Chess Boards: A Complete Overview

Boards And Pieces
A Silicone Chess board

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Chess is a battle of minds in which a player’s wildest imaginations become reality.

There are endless possibilities that can arise from a game of chess; it all depends on the players’ creativity.

The battlefields on which these tactical wars are waged are called chess boards.

Chess boards serve as the platform on which the tactical and strategic brilliance of players come into being: every capture, check, fork or skewer happens on the chess board.

In this article, we will go through what chess boards are all about, and also share some helpful resources to purchase yours.

What Is a Chess Board?

A chess board is a square-shaped game board on which the game of chess is played.

It consists of 64 squares with 8 rows by 8 columns; chess pieces or chessmen are placed on these squares.

Chess boards use two colors of squares, a light one and a dark one, which are arranged in a chequered pattern.

The columns of a chessboard are known as files, the rows are known as ranks, and the lines of adjoining same-colored squares (each running from one edge of the board to an adjacent edge) are known as diagonals.

History Of Chess Boards

The first known version of the chess board was the Ashtāpada board. It was used to play a game called chaturanga.

Chaturanga was a historical predecessor to chess, it began around the 6th century in India.

The board used a single color for all squares and was divided into eight columns by eight rows, each having marked squares called castles in the corners of each section. The Ashtāpada board was also used to play other games.

The modern chessboard got its chequered pattern form in the 10th century with the introduction of chess to Europe. The pattern was based on that of the then 5×5 draughts board.

As a result of this development, each diagonal was now represented by a continuous sequence of identical squares, which brought about the introduction of the current bishop and queen movements in the 15th century.

A book known as “Libro de los juegos” (Book of Games) that was written in 1283 contains a description of the modern chess board, describing eight rows and columns as the ideal number.

In the 13th century, some players began using the convention that the first square of the far right column should be light-colored, this convention was endorsed by Pedro Damiano at the end of the 15th century and is still in use to date.

You may also want to read: Who Invented Chess?

Types Of Chess Boards 

Chess boards come in different styles to suit the tastes of people. From the simple vinyl chess boards to the ornamental and decorative ones, there is a chess board that appeals to every taste.

Some examples of different chess boards are:

Wooden Chess Boards

A wooden chess board
A wooden chess board

Wooden chess boards have become the most preferred version of the chess board. This is because of their special durability, solidity, and aesthetics.

Certain varieties of wood have become established as the most fitting and favored material used to craft the board and pieces of the game of kings.

Many wooden chess boards may include two different varieties of wood combinations.

Darker colored combinations for the dark-colored squares on the board, and lighter colored combinations for the light-colored pieces and squares on the board respectively. One of the more common combinations is Sheesham and Boxwood.

Others may be made out of a single variety of wood, where the lighter, darker, or both colors used, both on the board and the pieces are lacquer-painted.

You may also want to read: How Wooden Chess Pieces Are Made

Electronic Chess Boards 

An Electronic Chess Board
An Electronic Chess Board

Electronic chess boards are chess boards that contain microelectronic chips that provide an excellent chess experience for players.

There are inbuilt clocks and touch-sensitive squares that combine to give the user an excellent chess-playing experience.

Custom Printed Chess Boards

Custom 3D printed chess set
Custom 3D printed chess set. Image: Reddit

If you’re looking to make your chess boards stand out and look unique, then a custom-printed chess board is for you.

These chess boards are designed to suit the preferences of chess players, you can choose to put your logo on it or even a favorite picture of yours.

Vinyl Chess Boards

Vinyl Chess Board
Vinyl Chess Board

Looking for a low-budget chess board that will give you maximum satisfaction? Then look no further than vinyl chess boards.

These chess boards are made from a material known as vinyl. Vinyl is a type of plastic that is made from ethylene and chlorine.

When processed, both substances are combined to form Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) resin, which is commonly referred to as Vinyl.

Vinyl chess boards are durable and are one of the best on-the-go chess boards. This is because they can be easily folded and they take up very little space compared to the wooden chess board.

