Types Of Chess Sets: Which One For You?

There are hundreds and hundreds of different types of chess sets on the market today. If you walk to the store right now to make a selection without some prior info on the different types, you’ll be totally overwhelmed.

But I’ll make things easier for you:

I’ll group all these chess sets into broad categories- based on the theme, style, and type of material used to make them- to make it much easier for you to make your selection.

Key categories of chess sets:

  • Practical set: usually made from wood, this set comprises of nicely crafted wooden pieces and comes ready to take the punishment that will result from daily or weekly game play
  • Decorative set: judging from the name, sets that fall under category will act as the center of attraction in your library, office or den. The set boast of heirloom detail as well as intricate design associated with the handcrafted sets.

Because of their attractive nature, most folks buy these sets purely for decorating their rooms, offices, etc. However, they’re also fully practical, and you can play the game with them.

  • Club, tournament or school sets: these are typically made from hard plastic and are prepared to stand up to the harshest treatments and the frequent use they might encounter. They’re ideal for beginners who’d be using them frequently.
  • Travel set: they include the board, pieces and a convenient storage such that you can take them with you to any place and enjoy this awesome game- anywhere, anytime!
  • Theme sets: these are themed sets- e.g. themed with the Red Coats in American Revolution, Alice in Wonderland, blue or gray in the civil war, etc. - which makes them more fun to play with. Besides, you can use the themed models to express your individuality- for instance, if you’re a diehard football fan, you can grab a football-themed set.
  • Antique chess sets: these include antique board and pieces and are an excellent choice for players who love antique stuff. Over the years, antique collectors have also been collecting antique chess games as a hobby. A good example of antique chess set is the original signed Staunton set.
  • Digital Chess set: if you’ve ever played chess on your PC, then you what I mean by digital or virtual chess sets.

Best Chess Set Reviews: Great Ones For The Money

1. Chess Armory 15" Wooden Chess Set Review:

The Chess Armory 15" Wooden is one of the most affordable chess sets that allows you to enjoy the ancient strategy game without breaking the bank. It’s extra-large- 15” by 15”- board makes playing the game much easier and fun.

It’s also the perfect size for the beginner and advanced players and eliminates the possible congestion of your pieces as it’s the case with other boards out there.

It has a high-quality wooden design that will see you through many years of unlimited fun! The inlaid walnut further enhances the strength of this board. Because of the board’s foldable design, storing it becomes much easier.

Alongside the beautiful board comes Staunton style pieces which make it a complete set. I also found it impressive that the board's interior features felt straps which securely hold your pieces in place when carrying them.

When you open up the board, the hinges are designed to lay flat with it- a measure that helps prevent scratching of the playing surface.

As a bonus for beginner chess players, the package comes with a quick start guide to give you the basics- and a good start- for this fantastic game.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Large 15” x 15” folding board ensures easy game play
  • Wooden set with inlaid walnut
  • Felted interior with straps for convenient storage of pieces
  • 3” King size
  •  Hand crafted Staunton style chess pieces

2. Ambassador European Chess Board Game Review:

Ambassador European Chess Board Game represents a premium chess set that minds the pocket of players on a tight budget. It’s a nicely hand-crafted set of board plus pieces.

Both have honorable sizes- with the pieces ranging around 4 inches and the board coming with dimensions: 21.65"W x 1.18"H x 21.65"D. this brings a whole new meaning to the way you play chess.

Taking a closer look at the set's overall design, it features the Eastern Europe etno theme, given the fact that it’s crafted in Poland. It’s truly a unique set that features extra points on the dark staining and nearly white finish for the light boxes for enhanced aesthetics.

Because the board is made from beech and birch wood and the pieces designed from sycamore and hornbeam wood, they have a lighter feel- the weight many players prefer when playing chess.

Besides the lightweight feel, these woods are no doubt some of the toughest Mother Nature provides us with. They’ll see your set through many years to come.

