Is Chess A Sport? Should I Buy A Chess Set?
by Chuck Cayo

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The first few games weren't too painful, I lose at a lot of things to my son these days. Then it got a tad uncomfortable, some games were ending in 10 minutes. Is this a real sport? Can I throw something?

Things got better after a while and I started to really enjoy the challenge of thinking 5 moves ahead. I decided to get a few books on chess and a new chessboard to really go after my new game. Unfortunately the first line on a website's sales page for chess sets was "There are almost as many different types and styles of chess sets as there are chess players". Crud. Don't they all have the some kind of board and the same number of men? Turns out they do, but you are faced with a huge assortment of choices. It may be hard to decide upon a particular set, but it's relatively easy to narrow your choices down to a particular category. Here's a look at the major categories that seem to be available everywhere:

Theme Chess Sets

These types of chess sets depict characters, movies and events. There are theme chess sets for most major sports teams with pieces and pawns that resemble positions like quarterback and cheerleaders.

There are entire categories of cartoon character chess sets that are perfect for attracting younger people to the game. You can even get Civil War or WW II sets as well as Roman Gladiator and even old West models.

You'll pay anywhere from $20 to over $2,000 for theme sets depending upon the theme and the materials used to make the set. Some sets are made with silver, gold and precious stones. Choose platinum if you have plenty of money.

Travel Chess Sets

If you're on the go then folding travel chess sets are for you. They're usually magnetic to protect against bumps and jolts. The pieces and pawns can be stored inside the board when folded. You can get a nice one for somewhere around $20, or a very basic one for $10 or less. You may even find miniature ones in the dollar stores!

Wood Chess Sets

Wood is a great material for chess sets. The pieces, pawns and board can be made from less expensive oak, pine or walnut, or you can choose exotic woods like teak, ebony, or cocobolo.

Wood sets are impressive to look at and the pieces feel solid. Because of the weight, they don't make good choices if you're looking for a portable set, but they are wonderful additions to your home or office. Wood sets run between $50 and $5,000. Let your budget be your guide!

Glass Chess Sets

Glass is the generic term used to describe chess sets which are made from crystal or bone china. Although these types of sets generally come in the theme or collector's categories, you can fine regular pieces and pawns as well.

Crystal pieces have a good hefty feel to them, but china pieces will usually feel a bit light unless they have weighted bases. Although beautiful to look at, the pieces will break if dropped and fingerprints can become a problem on some models. They're dust collectors too. Many people keep a glass set for "looks" and another type for actual play. Glass sets average in the $300 to $2,000 range, but you can pay a lot more if you want to.

No matter what material you choose, there is a chess set that's right for your taste and budget. Instead of buying a set, consider buying the board, pieces and pawns separately. That way, instead of ending up with a chess set that's another "me too", you can design one that's uniquely yours! 

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