Vinyl chess boards can be found in chess clubs, schools, and recreational centers.

Silicone Chess Boards 

A Silicone Chess Board
A Silicone Chess Board

Silicone Chess Boards are another low-cost variety. They are designed to house larger chess pieces.

Silicone chess boards are also wrinkle-free. Another advantage of the Silicone board is that it is baked, so once it is set it can never lose its shape, as such you will never have to worry about the board curling.

It is also quite thin, making it easier to fit into bags. They are machine washable.

Magnetic Chess Boards 

A Magnetic Chess Board
A Magnetic Chess Board

Magnetic Chess Boards are not your regular chess boards. This is because magnetic chess boards contain a magnetic layer underneath the board as well as magnets inside each of the chess pieces.

This ensures that the pieces will stick to the magnetic board, rather than sliding and moving around as traditional non-magnetic pieces would on a standard chess board.

Magnetic chess boards are excellent for travel and outdoor play. This is because they won’t easily be affected by wind or movement unlike other chess boards.

Another benefit of magnetic chess boards is that they provide an excellent experience for players with unstable hands, such as old people.

They are also perfect for children, due to the fact that they don’t get knocked over easily.

Luxury Chess Boards

A Luxury Chess Board
A Luxury Chess Board

Since chess is a game that has no boundaries, there are also chess boards to suit the taste of the upper class and elite. These chess boards are called luxury chess boards.

They are more often than not, used for beautification and aesthetics rather than gameplay. This is due to their excellent craftsmanship and rare materials.

Examples of luxury chess boards are made from marble, glass, and precious stones.

Theme Chess Boards 

A Theme Chess Board 
A Theme Chess Board 

If you’re a fan of history, fantasy, or mythology, then you have to get a theme chess board. These chess boards are designed in the likeness of certain worlds, these worlds may be fictional or non-fictional.

The board is usually designed like a location and the chess pieces are designed like the characters relating to the theme. An example of a theme chess board is the Game Of Thrones chess set.

How To Set Up Chess Boards

Before a game of chess can be played, the chess board has to be set up and oriented correctly. There are rules and steps guiding the way a chess board should be set up.

The correct orientation of a chess board is known as a chess board layout. In explaining how chess boards are set up, we will make use of steps.

Step 1: Set up the board with the light square in the bottom-right corner

When setting up a chess board, it is very important to position it in the right direction so that each side will align correctly. A simple hack to remember this rule is to always remember that the right-hand side is always white.

Step 2: Place the  pawns on the second ranks

Placing all the pawns on the second rank helps reduce the cluttering of the other pieces (as the pawns are more in number than any other piece) and makes it easier to place them on the board.

Step 3: Place the rooks in the corners

Next, the rooks should be placed in the corners of the board. There are four rooks, and each of them goes into a corner.

Step 4: Place the knights next to the rooks

The knights are then placed next to the rooks. Each knight is placed next to a rook. There are four knights on the board, meaning one knight per rook.

Step 5: The bishops are next to the knights  

Next, the bishops come on board alongside the knights. Both White and Black have two bishops. The two bishops are light- and dark- squared, so putting them next to the knights ensure they stay on their correct squares.

Step 6: The queen goes on her color

The queen comes next and is placed in the same color she wears. This means that the White queen is placed on a White square, and the Black queen is placed on a Black square.

Step 7: Place the king on the last square

At this point, there should be only one square left on each side. The kings are then placed on the squares.

After you have followed these steps, your chess board will be well set up and ready to play.

You can check out our dedicated guide should you need better clarification or visual aids: How To Set Up A Chessboard Easily

Chess Board Notation

Chess notation is the language of chess. It is used by players to keep track of and record the moves made on the board.

The standard method of chess notation is algebraic notation. Chess boards also have notations to enable players to record the positions of pieces on the board.

All the squares on the board are labeled using algebraic, descriptive, or numeric chess notation.

The FIDE standard is the algebraic notation and it is the most popular.