The recessed holes in all the boxes is a cool feature that preserves your set while minimizing noise as you carry it around. Though the bigger sized board and chessmen make this easy and clear to play with, it, it might be a hindrance when you want to travel around with your game.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Beautiful set with handcrafted board and pieces
  • Board measurements: 21.65"W x 1.18"H x 21.65"D
  • Pawn 2.28"(5.8cm); Queen 3.66"(9.3cm); King 4.5"(11cm)
  • Squares measure 2.24"x2.24."
  • Board designed from beech and birch wood
  • Felt base chessmen crafted from sycamore and hornbeam wood
  • Set handcrafted in Poland

3. Chess Royal 30 European Wooden Handmade International Set Review:

The Wegiel’s Chess Royal 30 European Wooden Handmade International Set is probably the best chess set in the world. This is not only due to its affordable price tag, but due to the quality it comes with and the new life it adds to your gaming and your room.

One thing that puts this set in its own class is its quality board- made from beech and bird solid woods. In addition to making sturdy and giving it a longer lifespan, these woods give it a classic, handmade look and feel that all chess enthusiast will love.

Designed with a foldable design, the board leaves enough space inside where you can securely store your pieces when not playing. This makes it an ideal board for on the go players.

Like our previous product, all the chessmen for this set come 100% handcrafted from sycamore and hornbeam woods. This gives them an elegant, intricate detail that makes them fun to play with.

The overall classical aesthetics of both the pieces and the board make this wonderfully detailed set worth putting on the display at your home.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Wonderfully detailed collectible; carved out of out of hornbeam wood
  • Birch wood folding board for stowing away your chessmen inside when not playing
  • Renewable plantation wood used in making the board
  • Each piece is 100% handcrafted
  • Board measurements: 11.81 x 1.97 x 11.81-Inch
  • Square measurements: 1.18 x 1.18-Inch
  • King: 6.5cm; Queen: 5cm; Pawn: 3.1cm

4. Kidami Folding Magnetic Travel Chess Set Review:

For the frequent travelers who need to bring chess with them to any place they go, you’d want to consider the Kidami Folding Magnetic Travel Chess Set for your gaming needs. The set comprises of high-quality plastic board and pieces plus a touch of wood grain texture that gives you a smooth hand feel when playing.

Unlike all the sets we’ve reviewed so far, all the pieces of this set come with some light magnetism that gets attracted to the 64-square board. This makes your play more stable, especially when you’re playing in a moving train, bus, etc. As the magnetic attraction is light, you won’t struggle to move the pieces over.

To make it even more suitable for traveler gamers, the set has an incredibly portable size. The board alone measures 2. 4" x 10. 6" x 0. 8" when open (remember it has a foldable design), with the King measuring 2.9” and the queen 2.5.” on top of this, the set come with a cute traveling bag for easy carry.

​​Highlighted features:

  • High-quality set made of durable plastic plus wood grain texture
  • Lightweight and portable set
  • Light magnetism for stable play
  • Easy to carry, thanks to the cute storage bags
  • Board measures 12. 4" x 10. 6" x 0. 8" (31. 5 x 27 x 2. 1 cm)

5. No Stress Chess Review:

Many chess books have been written on how to play chess, but none of them can make the learning process fun and easy than the No Stress Chess set does! This is an unusual chess set that lets even an absolute beginner start playing the game instantly thanks to its innovative design which guides you through setting up your pieces and making the appropriate moves.

You might not understand this incredibly easy concept until you lay your hands on this set. But until then, let me explain…You begin by setting up the pieces on the board (that’s pretty easy), then shuffle the innovative cards deck and let the picture of each card guide you into making a move. You see? You’ll move all the pieces on the board with NO Stress!

What’s more, this unique chess set allows you to play chess in several levels of difficulty- with the aim of slowly introducing you to the standard chess game in baby steps. When you feel ready for the next step, you simply flip the board and start playing the game on a standard chess board.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Plastic made set
  • Ideal for age 7pluss
  • Lets you play chess without stress with its innovative deck of action cards with randomly determined moves
  • Makes learning chess easy for beginners and fun for the advanced players
  • Regulation Chess board

6. Wegiel Chess Set - Consul Chess Pieces and Board -Game Review:

Halfway our review list, we have another European (Poland) handcrafted chess set, the Wegiel Consul Chess Set, also available at a pocket-friendly price…But this time featuring a “more standard size”- with the board measuring18. 58"w x 18. 58"d and the pieces standing at half-inch less than the Ambassador.

Qualitywise, the board is designed from beech and birch solid wood while the pieces are made from sycamore and hornbeam wood which means more value for its price. This ensures maximum durability while giving the entire chest an attractive, classic look.

