Sound strategy with these 4 best chess sets

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Chess boards can easily plant the seeds of that familiar cozy and warm feeling in your heart.

Are you drunk, Greg, you might ask me.

Not at all. Chess is an intricate, beautiful way to flex your mind a bit. No matter if you get a tournament chess set or a board for casual home playing, you’ll feel cozy.

Now, these two categories differ from each other a lot. A tournament board like Wholesale Chess’ weighted one is made of plastic and its primary purpose is to be portable.

A handcrafted, neatly designed wooden chess set like Wegiel’s is bound to be enjoyed by home players. It’s delicate, yet gorgeous and will complement your living surroundings.

Then, there are the purely collectors edition boards. Here is a rundown on the best chess sets for all these categories: 

Tournament
TournamentSmall
  • WholeSale Chess
  • Best for:
    Lightweight, portable set for tournament players. Travel bag included.
  • Board size:
    20" x 20"
  • Construction:
    Vinyl, lightweight.
    ★★★★½
  • Chess pieces:
    Triple-weighted.
    ★★★★½
  • Price:
    $+
Wooden
WoodenSmall
  • Wegiel Handmade
  • Best for:
    Handcrafted wooden set, perfect for home use. Easy storage system.
  • Board size:
    16" x 16"
  • Construction:
    Beech and birch wood, very elegant.
    ★★★★★
  • Chess pieces:
    Weighted, made of hornbeam and sycamore wood.
    ★★★★★
  • Price:
    $$+
Medieval
MedievalChessSmall
  • Koehler Medieval
  • Best for:
    Tempered glass board that re-enacts the magic of Medieval Age clashes.
  • Board size:
    17" x 17"
  • Construction:
    Tempered glass, but heavy at 12 pounds
    ★★★★½
  • Chess pieces:
    Well-balanced polyresin, careful with the paint.
    ★★★★
  • Price:
    $$++
Collector's
DragonCollectChessSmall
  • CHH Dragon Set
  • Best for:
    Premium collector's edition fantasy-themed chess board. Extremely stylish and beautiful.
  • Board size:
    13.5" x 13.5"
  • Construction:
    High-end glass with a dragon "graveyeard" beneath it.
    ★★★★★
  • Chess pieces:
    Pewter and poly-resin, heavy and durable.
    ★★★★★
  • Price:
    $$$

I guess, the real question is:

What are you looking for?

Do you want to play competitively? Surprise someone with a gift? Or maybe you’re more into limited edition collector’s sets?

Good news in any of these cases: I’ll review these 4 different chess sets I deem to be top of the top. Take your pick in line with your personal preferences!

The 4 absolute best chess sets you can buy

1. Best tournament chess board:
WholeSale Chess Triple Weighted

High class vinyl and travel bag: the best tournament chess set that's also easy to move around.

As I mentioned, with tournament sets you really want portability and ease of use. You’re going to unroll that board numerous times. You will also need to transport it from one place to another, repeatedly.

This is a great 20″x20″ roll-up board for some quality chess time. Made of vinyl, it’s very mobile and doesn’t have that strong of a smell. (You probably thought about vinyl smell, admit it.)

The reason I’m picking this one is its “triple weighted” feature. The thing with a lot of lower quality tournament boards is that they’re way too lightweight. The chess pieces tilt easily which really affects your playing satisfaction.

The pieces here are triple weighted, with a paper felt on the bottom. This ensures that first of all, they slide smoothly across the vinyl surface. And second, their reinforced weight reduces the chances of tipping over a lot.

You get your standard 2 1/4″ squares here, while the pieces are led by a 3 3/4″ king. A good touch is the fact that you’ve got an extra queen of each color.

I know you hate boards that curl a lot when unrolled. You needn’t worry about that here: the vinyl will stay flat, no dreaded curls around the edges that take time and only frustrate you. Forget about them.

Last but not least, the tournament chess bag you get here is both spacious and of good quality. You have a 9″x5″x2″ clock pouch, along with enough room for your pieces, the chess board itself and some other small things you might need.

2. Best wooden chess set for home:
Wegiel handmade 16″ board

Best wooden chess set for home plays; Wegiel's

People who value home comfort (like me) will want a nice chess set that amps up an apartment’s coziness. If you like handcrafted things, beautiful design and the feel of wooden chess pieces, Wegiel 16″ is one of the best chess sets to buy.

This a somewhat smaller board at 16″ x 16″ with its squares standing at 2″ each. The material is an outstanding mix of beech and birch wood. Very elegant, very classic in terms of looks, an eye-candy for every living room.

You can fold the board so it doesn’t take a lot of space when you’re not playing. The 2 brass clasps ensure secure locking and are pretty sturdy.

Once again who have a felted base of the handmade chess pieces. Unlike the board, they’re made from hornbeam and sycamore wood and just as stylish. The felt bottom makes sliding easier, while the careful weight added to the pieces gives them proper stability.

What really stands out here is the inner side of the board. You can use it to store your pieces and it’s so spacious! There are separate compartments for every single wooden chess piece, so they stay protected. Absolutely amazing.

