Chess players love all things chess, but the competitive ones may have more specific needs than those who play only for leisure. By competitive ones, we mean the amateurs who aspire to mastership and play to improve and raise their ratings as much as they possibly could.
They may decide to play professionally if they prove to be promising competitors early on.
As far as serious competition goes, these players need nothing more than the standard equipment. There is not much to bring to the tournament hall, but the serious competitor is still spoiled for choices.
In this article, we present the best standard chess tournament equipment that are sure to suit the style, preference, and budget of every player.
The game’s standard playing field measures 2.25 inches per square, with the tad larger 2.375 inches generally tolerated. Green is the universally accepted dark-square color.
The convenient roll-up and foldable boards are the thing of modern tournament chess. They come in different materials, and picking one always makes for fun shopping.
a. The Vinyl Board
The vinyl board is so popular that it is almost synonymous with chess. Schools, clubs, and organizations prefer it because they are highly functional and very affordable.
They are also very easy to clean, which make them last with proper care. They are ideal for those just starting out at competition or those who do not wish to invest too much on tournament materials.
A budget friendly-board, naturally, has its shortcomings. If folded the wrong side out, its curl memory could be annoying. Careless storing could also have it creased, which takes the board a long time to lose.
These disadvantages may not be much, but discriminating players may want something better.
b. The Mousepad Board
A notch higher in quality, the mousepad board is a very good alternative to its vinyl counterpart. It is what the vinyl board is not, which means it always lays flat and never creases.
Thick with its rubber cushion, heavy, weighted pieces land with a pleasant thud on it, quite unlike their clanking against the tabletop on the thinner vinyl board.
They are, of course, pricier than vinyl boards, and they suffer just about one flaw – they stain easily. Stains like coffee and ink become permanent on this board’s cloth surface, and removing them by hard washing would only smear the board’s print.
Mousepad boards are an excellent choice, although they lose their tidiness in the long run.
c. The Silicone Board
The silicone board is just about the indestructible variety, as even if you crumple and contort it grotesquely, it springs back flat and creaseless.
Being indestructible means that you never have to replace it, which makes it the ideal board for those wishing to make a one-time investment only, and intending to always play competitively.
Still, a board like this has its drawback. Silicone attracts dust, which has the board littered with specks of it quite regularly. Sure, you could scrub it to look new, but you’d probably have to do so more often than you’d like to.
Silicone boards could cost twice as much mousepad boards, and if its price and the periodic cleaning it requires aren’t a concern, then this board may be the best of the lot.
d. The PVC Board
The PVC board harkens back to the old days when boards were folded in the middle. It is sturdier than the vinyl board, wipes clean, and doesn’t crease. However, it is pricier and less convenient to carry.
e. The Tournament Wooden Board
The grandest version of the foldable board, which is way pricier than the PVC version.
If you could bear its extra weight, then you’d be playing chess with class. You’d own the best set in the hall if you pair it with beautiful wooden pieces.
The Chess Pieces
The chess pieces, of course, are the main course of the tournament buffet. The standard set is one with Kings of 3.75 inch-height and 1.75 inch-base, but pieces of 1.5 inch-base and up to 4 inch-height are perfectly acceptable. Here are some of the best ones available:
a. The Standard Tournament Plastic Pieces
The everyday, ubiquitous standard plastic pieces really need no introduction. They are affordable and highly functional, and pair well with vinyl, mousepad, silicone, and PVC boards.
Their lightness is just about the only inconvenience, which makes them prone to tipping over in time panic and shorter time controls.
b. The Weighted Standard Tournament Plastic Pieces
If you wished the Standard Tournament Plastic Pieces were heavier, then you’d find its weighted version the perfect playing pieces. It is costlier, but its sturdiness and exquisite feel makes it all worth it.
c. The Silicone Standard Tournament Pieces
As good as the Weighted Standard Tournament Plastic Pieces are, they are prone to chipping.
With fast time controls being the norm nowadays, pieces come flying in the hall and chip the plastic ones do. Now come the unbreakable silicone pieces.
It is a tad pricier than its weighted counterpart, but well worth for players who wish to invest only once and wisely.
d. The German Knight Chess Set
No matter how good the Standard Tournament Pieces get, some players go for more creative Staunton interpretations. The first of these beautiful ones is The German Knight Set.
This set features a 3.9 inch-King with a 1.75 base and fits a 2.375 inch-board perfectly. Its robotic Knight is sure to be a head-turner.
e. The Player Tournament Chess Set
The Player Tournament Chess Set is every bit as good as The Guardian, only that its design is more conventional. We should say, it looks more formal too. If The Guardian is for the quirky, liberal chess player, then the player is for the conservative one.
Beefy, heavy, and oozing with classical masculinity, the Professional Plastic Set is sure to be everyone’s favorite. Like the Guardian and Pro-Tourney, this one fits a 2.375 inch-board snugly.
f. The Executive Plastic Set
When a set features Horses this stupendous, it is sure to overwhelm. This one is highly ideal on a 2.375 inch-board.
g. The French Lardy Set
Wooden sets are the veritable half of the wooden board. The French Lardy is one of the truly classical wooden designs and is, in fact, the prototype of the Standard Tournament Plastic Pieces.
h. The German Knight Set
The German Knight Set has become a modern-day wooden set favorite No set combines simplicity and functionality the way it does.
3. The Chess Clock
Chess clocks all began as the analogue type, but with modern time regulations it’s safe to say that this granddaddy of chess timers has been made to take a bow. For all tournament intents and purposes, every chess player has to have the electronic, digital type. Time regulations with first, second, and third time controls, increments, sudden death and the Armageddon all call for digital clocks. Even in straight time controls, analogues are never as accurate as digitals.
With that said, there are plenty of digital timers to choose from. Picking one is usually striking a balance between durability and user-friendliness, or determining the extent one should be preferred over the other.
The brand Chronos, for instance, is known to be very durable, with their clocks’ casings made of metal. They are, however, quite difficult to set. DGT’s, on the other hand, may not be as durable, but they are far easier to set. There are other brands, of course, such as Excalibur and ZM, all of which have their own qualities and advantages.
4. The Scorebook
A chess player’s life is one of hard study, and the most basic learning materials are the games we play. Whether our tournament games are won, lost, or drawn, they must be brought home in one scorebook for scrutiny and annotation.
5. The Chess Bag
Chess bags are essential for traveling players. There are three kinds of chess bags, and what suits you depend on the materials you bring to the hall and to your level of convenience.
a. The Archer Bag
This bag is like a quiver with a zippered cap. It can only hold a vinyl or silicone board and standard plastic pieces (unweighted, weighted, or silicone), but if that’s all you want in the bag, then this one will suit you fine. Your chess clock and scorebook will have to be hand-carried.
b. The Large Tournament Bag
This bag for maximum convenience accommodates a wider variety of boards and pieces.
It can hold a roll-up board of whatever type (vinyl, mousepad, or silicone), standard tournament and larger pieces (The Guardia, The Pro Tourney, The Professional Plastic, and Big Knight Sets), a chess clock, and a scorebook.
c. The Carry-All Extra-Large Bag
The only bag that can hold a foldable PVC or wooden board. Aside from the foldables, it can also accommodate roll-up boards, pieces of whatever kind, a clock, and scorebook.
These are the equipment a competitive player cannot do without. Need we say you also need a pen? Perhaps, but pretty much anything in the bookstore would do. However, only a pen like ours could speak of your passion for chess, and it’s definitely worth getting.
We wish everyone glory and tournament success!