Just like the Ambassador, the Consul comes with recessed style chessmen storage which helps keep them in place while keeping off damages to the finish for years to come. The weighted chess pieces will feel lighter in your hands.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Hand crafted in Poland
  • Board made from beech and birch wood
  • Felt-base chessmen made from sycamore and hornbeam wood
  • Board measures: 18. 58"w x 18. 58"d x 2. 36"h
  • Squares measures: 1. 85"x1. 85"
  • King 3. 54"(9cm); queen 3. 11"(7. 9cm); pawn 1. 77"(4. 5cm)
  • Beautifully crafted set; makes an ideal present for chess enthusiasts!

7. Magnetic Travel Chess Set Review:

You can also count on the Magnetic Travel Chess Set if you’re a frequent traveler. It’s perfectly sized set that makes it easy to carry and move around with, but large enough to allow you to enjoy your game comfortably.

The fact that it also features a magnetic board- where the pieces are lightly attached to the board means that you can even play your game in a fast moving car or train without experiencing any disruptions. Keep in mind that this is minimal magnetism power, so you won’t have to put in a lot of effort to move the chessmen.

The eye-grabbing set comes with all the pieces included, so you can start enjoying the game as soon as you receive it.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Perfect size for travelers
  • Board measures 9.7 x 9.7 x .95 inches when open
  • Magnetic board and pieces minimized game disruptions when on the go
  • Complete set of chessmen included in the package
  • Queen measures 1.7 x .70 inches

8. Inlaid Walnut-Style Magnetized Wood Chess Set Review:

Inlaid Walnut-Style Magnetized Wood Chess Set is one of the most beautiful designs that allows you to take your chess gaming got the next level. It features detailed Staunton wooden pieces that come with a felt bottom and a polished finish for the ultimate eye-grabbing looks.

Just like the previous set, this one also features a magnetized board as well as felt-bottom pieces. And these help keep all the pieces attached to the board when you’re playing the game on board. In other words, this could make an excellent pick if you love playing chess when traveling.

Add this to the fact that the set comes with walnut styling and fabric lined drawers for easy, secure storage of all the pieces, and it becomes the perfect traveler’s package!

The board measures 1.375 x 9.875 x 9.875 inches while the king’s height is 2.125 inch, making the entire set a straightforward, intuitive one to play with for all players. The instructions included in the package comes handy if you want to learn some basics before starting this game.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Detailed Staunton wooden chess pieces with felt bottom and polished finish
  • King height: 2.125-inch
  • Magnetized playing surfaces and pieces
  • Board measures 1.375 x 9.875 x 9.875 inches
  • Comes with a set of gaming instructions for beginners

9. 2 in 1 Travel Magnetic Chess and Checkers Game Set Review:

You’ll never run out of choices for chess sets with premium for just a bucks, like the2 in 1 Travel Magnetic Chess and Checkers Game Set. Judging from its name, this is another traveler’s deal characterized by high-level portability, without comprising your game pleasure and comfort.

One of the features that make it ideal for traveler gamers is the magnetic board and pieces. As you know, this goes a long way in keeping off possible game disruption as the vehicle hits bumps or jiggles along the way.

I also love the fact that it comes as a 2-in-1 model, allowing you to play chess or checkers. Here, the decision lies in your hand since you’ve got everything you need at hand- the board, all the chess pieces and all the checkers (also magnetized). What game would you want to start with?

​​Highlighted features:

  • Versatile magnetic board
  • Board dimensions: 12.5 x 12.5 x 1 inches
  • QUEEN measures 2.3 x 1 inches
  • Each draught measures 0.8 x 0.25 inch

10. Noble Collection nn7580 – Harry Potter : Echiquier des Sorciers Review:

The Noble Collection nn7580 – Harry Potter : Echiquier des Sorciers isn’t just a chess set but an impressive recreation of the final challenge chess set as it appears in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone movie. So, if you’re a great fan of the movie, you just got a Harry Potter-themed chess set at a reasonable price!

Trust me, this game would not only make them fun and exciting to play for you or younger ones, but it will also create an outstanding piece of decoration in your house, thanks to its visuals and a great deal of craftsmanship invested in it.

All the 32 chess pieces included in the package are crafted to the exact detail and measure around 2 1/2 to 5 ½-inches in height. The play board measuring 20 x 20-inch makes this set ideal for kids due to its striking looks.

