Last updated: August 20, 2021

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Every day we are faced with challenges that test our abilities. From the physical to the mental, they impose obstacles that we must overcome. In this article, we will tell you about one of the best ways to train our mental agility: chess.

It is a game that, according to its earliest documented date, has been in the world for approximately 1,500 years as we know it. In it, we must test our mental agility and strategic ability, for it is not a game of chance. From its rules, pieces and the size of each space, it has been carefully structured, resulting in a real cognitive challenge.




First, the most important thing

  • Chess is a game that stimulates our mental agility, as it requires the player to choose the best strategy. We will explore its possible origin, as well as briefly explain why it is considered a sport or what is the best chess you can buy.
  • We can divide chess into 3 main categories. These respond mostly to its design or functionality. Classic, digital or electric chess. They are not only distinguished by their cost or variations, but also by the practicality they offer and even the particular advantages.
  • We will also talk about the most important factors to take into account. From the materials you can find, the type of board and even the type of pieces. Each of these will help you to conceive the magnitude of possibilities and, from all of them, to choose the best one.

The Best Chess: Our Picks

Buying guide: what you need to know about chess

Chess is made up of a number of factors as wide and varied as its rules. However, each of them will give you a more complete picture. This will help you make the most informed and straightforward purchasing decision that will maximize your playing experience.

Chess is the perfect game to stimulate mental agility in children and adults. (Photo: Dmytro Zinkevych / 123rf.com)

Who invented chess?

Chess, as we know it, has been impacting the world for 1,500 years. As is to be expected for such a long-lived game, its origins have been difficult to trace. The most widely accepted theory is that it was created in India as "Chaturanga" during the 6th century, according to legend, by Sisa the Sage.

It was the Arabs when they conquered the Iberian peninsula, who introduced the game for its European appropriation. Chess is the result of an extremely broad cultural combination. It ranges from the foundations laid by the Spaniard Ruy Lopez de Segura, to proposals made by François-André Danican Philidor centuries later.

Did you know that the youngest player to achieve the title of "International Grandmaster" awarded to chess prodigies was the Ukrainian Sergey Kariakin at the age of 12?

Chess: Physical, Electronic or Digital - what should you pay attention to?

There are three different types of chess, all of which are characterized by their unique properties. From digital models to basic chess and a variant that combines the technological with the classic model. Each one will respond to specific use and demands of the players.

Physical. The physical model can be either magnetic or regular. It consists of the board, either wood, metal, or marble, together with its corresponding pieces. You can find folding models, which will allow you the possibility of transporting them easily from one place to another.

Digital. Since the mid-1950s, computerized chess has been gaining ground among players. Although its conception, the idea of automated chess, was conceived many years earlier. It consists of a digital replica of the board and pieces, where you can play against the machine or even online against players from other countries.

Electronic chess. This type of chess is a hybrid of the first two. It consists of a physical board and pieces but includes an interface that creates a connection with the computer to play against it. Or, alternatively, it contains internal software. In turn, some models have a digital clock included, as well as handheld versions.

Physical Digital Electronic
Notable uses Professional skills Skills, analysis and training Training for beginners or children
Material requirements Board and pieces PC and software Batteries or alternatively wired connection
Types of play Classical or magnetic Artificial intelligence or Online Hand-held or desktop chess

Why is chess considered a sport?

Unlike many board games and games of chance, chess has a set of rules that distinguish it. Mainly because they seek the greatest autonomy of the player with respect to the decisions and strategies used. The result is a game that relies on the player's ability, agility, and preparation.

Chess results in combat, or rather, in a demonstration of skills. It demands and de-exhausts players psychologically, emotionally, intellectually and physically, so that the preparation of a chess player can be compared to that of an athlete. While tournaments, championships, and Olympiads measure players against each other.

Which chess set to buy?

One of the most frequent doubts, especially among beginners, revolves around which chess set to buy. For this, we must consider the use: ornamental or for playing, the materials, sizes; where the base of the king should not exceed 75%, approximately, of the diameter of the socket or square, among other factors.

However, expert players recommend opting for a classic Staunton model. This is in order to familiarise oneself with the pieces, as it is thanks to this that a standard has been stipulated.
"At the same time, it is recommended that the prospective player takes into account mainly the measurements and proportions, as well as the weight of each piece"

Buying criteria: factors that allow you to compare and rate the different chess models

We will end by exploring in-depth some of the most important buying factors mentioned in the previous point. These will help you to make a better buying decision, not just one that suits your aesthetic tastes. With them you will be able to opt for functionality, use and that you can get the most out of your chess set.

