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Towards the end of 2018, a technology company created a computer program capable of learning how to play chess. The artificial intelligence (A.I.) was initially programmed with only the basic rules of the game, but in a short time it was able to improve its strategy, until it eventually defeat some of the best chess players in the world. Clearly, when it comes to strategy games like chess, the human brain is no match for A.I.
Despite the long history of chess computer games, that have been available for decades now, it is still one of the best selling board games. As well as being a fun hobby, many studies have now proven that chess can improve children’s ability to learn as well as develop their social skills. Anyone who thinks that chess is outdated, could not be more wrong. These days with the issue of children spending too much time looking at screens, chess is a fun way to get them mentally stimulated and interacting with people in the real world.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Our Selection: The Best Chess Sets on the U.S. Market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Chess Sets
- 4 Buyer’s Guide
- 5 Summary
- The origin of chess is not entirely clear, it is commonly believed to have emerged in India in the 3rd century BC. Chess is very easy to learn, and it is a game that can be played by people of any age. It has proven benefits for mental development, making it especially recommended for children.
- There are lots of variants of chess, including three-player, three-dimensional or Fischerandom, just to name a few. Chess is actually recognized as a sport by the International Olympic Committee, although it is not an “Olympic Sport” and therefore not played at the Olympics. Many people collect chess sets, and some of the most valuable collectors editions have sold for over one million dollars.
- No matter if you are an experienced player, or just starting out, there are several factors you should keep in mind when purchasing a chess set. These include the budget, if you plan on using it to compete in tournaments, or whether it is suitable for children.
Our Selection: The Best Chess Sets on the U.S. Market
Video games have relegated many classic board games to the scrap heap of history. However, chess is bucking the trend and still remains very popular. There is a wide-range of different chess sets available on the market these days. To give you an overview of the different products available, we have prepared this list of the four best chess sets in four different categories.
- Most Popular Chess Set
- Best Magnetic Chess Set
- Best Chess Set for Kids
- Most Popular Themed Chess Set
Most Popular Chess Set
This is the most popular chess set currently for sale on Amazon. It has the classic wooden board with inlaid walnut, and pieces designed in the Staunton style. The compartment for storing the pieces has a felt inlay, which is a nice touch. The king is 3″ in height, and the board is 15″ x 15″. This chess set is suitable for children 3 years and up, and is also appealing to adults, thanks to the classic design.
Best Magnetic Chess Set
If you want a magnetic chess set this is the best option for you. It is also the cheapest product on our list, and suitable for kids or adults. The pieces are made of durable HIPS plastic with a fine texture, giving you a smooth feel while being lightweight and portable. The perfectly sized chessboard is small enough to travel with, but also large enough to play comfortably.
Best Chess Set for Kids
This classic strategy game is tested to USA Toy Safety Standards, so it’s always safe for kids to use. The quality wooden board is made from FSC-certified, New Zealand pine with a basswood and walnut veneer top. The 16″ board has a velvet-lined compartment for pieces, and folds conveniently away for easy storage.
Most Popular Themed Chess Set
Everyone loves Super Mario, so it’s not surprising that this is the most popular themed chess set. It contains 32 custom, hand-painted Super Mario Bros. figurine chess pieces, and a custom Super Mario Bros. game board. It comes packaged in a collectible tin, and is the perfect gift for anyone who is fan of the franchise.
Shopping Guide: Everything You Should Know About Chess Sets
Chess is the king of traditional board games. Its origin is still shrouded in a veil of mystery, despite being one of the most popular games in the world. Playing chess has been proven to be beneficial to mental development, so it is a good alternative to video games for your children.
What is the history of chess?
Although the origins of this game are lost in the sands of time, most historians believe it was most likely invented in India during the third century BC. From India it spread to the rest of Asia. The first documented reference of chess appears in the sixth century AD in Persia. It is in this region where the oldest chess pieces have also been found.
After the Arabs conquered Persia, they took chess to North Africa, then to the Iberian Peninsula and from there to the rest of Europe. By the fifteenth century, the game was being played all over Europe, and the first standardized rules appeared. It was at this time that the queen and the bishop pieces were added, and the game began to look very much like it does today.
It was not until the eighteenth century that chess become popular with common folk, and the first chess clubs emerged. The first international chess tournament was held in London in the the middle of the nineteenth century. In 1924 the International Chess Federation was founded in Paris, although the U.S.S.R. (home to many of the world’s best chess players) would not join until 1946.
Why is playing chess so beneficial for children?
The first open scholastic chess competition was held in 1969, and the game became very popular in the 1970s thanks to the ascendancy of eventual world champion Bobby Fischer. More and more students began to join chess clubs in the 1990s and it still remains very popular in schools today. While some students compete at the highest levels of competition, most join clubs to socialize, learn new skills and just have fun.
One of the reasons why kids fail at school is their inability to concentrate and remain focused. Chess helps to develop these qualities in children. It can also help to significantly improve their long and short-term memory, as they are required to remember both the movements made during the game they are currently playing, and the key moves of previous games.
Playing chess requires the same mathematical reasoning, as making calculations and solving equations. In some schools in Germany, teachers have replaced one hour of weekly math classes with a chess class, as they are aware of the beneficial effects this game has on students.