​Highlighted features:

  • Officially authorized by Warner brothers
  • A product of the Noble Collection
  • The set comprises of all pieces and the board
  • Pieces measure 2-4 inches, and the board measures 18.5 x 18.5 inches

11. Prime Chess Hand Crafted Cherry Wooden Chess And Draughts Set Review:

Second last in our list of the top-rated chess sets for the money is the Cherry Wooden Chess Set. It’s crafted from the sturdy beech and birch woods for maximum durability and finished with hands for classic look

The aesthetics of this particular set is lit! The dark squares feature a lovely brown color. The lighter squares look like pale natural wood (plus they’re lacquered with an incredible finish). The chessmen are made of cherry wood and are 10% hand carved.

All the numbers, lines and letters are painted dark. The entire board features a high gloss lacquer finish. Add up all this, and you’ve got a jewel in your house that will make everyone roll their eyes!

The board measures 13.7” x 13.7” while the squares measure 1.4 x 1.4 inch, making this set easy and clear to play with for all levels of players. The lightweight feel of all the pieces makes them feel good in your hands. And the foldable board design ensures easy-carry.

​​Highlighted features:

  • Heavy, robust board that promises you years and decades of service
  • Beautifully crafted chessmen (lovely honey color) from Cherry Tree
  • Comes with prime chess instructions for beginners
  • Consider this as a lovely gift!
  • Board dimensions when closed: 13.7 x 6.8 x 1.8 inches

12. Dragon Chess Set Review:

For all the dragon lovers out there (myself included), you can own this unique, 3D fantasy, dragon-themed chess set at an incredibly reasonable price. And as you set to play the game, you’ll enjoy taking full control of the team of dragon warriors (pieces) it comes with.

The fact that this set comes with pewter pieces (with polyresin base) makes me love this particular set even more. The pieces not only look quite attractive but also look and feel durable and fun to play with.

The king comes with a standard height of 2”- the perfect size for all players out there. What’s more, the weight of the pewter makes the pieces feel cool in your hands.

Moving these unique pieces on a larger glass board- measuring 13.5 inches- makes the game more fun than before.

In addition to the playing part, I’d personally consider the classic pieces and board (which are an incredible piece of art) as a display in my house. These are sure to catch the attention of all your guests and make them want to play chess!

With great care, you can enjoy using this set for many years to come and pass it to your generations who might be dragon fans as well.

​Highlighted features:

  • Pewter Pieces
  • 2- 3/4" King
  • Dragon Themed Set
  • 13.5” glass board

Chess Set Buying Guide: What To Look For?

As I spent hours doing my research, one thing I realized is that the market is packed with many, many chess sets. Were it not for my in-depth research (plus the years of experience playing chess) I’d have been confused and felt lost when choosing the 12 best chess sets above.

I don’t want you to go through the headaches and confusion at the chess stores, so I have put up an expert guide to help you get a set that meets your personal chess needs.

Here’s the guide:

1. What type of chess set do you want?

What type of chess set do you want? We covered, in detail, the different types of chess sets at the beginning of this post so that we won’t repeat that. But as a quick reminder, the many models out there can be divided into fewer categories based on the material used to prepare them, style, theme, etc.

Let your personal needs and preferences guide you into selecting the right type of set for you. For example, if you love football, look for a football-themed set.

2. What’s your budget?

Setting a budget for a chess set can make things easy when looking for the best chess set. The prices of sets vary depending on some key factors like the material (and its quality) used in the design process, the number of queens, craftsmanship, etc.

As for my list of the top-rated sets above, I focused on models hanging on the lower price end. If you want high-end, luxurious models, the market has plenty of them too.

3. Why are you buying a chess set?

From the word go, you ought to define the reason why you’re buying that set- is it for playing chess or for decoration purposes?

Though this question might sound obvious, there are some thing you need to consider to ensure you get the ideal set for your needs.

All sets you see around aren’t meant for playing. Some are specially made for decoration purposes and if that’s what you want, be sure to settle for a set that blends with the visuals of the particular room you wish to place it in- whether it’s your office, den, living room, etc.

For serious players, I know you’re looking for a set that will give maximum fun when playing this game…And maybe fully prepare you for an upcoming tournament. Thus, ensure you invest in a clear, intuitive set that’s easy to understand and play with.

And if you’re a chess sets collector, ensure the set you intend to buy comes with a warranty, just in case any of the pieces gets bruised, warped, broken or nicked.

