What Size Chess Board Do I Need

Bernie Hubble
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What Size Chess Board Do I Need?

When buying a chess board, many beginners are buying one that’s too big. When choosing a size of a chess board, there are many factors to consider. The most important one is the people who will be playing on it and their preferences regarding style, visibility, and so on.

When buying for yourself or a beginner level player, you can get away with a smaller board. Beginners need more time to learn the positions and strategy, so having a smaller board helps get them acquainted with the game. Also, if they don't play frequently it's easier for storage. For a small to medium sized chess board, a square of about 10 to 20 inches is an excellent starter board for you or someone learning the game.

If you regularly play chess with your family or a small group of friends, a large board is better for you. If you own a bigger board, you can use it on multiple surfaces, including coffee tables and it's much easier on the eyes and pleasing. Also, you can always add more boards and pieces to your collection and play the game even harder!

Practical Considerations: What Size Chess Board Do I Need?

The chess board designer is not necessarily attempting to make a chessboard for a giant or a super-giant. He/she is simply making a chessboard to fill the space available, in accordance with budget constraints, and/or artistic and esthetic considerations.

Based on an equivalent space available, human chessboards range from as small as the size of a postage stamp to as large as 30″-1/3 feet.

If you are encamping in a room, then why not use that for a chessboard? Or, at the very least, make the room as the background. The square pieces will still stand out.

If you secure a wall for a display board, remove anything on it first, remove the nails to the best of your ability, tape the chessboard to the wall, and then nail it to the wall. Use spray adhesive to make removal easier when you are done.

If you are on horseback and have a period of downtime, you might think about constructing the board then. Later, you will get it out and set it up by mounting it on a stand. You would also have the opportunity to play chess while on horseback or take a break for a tournament.

A board for horses must be lightweight and stable, yet lightweight enough to be carried on horseback. You might want a chessboard that is reflective of a period in time and/or a culture.

USCF Rules

The rules governing the regulation of size of chess boards goes like this.

  • All boards must be flat and have a grid of 8 x 8 squares on it. The material can be wood or any other durable and stable material.
  • The maximum size of the board is 20 by 20 inches and the minimum is 16 by 16.
  • The squares must be no more than 2 1/2 inches and no less than 2 inches. Standard tournament size is 2 1/4 inches.
  • The maximum size of the board, as stated above, must not exceed a total board perimeter of 80 inches. And finally, the maximum size of the squares must not exceed 2 1/2 inches.

Why Do the Size of Chess Boards and Pieces Have to Match?

The size of chess boards and their pieces have been standardized and have been the case for as long as the game has been around. The rule is that the squares on a chess board should be a little larger than the size of the base of the king rook, which is 3.5 cm / 1.4 inches diameter.

If we measure a chess board, we notice that the squares are in fact around 2 to 2 1/2 inches, which is very close to the ideal size. While the chess board is not actually that big, the pieces themselves are relatively tall (the king is 3 3/4 inches tall for example in USCF tournament play).

If you want to break the given rules of thumb, it usually will be pretty obvious because you won’t have any problem recognizing the pieces and the pieces will appear small in contrast to the board.

To avoid conflict with the rule, look for larger chess boards that can accommodate your pieces.