These days many children suffer from having low self-esteem. Chess can help children to feel more confident, and the desire to improve their game teaches them to be proactive and achieve their goals. Learning to reflect on mistakes and to anticipate different outcomes are other qualities that a child can learn just by playing chess.
What types of chess sets are available?
There are more than 50 variants of chess, although some scholars put this figure at over 2000. To be classified as a variant of chess, the game must be played on a different board, use different pieces and/or have different rules. In Fischerandom chess, for example, the pieces in rows one and eight can be placed wherever the players choose at the start of the game.
Another interesting variant is Dunsany chess, in which one player has all the standard pieces, while the other only has 32 pawns. Peasants’ Revolt is another version of chess dating from 1947. When playing this game, the white player only uses the king and eight pawns, while the black has a king, a pawn and four horses.
Without doubt, the most interesting variants of chess are those that are played on different types of boards. Some of these are Alicia’s chess (which is played using two boards), the hexagonal board for three-player chess, mini-chess and three-dimensional chess, as made famous by the television series Star Trek.
Is it best to play chess against a computer or a person?
Since the first computer chess games in the 1950s, software-based chess applications have improved significantly. These days, even the world’s best human players cannot beat chess engines running on super computers. However, many famous chess players agree that when playing against a computer the psychological aspect of the game is lost, because they can’t think, they can only make calculations.
While beating a computer is very difficult for most players, it is worth trying to learn by playing against them. As we don’t always have someone on hand to play with, you can practice using a chess video game, so you’re ready for your next human opponent.
Although chess computer games have been popular for many decades, there has recently been a big resurgence in the sale of chess board games, making them more popular than ever. This is due to the benefits of playing chess on the intellectual development of children. In order to find the best chess set to suit your needs, here are some important factors to keep in mind.
- Who will be using the chess set?
- Should I buy the pieces and the board separately?
- Is a foldable or traditional board the best option?
Who will be using the chess set?
The proven benefits that this game brings to the cognitive development of children should be reason enough for you to buy a chess set for your little ones. However, we strongly recommend not spending too much money on a chess board, if it is for your children. The best idea is to get them something inexpensive, so that they can learn to play without fear of breaking the board or losing any of the pieces.
If you want to buy a chess set for adults, it’s better to go for something of higher quality. The best option is to go for a wooden board and pieces in the Staunton design, which is used in official tournaments. Some players prefer using pieces that contain a small lead weight inside, which offers better stability.
Should I buy the pieces and the board separately?
Most people buy chess sets that include everything needed to play, however you may decide to purchase the board and pieces separately. To make sure you don’t end up with a board that is too small, make sure that the base of the king occupies no more than 75% of a square.
Another great way to tell if the board is the right size, is to check that the height of a pawn is the same as the width as one of the squares. It is also a good idea to find a board that has a nonreflective surface, which will be less distracting. As far as the pieces go, just buy any design or theme that you like the most.
Is a foldable or traditional board the best option?
If you want a chess set that you can take anywhere, a foldable option is the most suitable for you. For travelers there are magnetic sets, which will hold your pieces in places during a bumpy road trip. These are great to take on flights, and are small enough to easily fit in your carry-on luggage. If you are interested in a board that you can roll up, make sure you buy one that is of high quality, which are less likely to become creased or wrinkled.
Many foldable chess boards are of the same quality as more traditional ones. There are also magnetic models, which have excellent wood finishes, available at very affordable prices. The best products comply with the Staunton standard, and often include padded compartments inside the board to store the pieces.
One of the best things about chess is that it is a very affordable game to play. Even for a small amount of money, there are some fantastic sets available on the market. You can find plastic chess sets for less than $20, and others made from wood for just a few extra dollars. However, if you are looking for Staunton set with weighted pieces, you will need to pay over $50.
For around $60-75 you can buy a chess set of very high quality. However, as with anything else, the sky is the limit and there are options for any budget. The best sets are handcrafted from expensive woods, such as rosewood or walnut. If you would prefer a chess set made from marble, you will need a to spend over $100.
If you love chess and you are also a collector, you are in luck. Today you no longer need to spend a huge amount of money to start collecting themed chess sets. Starting at around $60 you can buy a chess set with Roman or medieval figures. Harry Potter and Star Wars sets are among the best sellers these days.
If you have a larger budget, a Viking chess costs around $150, while a the three-dimensional Star Trek chess set will cost well over $600.
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Despite the popularity of computer chess games, playing against a human opponent will always be more fun. In an age where the negatives effects of too much screen time for children is a serious issue for parents, a chess set is the perfect gift for your little ones.
When deciding which chess set to purchase, think about who will be using it, whether you want to buy the board and pieces separately and if you would prefer a plastic, wooden or marble set. Themed sets are always lots of fun, and perfect for collectors of franchises such as Star Wars, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
We hope you have found this shopping guide useful and that it has made your purchase process easier. If you enjoyed this article, please leave us a comment and be sure to share it with your friends and family.
(Featured Image Source: Vitaliy Kytayko: 32565899/ 123rf.com)