In the algebraic notation, looking at the board from the White pieces’ point of view, files are labeled a through h from left to right, and ranks are labeled 1 through 8 from bottom to top; each square is identified by the file and rank which it occupies.

The “a” to “d” files comprise the queenside, while the “e” to “h” files comprise the kingside.

Confused about this? We covered the topic of chess notation in more simplicity and depth here: What are Chess Notations?

Where You Can Find Chess Boards 

Now that you know what chess boards are and the types of chess boards that can be used, you might want to get one for yourself.

Some excellent stores in which you can find great chess boards include:


Amazon is an American multinational company focusing on e-commerce, cloud computing, online advertising, digital streaming, and artificial intelligence.

It has been referred to as one of the most influential economic and cultural forces in the world and is one of the world’s most valuable brands.

You can easily find varieties of chess boards to suit your taste here.

In another article, we also covered the best chess sets you can get on Amazon that costs less than $100. This should help your purchasing decision.

Here is the piece: 10 Best Chess Sets Under $100

House Of Staunton

The House of Staunton is a highly regarded brand with a wide variety of chess materials available in its online store. This store is regarded as the “gold standard” of chess products by many experts.

With a quick look at their products, one can see why House of Staunton is regarded so highly. They produce elegant, custom-made, and handcrafted chess sets.

Wooden chess sets, chess boards, chess pieces, chess clocks, chess books, and more can be found in the House of Staunton store.

The Chess Store 

The Chess Store brand began operations in 1999, and since then it has grown to be a giant in the chess industry. They provide top-class Staunton-style chess sets for buyers.

One very important aspect of their business is that they take the quality of their products very seriously and only sell their exclusive designs after thorough quality inspection.

You can be sure to get value for your money there.


ChessUSA is another huge player in the chess equipment industry. They have an online store with a huge variety of chess equipment to choose from.

They have also been in the business for a long time, specifically 35 years.

Chess House

Chess House is another excellent place to get your chess boards from. It began as a small mail-order store based out of Kansas City, but over the years, they have grown to be one of the best online stores in the world.

They also sell a wide variety of chess products, from chess sets and tournament equipment to educational materials that will help improve your game.

They also have great prices for their chess sets and one added advantage is that the replacement parts for their sets are very easy to source.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best chess board size?

The ideal chess board would measure twenty-one inches long and wide and would be three-fourths of an inch in width.

The United States Chess Federation (USCF) states that the square size of a tournament chess board should be between 2 inches and 2.5 inches, while the king’s height should be 3.375 inches to 4.5 inches.

The World Chess Federation (FIDE) states that the square size of a tournament chess board should be between 1.97 inches to 2.36 inches. Most boards used in FIDE championships have a square size of 2 inches.

What chess board is used in the World Chess Championship?

The chess board that is used in the World Chess Championship is a wooden chess board that was designed by Pentagram and it is used in all World Chess Championship cycle events, including the World Chess Championship Matches.

The light squares are made of Maple and the dark squares are made of Rosewood. The size of the board is 50 x 50 millimeters.

The underside of the board is finished in natural wood. The World Chess hexagon logo is inlaid in wood on both sides.

The board is designed to go together with the official World Chess Championship pieces.

What is the 3-check rule in chess?

The 3-check is a chess variant that is won when a player delivers a check to his opponent 3 times. Unlike the standard variant of chess, a player does not necessarily have to checkmate his opponent to win the game, he just has to deliver 3 checks.

Material advantage is irrelevant in this variant, all that matters is the player that is the first to check their opponent thrice.

Is chess good for the brain?

Studies have found that playing chess greatly contributes to memory, calculation, visual-spatial skills, and critical thinking abilities.

This is because chess directly challenges the faculties of the human mind that involve deep thinking, planning, sight, and calculation, thereby exercising these faculties and keeping them in good shape.

The game of chess also helps to reduce cognitive decline and postpone the effects of dementia as a person ages.

You may also want to read:

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