For a short time, I was helping a friend of mine that works as a school assistant for a school that needed to buy chess sets. As a part of that job, I was allowed to purchase several chessboards from Amazon — and go with the ones that were the best.
That helped me become an expert on the best wooden chess sets out there. And in this article, I’m sharing all the knowledge that I got. 🙂
Chess is the most popular board game in the world. Globally, there are more than 600 million chess players, according to this website. That is a quite remarkable number. There are 300,000,000 chess players in China alone. Problem is that they play a different type of chess called “wei qi”. If we only count players who play the traditional chess game, numbers are more likely to hit around 700,000 million — which makes it one of the biggest sports in the world!
Anyway. You have probably found this article because you wanted to buy a new chess set. This article will help you to do that.
In fact, you will also be given information about why wood is the perfect material for chessboard (and pieces). In addition to that, I got some tips on how you can become a better chess player, which is placed at the end of the article.
In a hurry? Here’s my top picks of wooden chess sets
1. Chess Armory 15″ Wooden Chess Set
This is the best wooden chess set that I’ve ever tried. That might sound sleazy and exaggerating.
But it’s not.
Very clean and neat surface. Perfect size of pieces and board – and I am very impressed by the design of the chess pieces.
It’s a reason why this chess set is ranked as “Amazon’s choice”. I guess that has something do with how they rate the board up against other “competitiors”.
By looking at the Amazon reviews from real people , you understand that this is a very solid chess set.
Pros & Cons
- Foldable and easy to carry
- Low priced (high value for money)
- Made out of high quality wood
- Perfect for traveling
- Great beginner set
- No extra queen included
- Might be a bit too small if you want to play at home
2. Aria Chess Inlaid Wood Game 16″
The perfect chess set to have at home. Having a chess set at home is not only about easy access to “a quick game”.
It is also some sort of art. Unless you have a good place to store it away, it should be visible in the living room all day. And this is, in my opinion, a chessboard that is pretty enough to be displayed to everyone that will visit your home.
Some manufacturers try to be a bit too creative when they make the pieces. It can actually go so far that you see a chess board that you have never seen before and say: “I really struggle to identify the king and the queen!”. Then you know you have purchased the wrong product.
Pros & Cons
- High quality wood
- Large board and pieces
- Wood grown in the US
- Beautiful design
- The design on the queen and king might be slightly confusing to some
- Price is a bit steep for beginners
3. Asney Wooden Foldable Small Chess Set 12″
This is a small, foldable chess set in wood. Nothing more. Good pieces, easy to bring from A to B and just the perfect size and shape.
If you buy a foldable chessboard that is too small, it just ruins the game. It’s hard to get an overview of the game and you simply don’t want to play anymore.
I was skeptical about buying anything that was 12″ or below. However, I figured out that this is the perfect size if you like to bring the chess set to a park, cafe, restaurant and so on.
The reason why this is the best “small” wodden chess board is not only about the fact that it’s foldable and easy to bring. The set also contains extra kings and queens. 🙂
Pros & Cons
- Travel Set Board
- Extra kings and queens
- Magnetic. You will never lose any pieces. 🙂
- Can play in windy conditions
- It’s quite small to have at home
While buying and receiving all these wooden chess sets from Amazon, I started to see a pattern of what differentiated a good versus a bad set.
- Extra queen(s). When you promote a pawn, it’s quite weird to use something like a rubber band, pen, or iPhone charger to use as your extra queen. 😉
- Foldable. It doesn’t matter if you plan to have your chess set standing at home. At one point you would need to put it away or move it somewhere. That’s where it needs to be foldable.
- Made out of high-quality wood. Two of the chess sets that I bought for this test were just horrible. After playing (softly/normally) two games on them, they started to get scratches all over the place.
The price on a wooden chess set is mainly related to the quality of the material, the size and the brand.