This is a nice chess set to give as a gift to children, but also a great board to have around in your house as a whole. Your guests will be mesmerized with it.

That said, you have to be careful with this handcrafted chess beauty. It’s more delicate and lightweight than others, so dropping it might ruin its appearance. Respect its fragility and it’ll repay you with feel-good chess playing time for years to come.

3. Fancier best chess set for the money:
Koehler 17″ Medieval Knights

Get a taste of the medieval times with this amazing chess set for beginners and pros alike

For people who want to be even more exquisite with their chess playing habits at home, Koehler’s 17″ is a must. This charming chess boards sends you back into the honor-filled days of Medieval times. Shields clash with swords in a heated battle across the battlefield with ornamented dragons on its edges.

The board here is a piece of true art with its tempered glass. This is a whole new level of chess design, but it comes at a cost. Yes, weight. This weighs around 12 pounds, so you won’t be taking it on your travels.

No, this Middle Ages’ throwback is to be the ornamented flower that complements your cozy home.

As for the chess pieces themselves, they’re around 2 1/2″ in height. Made of polyresin, they are both durable and stylish in their silver versus gold appearance. Sure, they’re somewhat lightweight, but don’t think you won’t have the nice balance and weight here.

The drawback? To get the vibrant metallic shine, the pieces are of course painted. If you think of gifting this to small children, they might peel the paint off. Not that it comes off easily, it’s just that we know how playful can kids get.

Aside from this little detail, Koehler delivers absolute medieval awesomeness. If you want to immerse yourself in special chess sessions with a hint of historical events, look no further. This is the best chess board for the purpose.

4. Best collector’s chess set:
Dragon Chess

For collectors, this dragon chess set is a perfect pick

Dragons. Who doesn’t love them? You don’t have to be a huge fan of Game of Thrones to dig the aesthetics of fantasy. And you know, it suits playing something as sophisticated as chess just right!

This rare edition chess board is perfect for collectors or people who want to have something really unique around in their home.

I have to say: this is a rather small board. It measures 13.5″ x 13.5″, which is tinier than your standard chess sets.

However, the luxurious glass surface with an improvised “dragon” graveyard with cool bones beneath it fully makes up for that.

The pieces design and sturdiness is outstanding. They actually are partially made of pewter (yes!), with a poly-resin base that makes sure they slide properly across the glass. Very durable, heavy (of course) and 100% pure enjoyment to play with.

One of the factions consists of bronze-colored dragons, while the other one sticks to a stylish silver dragon theme. You’re not getting ugly details here – these are intricate enough to increase your fantasy immersion.

Now, a few important notes. First, some of you might use it as a fully interior design piece – in other words, not playing chess at all. This works too, as the table is a fantastic complement to any interior design.

Second, the pieces being heavier and the board being made of glass, you have to be careful. Don’t go too hard when playing so as to not scratch the surface if the chess dragons tip over on the table.

Third, make sure you’re playing on a stable surface. You don’t want this beauty to tilt over and shatter on your floor. Also, keep in mind that there’s no storage case for the chess set – but anyways, would you really hide this masterpiece, when you can show it off?

For people into collecting rare things, this is the best chess set to buy, without any doubt.

What material should I choose for my chess set?

I think I outlined the main differences, but…all materials are fine. There’s no good or bad material – there’s a good or bad manufacture.

That said, for tournament chess boards you’ll always go with a plastic and vinyl combination.

Why? Because this blend is less prone to wear and tear and not as fragile as handcrafted wooden pieces. Additionally, it’s lighter than heavy-set metal boards that are beautiful, but a pain to carry around.

For home use it gets tricky. Generally, both metal and wood are great materials to supplement your house interior.

The tricky part about wood is that sometimes you have to take care of it so it doesn’t tear. Lacquering/waxing is also a possibility if you want these chess sets to retain their gorgeous appearance.

The issue with metal is that the heavy chess pieces might scratch the board if they fall over. A lot of metal/pewter sets come with glass boards. If you’re not careful, you can ruin them in just a few seconds.

For myself, I prefer the delicate beauty of wooden chess boards. They’re stylish and somehow feel „natural“ to me.

How can I care for my chess set?

Especially if you with a high end board, you’ll want to preserve it over time. I’ve seen some people pass down well-designed, high quality sets for generations.

A few general things to consider are:

  • Be careful with too much humidity and direct sunlight/heat if you have a wooden set. It will get discolored (direct light), and high humidity levels might warp its appearance.

  • Play with clean, dry hands, especially if you have a wooden set. Even with other types of boards it’s a good idea to play with clean hands so you don’t make the pieces dirty.

  • If you’re unsure on how to do any „fresh up“ process (like paste waxing or lacquering), always contact a professional. If you’re not careful, you can ruin your set!

  • Never, ever use oil or liquid polishes for handcrafted wooden sets.

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Ex-digital nomad, DIY enthusiast and passionate sci-fi fan. Always ready to give lifestyle tips for men. Tea, not coffee is my fuel for writing.