Everyone’s idea of what the best chess sets look like is a little different. Some are after practicality, affordability, or tournament legality. Others want a memorable showpiece to display at home. Whatever your perfect chess set looks like, we’ve got some recommendations to suit – all of which are (reasonably) affordable, easy to use, and high-quality.
Whether you’re a pro or just learning how to play chess for the first time, a great chess set is a clever investment. We can also recommend chess tables and gaming tables to host your game at, as well as other classic board games to explore. We’re all about the best board games, modern and traditional.
These are the best chess sets to check out:
- Best wooden chess set – Ambassador handmade chess set
- Coolest chess set – Isle of Lewis chess set
- Most unique chess set – Vertical chess set
- Best chess tournament set– Tournament Chess Vinyl set
- Best themed chess set – Jurassic Park chess set
1. Ambassador handmade chess set
Best wooden chess set
If you want a chess set with a premium feel (but not a premium price), we recommend the Ambassador handmade chess set. This glossy wooden chess set is made from sycamore and birch wood with green felt bottoms, and the board doubles up as a container for your chess pieces. The pieces and board have elegant decorations that make them stand out from your run-of-the-mill chess set.
It isn’t exactly cheap, but it feels very budget-friendly when you think of the thousands some spend on high-end chess sets. The Ambassador is a well-made, beautiful chess set that offers great value for money.
2. Isle of Lewis chess set
Coolest chess set
It’s the Isle of Lewis chess set’s rich history that makes it one of the coolest chess sets. This set recreates the Lewis Chessmen, the 12th-century chess pieces that were discovered in Scotland in 1831. These are some of the most iconic and valuable chess pieces in history – and you can easily find high-quality replicas for your home.
We recommend this Isle of Lewis chess set from The Regency Chess Company. For $200 (£167) you get accurate, highly-detailed recreations of the Lewis chessmen. The stunning pieces are a luxury item that let you own a piece of art and history – you will need to supply your own chess board, though.
3. Vertical chess set
Most unique chess set
If you’re looking for a unique chess set, try playing chess on a wall. Vertical chess sets can be hung like a picture, and they use magnets to keep the chess pieces in place. Display it as an interesting decor piece that shows your love for chess, or plan some unorthodox, standing games.
4. Tournament Chess Vinyl set
Best chess tournament set
If you want to play chess competitively, you’ll need to own a tournament chess set that meets the standards of the regulatory body in charge of the events. Not just any set will do – your set needs to meet certain size, color, and material requirements to be considered legal.
We think it’s best to go straight to the source with pro chess sets. The US Chess Federation offers a Tournament Chess Vinyl set for a measly $34.95 (£28.17). This set isn’t just for professionals, though. Its vinyl board makes it a great lightweight option for playing on the go, and it’s one of our favorite sets for players on a tight budget.
5. Jurassic Park chess set
Best themed chess set
Plenty of major franchises have their own themed chess sets. Fantasy lovers might go for a Lord of the Rings chess set or a Harry Potter chess set, and there’s even a Star Trek chess set for sci-fi lovers who don’t mind using an unusual board. But when it comes to the best themed chess set, we think Jurassic Park has everybody else trumped – all the chess pieces are dinosaurs.
There’s something joyful about bunny-hopping a velociraptor across a chess board (dinosaur sounds optional). And for $49 (£44.27), the Jurassic Park chess set offers decent value for money. The pieces are high quality, unique, and surprisingly practical, with clear labeling helping you remember which dino is your rook or queen.
For more chess sets, check out this novelty MTG cards chess set, made by a major fan of trading card games. Or, for more iconic tabletop games, why not learn the top Scrabble strategies or how to win Monopoly every time?