This is what you would need to expect to pay:
- Under 20 USD: These chess sets are usually small (below 12″ in size). Or they’re made out of bad quality wood. Even though a lot of manufacturers will claim that their chess set is made out of high quality in this price range, it’s not true. However, you should not pay more than 20-25 USD for a small, foldable wooden chess set.
- Between 20 and 50 USD: This is the most normal price range for these items to be found in. You will nearly find every size, quality, and type if you have a budget of fifty American dollars.
- Above 50 USD: Normally, I wouldn’t recommend “normal” people to pay this much. That’s also why I labeled the Aria board as “Premium” in the overview at the beginning of the article. These chess sets are often used for decoration only, meaning that they are often better to look at compared to being good to play with.
What type of chess set should I buy?
Now that you know the key features of a good chess board, I’ll help you to go a bit more in-depth about these above-mentioned bullet points.
Don’t get too fancy
I would recommend you to start with the basic one. Buy something affordable that is quite big. It is nothing more annoying than a small chessboard where you can barely see the pieces on top of it. Size really matters when it comes to chess.
My top recommended wooden chess set is the one called Chess Armory. It’s the perfect size for anyone who got a decent-sized backpack. 15 inches (ca. 38 cm) isn’t really that big if you need to carry it around.
Buy a chess set that you can bring to the park
The other question is: do you want a “travel set” or not? A “travel set” is the definition of a portable chessboard that you can “flip together” in the middle and store all the pieces inside. I guess you know what I mean. If not, please look at this chess set that my roommate bought about a year ago:
When it is locked:
And when you open it:
I would really recommend to buy one of those. If you are a social person that likes to bring the chessboard out in the backyard or on a picnic, you will regret if you buy a “standard” board. So if you find a foldable board made in wood, that is close to a perfect combination.
What material should a Chess Set be made out of?
Please note that these meanings are solely mine. However, I have done quite a lot of chess research over the yars.
These are the materials that are common to buy a chess board in:
But after doing a lot of research on chess sets over the last year, I have developed a pretty good understanding of what works and what doesn’t. If you want to have the chessboard as a decorative item without a real interest in playing chess on the board, glass, stone or metal can all be a good choice.
As long as you don’t choose to buy any plastic board, I am quite happy. The environmental impact of the plastic industry is not good at all.
However, I have to say that wooden chess boards are the best ones to play at.
So why is it a bad idea to buy chess sets in glass, stone or metal?
1) The pieces are way too big for the board, making it very annoying to play at.
2) The pieces are heavy. And if one of the pieces fall down from the table, there is a big chance that it will be broken. And very difficult to replace without looking weird. You don’t have that problem with plastic or wood.
3) They are very often expensive.
So you are already convinced that buying a wooden chess set is the best option? Good.
Now, let’s have a look at some of the good chessboards that you can consider buying.
Buying several wooden chess sets in different sizes
Frankly, if I was you I would probably buy both of them. If you want to play at home, you probably don’t want to play at a small chessboard. But dragging the bigger version to the park is not a very good idea.
In that case, you would need to have all the pieces in one small bag, the chessboard in a huge bag, and …yeah. It would just not work.
These are the chess sets that I own and the purpose of them:
|1. Small 12″ Wooden set||Perfect for bringing to the park with friends. It fits perfectly my small backpack.|
|2. Decorative Glass Chess Set||Frankly, I haven’t touched this set in many months. It’s more of a decorative piece – and it does its job very good – looking pretty in the corner.|
I’ll probably clean it for dust once I’m done writing this article. 🙂
|3. Big 15″ Wooden Set||After helping my local school to get their chess sets, I bought one for myself as well. This is the set I use to play at when I play with friends or family members at home.|
Beginner tips for getting better in Chess
Before I start this paragraph, I would like to “advertise” for two super helpful articles that I’ve recently written:
I’ve personally gone from a “hobby player” to a “semi-pro” – and I would say that I give away an awful lot of helpful advice in the articles that I just mentioned. 🙂
My “chess career” is probably very similar to a lot of you. I learned chess in a very young age (5 years old…ish) and played enough to remember the rules. In other words, I remember that the pawn could only go one step, can only “kill” the enemy diagonally and so on. Good old times.
