What to consider when buying a chess set
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There are a number of details that I look for in Chess Equipment, which includes Chess pieces, boards and storage boxes.
The first thing I look at are the Chess pieces. Of course I do keep in mind the size of the board when deciding on the Chess pieces, but only for proportional sizing of the complete setup. When deciding on Chess pieces there is definitely a set of aspects I want to see in a set that I consider buying.
The first aspect of a set of Chess pieces that I look for is the general design. The Staunton style has been the standard in Western Europe and the United States for many years. So the majority of sets that I consider are of the general Staunton design.
There are a number of different Staunton designs produced from 1849 until the late 1960’s. Some of these sets I find very appealing and some I do not care for, but of course this is a matter of personal taste.
With that though, I look for the size of the pieces, using the King height and base diameter as standard measures. The first thing I decide is whether I am looking for a larger club sized set where the King height is well over 4”, the more standard tournament sized set with the King height being between 3.6” to 4.0”, or a smaller sized set with the King height ranging from about 3.0” - 3.5”. Once this is decided I then proceed to look at the piece details.
I then decide on a wood type or color of the set that I want. Most sets have Boxwood or Maple as the light pieces. For the dark pieces I prefer the Ebonized (black stained) pieces over the Ebony because of brittleness of the wood. Of course there are also the Rosewood varieties that I also enjoy. And there are some very nice sets that have the dark pieces stained in a Mahogany or other type of brown or red. I decide what coloring and woods I am looking for and then proceed.
The Knight is the most complicated part of a Chess set, so I look at the Knight design to see if I find this good. Then I look at the Bishop design, and then the Rook, Queen, King and Pawn in order. Of course I want the pieces to be proportional in both design and size to each other.
I then look at the quality of the workmanship of the pieces. Once again the Knight is the most complicated and will show the quality of workmanship first and foremost. However, the other pieces also will show the quality of workmanship.
I then look at the price of the set. If the price is within a competitive range of other sets with similar designs and quality, then I am happy and will buy the set.
I have found only a few places in the world, mostly on the internet, that handles and sells high quality sets at a reasonable price. One of those places is here, www.chessmazeinternational.com . I actually own 3 sets from this company and I live in the United States while they are in England.
After choosing the pieces I then look to find a board that will match the pieces in both size and coloring. Of course I do not want the dark woods to be an identical match as the pieces will then have a tendency to be lost on the identically colored dark squares. However, I do want the dark squares to match and complement the dark pieces. I also want to see a nice complement with the light colored pieces and the board color.
I then look at the square size. To decide this I take the base diameter of the King and divide the square size into that to give a percentage. I have found that a percentage range of 68% - 77% works best for me. I will look at the size of the pieces as well though. Sometimes a set will look bigger than the King base diameter would predict on a square size. And sometimes it will look smaller. This is where pictures are very handy. Using the above criteria I have really never had a bad piece and board combination.
Finally I look at the storage box to hold the set. For a nice set that stays in my home I look for a nice hardwood box that has enough room to hold the set. Usually there is a lock on the box that prevents the an accidental opening and pieces falling out. I want the hinges on this box and other hardware to be brass or some other good looking metal. Of course I want the box to be able to hold the set that I am buying completely.
Once again I have found www.chessmazeinternational.com to be a good source to shop for and buy all the equipment I want to play a nice game of Chess.