  • Use
  • Material
  • Type
  • Board
  • Type of pieces

Use

The first thing you should take into consideration is the use you want to give to your chess set. We can divide it into two: to play or as a decorative item. Although it may not seem so, not all boards and pieces have been manufactured for active use, many of them are perfect for decorating living rooms or libraries.

Playing. The chess recommended for playing is a Staunton model made of wood, plastic, or even metal. They are manufactured taking into account the "dragging" of the pieces, so the surface is protected. On the other hand, the pieces of some have a felt or another type of protector, to soften the movement, without wearing the board.

Decorative items. Decorative items break with both the Staunton size and model rules. You can find boards that exceed the 50x50 cm limit and pieces over 12 cm in height. Made of materials such as glass, porcelain, or onyx, they are perfect to show off anywhere.

Material

We can find chess sets made of different materials. Each one will offer you specific characteristics, which respond mainly to their durability and frequency of use. We have selected the three most common ones, but you can also find materials such as glass or marble.

Wood. This is one of the most common sets, but not the cheapest. If you are looking for a chess set that offers quality, both in the finish of the board and in the details of the pieces, this is your option. You can find ebony and boxwood, which are the classic models, but there are also variants in pine and other types of wood.

Plastic. These are the cheapest and most durable models. Not only because plastic withstands the passage of time better, but also because it is not affected by continuous use or sliding. They are pieces that weigh less than 400 grams, however, some include an extra weight inside, offering greater support.

Metal. The perfect model, not only for rough or constant use but also as a decorative element. They are mostly made of stainless steel, but there are also models in bronze and even silver. Each piece has a protective layer on its base, facilitating the sliding and durability of the board.

One of the most popular variants of chess is the giant version, which works as a didactic learning strategy for children. (Photo: Anna Lurye / 123rf.com)

Type

There are two main types of chess: the classical model and the magnetic model. These two are distinguished by the fact that they are the most common choices among consumers. Also, one of their main differences lies in the system of fastening the pieces to the table.

Magnetic. The magnetic model has become one of the most popular, thanks to its practicality. It allows greater control of the pieces, keeping each element in place, thus avoiding undesired movements or displacements. It is perfect if you want to avoid losing them.

Classic. The classic models do not have magnets, but they solve the problem of holding the weight. Some pieces have metal additions on the inside to give them extra support. These are cheaper models, but we must be very careful when storing them so as not to lose any of the elements.

Board

The type of board you can buy will depend largely on the accessibility you want to give to your chess set. You can find fixed models, models with drawers, and even folding models that you can easily transport anywhere. Remember that the recommended size of the chessboard is between 43x43cm and 46x46cm.

Simple. They result in fixed models. They can be made of wood, marble, metal, or any other material. It is a single piece, with a base covered by pieces of rubber or material that reduces movement and offers the greatest stability. It is perfect for all those who wish to fix their chess in one place.

Boxes. These are models that offer the same properties as the fixed boards, but with an added extra. Drawers or hollow bottoms, where you can store the pieces without worrying about losing any of them. The bottoms are usually covered with felt or soft material, which interacts subtly with the fragile material.

Foldable. You can find hybrids made mostly of wood, which offer the functionality of a drawer. Or the classic roll-up mats, light and easy to transport, made of fabric, vinyl or felt. Either of these two options is recommended for players who carry the game with them wherever they go.

Type of pieces

Finally comes the factor of the types of pieces for our chess set. This classification is divided into two: Staunton and any other variation that does not correspond to the classic design. Although, it is worth noting that the Staunton model is also based on the type of height that the king reaches, stipulating a standard with respect to the measurements.

Staunton. If you are looking for the design used by the professionals and which complies with the regulations of the game, this is your option. The heights of these pieces are 6: From 3, the lowest height resulting in 70mm, up to 8, which is a little over 150mm. These elements will comply with the classic design stipulated since the 19th century.

Variations. They result in variations in both design and size. These do not fully comply with the chess regulations but offer aesthetic variations. If you are looking for a unique, attractive design that will give your chess set a little extra, you can find everything from minimalist pieces to caricature replicas.

(Featured image photo: Orlando Rosu/ 123rf.com)

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