But about 6 months ago I thought that I wanted to start playing chess again. A colleague of mine bought a chess set and suddenly we sat every day and played during lunch. It turned out that I was pretty bad. I thought I was decent, but I wasn’t. So I started to learn. And over the last six months I have taken pretty big steps to become a better chess player. And I felt that I wanted to share some of the things that I have learned. I mean, if you already are going to buy a new chess set, you better learn how to improve.
1. Be aware of the simple traps
There are some openings that you simply should not do. It is especially one trick that all beginners will be a victim of the first times they play. This is the good old “bishop + queen” attack where you can checkmate your opponent in less than five moves. Handy.
This is actually a quite good video that shows you the traps. I know: they might seem a bit overwhelming just by looking at the video. But when you slowly start to play more and more matches, you will remember which moves that you should not do.
You just have to know that if you are at a complete beginner level, you will be punished by these traps. But that is also a very good way of learning them. If you are a very competitive person, like myself, you really hate to see other people beat you. That creates a good motivation for learning what you really should not do when playing chess.
2. Register an account on Chess.com and play online
Playing chess online is free – and it’s quite a lot of fun. I have tried several bad “play chess online websites” (so you don’t have to). The conclusion is pretty clear: Chess.com is the best one. It is free. It gathers chess players from all over the world. And it has an integrated ranking system which allows you to only play against people that is roughly the same level as yourself.
The most normal way of playing chess on Chess.com is to play so-called “time limited games”. This is a structure where each player got 10 minutes each and the clock starts to go down when it’s your move. Once you have made your move, the opponents’ clock start to count down. And so it goes. In other words, the maximum time for a chess game of this type is 20 minutes.
PS! They even got an app. That means that you can literally just pick up your cellphone and play wherever you are. I love to play on the subway while traveling to work. If you got roughly 20 minutes to work every day, chess is a perfect way to kill some time.
3. See YouTube videos from professional games
Yeah, I know. This one might seem a bit nerdy. And a lot of people have the mindset of “why would I watch other play when I can play myself?”. And I get it. Before I started to watch these videos, I had the exact same mentality.
Then I started to look at games from the best players in the world. The number #1 ranked chess player, Magnus Carlsen from Norway, got loads of videos online. Many of them even got professional commentators, which almost makes it like a proper TV show. You can see an example here:
Another “legend” in the Youtube chess community is Ben Finegold. The eccentric American hosts a big variety of different Chess videos. In some of them he is playing games against other high-ranked opponents. But he also creates educational videos that are meant for beginners and kids where he explains every single step that he is doing. I found out that this is one of the best ways of learning chess.
4. Play with someone that are better than you
One thing is playing chess online. But that is not the most social or fun way to play. I am sure you have some friends, colleagues or family members that are more experienced than you in chess. After all, it is one of the most popular board games in the world. It might also be that the people around you are also at a beginner level. But there is a solution to that as well.
Open Google, type in “Chess club close to [your area]” and see what pops up. Joining a chess club is a step I haven’t taken yet, but is definitely something I will explore over the next six months. When you play with people that are better than you, you learn something every time. Every single game is educational.
For environmental purposes, please buy a chess set made in wood. Plastic is a no-go (I already told the guy who bought the board for our office). And looking at the prices, you don’t have to go too high in order to get a quite decent board with good-looking pieces.
Making it more complicated than it is will just ruin the whole chess experience.
Buying a foldable chess set in wood is, in my opinion, the very best choice. It saves the environment and it is quite convenient to both play at and bring out to any occasion. I just ordered myself one actually.
And if you want to combine buying a new chess set with actually improving your game, you have found the right article. Feel free to ask me questions in the comment section any time about either how to get out of the “very beginner stage” or something else chess related. I will always try to answer within 24 hours.