4. Does brand really matter?

In the chess industry, not many manufacturers are willing to put their brand names on their products for unknown reasons.

In my opinion, I believe that the few who put their brand names out for buyers like you are truly proud of their products. Such manufacturers will give you the finest sets you’ve ever used before. Their products have higher quality control as well as predictable appearances.

They exhibit better quality- in terms of style, finish, carving packing, documentation, etc.

Some of the most popular names include the Mark of Westminster (known for the most distinctive sets), House of Staunton, Jaques of London, and Drueke.

Bottom line: If you want to get something outstanding, consider buying products with brand names.

5. Are you a frequent traveler?

The fact that you’re always on the go should not stop you from playing the game.

Most manufacturers have realized the need for you to enjoy your game everywhere you go, anytime. They’ve, therefore, come up with sets boards that can withstand the road abuse.

Besides durability, also ensure that your set is highly portable so that you can effortlessly carry it everywhere with you. You don’t want any to experience any issues trying to bring your game to the beach, park, etc., so ensure they come with some kind of storage or features a fold-up board design for easy carry.

6. Give durability a priority

Durability also goes hand in hand with your chess set. Be sure to look for set whose board and pieces are made from extremely durable materials. This is especially true if you’re a frequent gamer and you don’t want your set to start developing bruises, wears, etc. after the first week of intense gaming.

I know you’d want to play with your set for years and use it to teach your kids and grandkids the “thinking game,” so pay attention to the sturdiness of the material it’s made of.

NOTE: Even as you buy the sturdiest chest set available, remember that taking good care of it will minimize chances of breakages, bruises, wears, etc., and extend its service life.

(I’ll show you how to take care of your chess board later in this post- keep scrolling!)

7. Who are you buying the chess set for?

Yes, who will be using the chess set you’re buying? If it’s you, I won’t get into more details here because I assume the above steps are sufficient to direct you to what you need.

What if you’re buying the set as a gift for your child? This is what you’d want to do to ensure it’s a worthy gift- look for an ornate set that your kid can relate to. Look for set whose pieces feature different cartoon characters, a brightly colored board, themed chess, etc.

Buying your child such sets will make the game look even more fun to them and encourage them to play it.

8. Where will you be playing the game?

Most players don’t seem to realize the importance of this factor until they try playing the game in certain places and it proves impossible or inconvenient.

If you are playing chess in a train, car, etc., consider looking for a board with magnetic pieces. This helps prevent them from getting swept around when on board. Some wooden sets come with pieces featuring a felt base to take care of this.

How To Take Care Of Your Chess Set Board?

When you finally get the most suitable chess set for your needs, your next important task involves taking proper care of it. This helps maintain its appearance and quality, and enable it to serve you for longer (and pass it to your generations too).

Follow these chess board care tips to keep your board at its best at all times:

  • Never place your board in direct sunlight as this can lead to fading and damages.
  • Also, avoid exposing it to humidity and extreme temperatures; humidity results in high degrees of contraction and expansion and these can cause your board to crack with time.
  • To keep off abrasion possibilities, make a habit of placing your board on a felt pad or soft cloth and not directly on hard surfaces
  • NEVER put drinks or plants on your chess board; these might cause spills and condensations respectively, which can result in permanent damages to the board.
  • Regularly dust your board using a soft, damp piece of fabric. Using a dry piece of cloth presents an opportunity for the dust to scratch the finish of your board (especially if it’s delicate)Consider using a light solution of water plus vinegar for this practice to help not only clean but also disinfect and remove any odors present on your board
  • If your board is made of plastic, metal, wood or stone, you should give it a special cleaning. Refer to the user manual for more details on how to do this.
  • Avoid playing/touching your board with wet hands it’d be a great idea to keep a hand towel within reach to dry your hands after visiting the washroom or if they become sweaty when playing.
  • And in case of any breakages (yes, they happen all the time), don’t think of replacement immediately. Try fixing it with wood glue and leave it overnight to dry completely

Final Verdict

There’s not a single shade of doubt that buying the best chess board will give you hours of entertainment as you play this unique game, plus it acts as a center of attraction to the guests at your home.

Having provided you with the 12 best sets that meet your limited budget as well as your gaming needs, I’m now fully confident that I’ve made things much easier for you and you can now select the ideal set right away.

Happy gaming!

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