With thousands of designs for the pieces, chess is somewhat unique among traditional boardgames. Every chess piece has the potential just to be purely functional, or a standalone work of art. Today's traditional designs arose partly from creativity, but also out of necessity so as not to hinder the game itself.
Buying chess pieces is a very personal thing. From the type of material used, to the design, and the weight of the individual piece there are plenty of considerations. If you have an existing board that you intend to use then you will need to make sure of the size of the squares when choosing a new set. Color can also be a factor, although you might be surprised how well certain color combinations work together even if the pieces are a different color to the board.
Let's take a look at the pieces that make up a chess set, with a little history and some considerations in choosing a design.
It's all about the king in chess. You can lose any number of pieces, but until the king is unable to move without putting itself in harm's way, the game plays on. When everyone is out to get you, it's not always good to be king.
The king is inevitably the largest, most prominent piece within the set. It becomes a focus and offers great opportunity to create a huge impression. Traditionally the king will be adorned with a cross on the top, adding height and style to the piece. For the keen chess player there is nothing quite like the feel of picking up a heavily weighted, beautifully carved chess piece, and the design of the king is one that most certainly will influence your purchasing decisions.
We know the queen as the most powerful piece on the board, but it wasn't always that way. In the original game that eventually evolved into chess, the piece that sits where the queen now does was a male rather than female, and could only move and capture one square diagonally. In the 15th century the Europeans performed some gender reassignment and bestowed on her the great power we know today.
The queen is the second largest chess piece, and often exploits the concept of wearing a crown for wonderful design detail. From a practical standpoint note the carving of that crown and make sure you are buying a quality strong wood if there are fine details. Both the queen's crown and the knight's ears can be vulnerable to damage if the piece is not of good quality. It's also worth considering whether you want extra queens in your set. While the promotion of pawns into queens is relatively rare in competition, it seems to happen more often at home. Although not essential, it's a nice touch to be able to deploy a second real queen when you score a "pawn touchdown".
It looks a lot more like a castle than a black bird. But actually the name rook has nothing to do with either. This chess piece evolved from one that was originally designated as a chariot. The word itself comes from the Persian word word for chariot - "rukh". The modern style is probably derived from the concept of a siege tower that would be used to assault enemy battlements.
It's a solid piece. What the rook might lack in detail compared to some other chess pieces, it can win back in weight as the stocky prizefighter. And that's not to say that the design need to be uninteresting. The carving of the crenels on the rook add to the look and feel of the piece.
It might be hard to believe but the slender bisphop of today was originally designated as an elephant. Movement was somewhat restricted as you might expect of a large animal as well. Rather than flying across any number of diagonal squares like the modern bishop, it was restricted to moving only two squares diagonally. That said their elephants could apparently "fly" by leaping over another piece.
The increased mobility of the bishop tells us something about the rise of power in the church as the modern game of chess developed.
It's quite possible that current designs of the bishop still reflect something of its origins. Some think that the groove in the top of the piece
derives from the concept of elephant tusks.
There is no confusion as to the origin of this chess piece. Knights rode horses, and that's what we see today. Often the knight can prove one of the most important pieces strategically, and it also inspires incredibly beautiful design possibilities. It is not uncommon for the knight to swing a decision on purchasing the entire set. It's an opportunity for the craftsman to show off some carving skills, and for you to showcase a stunning chess set.
It's worth being aware of how much time goes into producing a hand-carved knight. The best of the best might take many days to create the four knights that make up a single set. When considering the price point on a luxury set it's good to reflect on how much time and skill goes into these four pieces.
The humble pawn is the infantry of the chess board. While having less height and detail than other pieces, the quality of the pawn is a major part of the overall impression that a chess set makes just because there are sixteen of them at the outset. That's four times more than any other piece.
You'll be handling your pawns alot in any game of chess, so it's not worth skimping on the quality and weight of this piece. And of course there is always the potential to promote a pawn to a queen or a knight later in the game, so while they are often viewed as expendible be careful not to spoil your chances of capitalizing on the strength of the pawn in the endgame.
To talk about the complexity and variations of chess invariably ends up in making understatements. The possible combination of moves is simply mind-blowing. In any given game you might lose you queen in the first few moves, or be delivering the winning checkmate with her a hundred moves later. One Quora user was prompted by a question to create a visual analysis of what chances your pieces have of surviving on average after a given number of moves. For the animated version head on over to Imgur, but here are a couple of snapshots. Each % shows the chance of the piece starting at that position surviving after x number of moves.
At ChessBaron you'll find a wide range of chess pieces to suit a wide range of budgets and tastes. Please browse our selection using the menu. For additional questions you may have, we are available in person to help you out. Please just contact us and we will be happy to help.
If you already have a good idea about what you are looking for then you should have little problem in finding it in our store. Chess pieces within each category are listed in descending price order to assist you when working to a specific budget. You can also try our Online Store Assistant for help in making a selection.
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