A Wealth of Options

loubalch

I remember a time when chess sets were only available from hobby & game shops and the occasional gift store. Then with the rise of the world wide web, specialty chess stores began appearing online. It was sometime in the early 2000s that I dipped my toe into the internet pool and purchased my first two chess sets online from the House of Staunton. Now, look at our options! I've never seen the diversity of chess sets or the number of vendors offering sets and equipment.

This was brought to light recently when I reviewed a list of my current chess sets and noticed the number of different vendors they were acquired from. I've listed them below in alphabetical order.

  • American Chess Equipment
  • Chess Bazaar
  • Chess Cafe
  • Chess Piece
  • House of Chess
  • House of Staunton
  • Official Staunton
  • Regency Chess
  • Rochester Chess Center
  • Royal Chess Mall
  • Staunton Castle

Although some of these companies had experienced their share of growing pains along the way, and others are no longer with us, the competition has expanded our options, increased overall product quality, and kept prices competitive. I'm not knocking the House of Staunton when I say the two sets I purchased from them in the early 2000s can't compare to the quality of the sets available today. Not all sets of course, but if you know and appreciate quality, you don't have to look too far to find it, and at a competitive price.

 

chessroboto

You showed a sample of the Monk style boards in another thread. That style is still sold on USCF. Check their offerings here:
https://www.uscfsales.com/chess-boards/luxury-wood-chess-boards/sort-by/price/sort-direction/desc.html?src=lander

theendgame3

Lou, please post your top 3 favourite sets bro- when you have the time.

Great thread btw.

loubalch
chessroboto wrote:

You showed a sample of the Monk style boards in another thread. That style is still sold on USCF. Check their offerings here:
https://www.uscfsales.com/chess-boards/luxury-wood-chess-boards/sort-by/price/sort-direction/desc.html?src=lander

Chessroboto,

Yes, the HoS boards do have a similar look, but there are some major differences. The first being the price, the Sommerville boards were less than a third of the price of the HoS boards. Second, their boards used end-grain patterns. And third, their floating design that allows the board to breathe (expand and contract independently from the frame), thus reducing the likelihood of cracking. And a fourth, which is a personal preference, I prefer the clutter-free simplicity of the Sommerville boards. But your right, the HoS boards are gorgeous, and if I ever win the lottery I might even buy one!

loubalch
theendgame3 wrote:

Lou, please post your top 3 favourite sets bro- when you have the time.

Great thread btw.

Favorite chess sets, like sand dunes, have a way of slowing shifting over time. Plus, you have to consider "new bias," the fact that we tend to rank our newer sets higher up the ladder simply because they're new.

With these factors in mind, here are my favorite chess sets today.

1) The 1950 Dubrovnik set by Staunton Castle. I've coveted this set ever since I first saw the Noj version a few years back. Why this set over the Noj? Well, price for one thing, plus I prefer weighted sets. Compared to the other reproductions I've seen (in pictures), I prefer Staunton Castle's rendering of the knights. I think it's the best out there.

2) The Piatigorsky (Steiner) set by Official Staunton. There are several excellent reproductions of this classic design, but I prefer the the original reproduction from the Official Staunton company, which was a limited edition of 50 sets. 

3) My third favorite set would have to be a tie between the Soviet Era set by Chess Bazaar and Romanian-Hungarian Tournament set, also from Chess Bazaar.

Soviet Era Set

Romanian-Hungarian Tournament Set

I also have a version of this set in red lacquer.

QtoQlevel3

 

Favorite chess sets, like sand dunes, have a way of slowing shifting over time. Plus, you have to consider "new bias," the fact that we tend to rank our newer sets higher up the ladder simply because they're new.

With these factors in mind, here are my favorite chess sets today.

1) The 1950 Dubrovnik set by Staunton Castle. I've coveted this set ever since I first saw the Noj version a few years back. Why this set over the Noj? Well, the price for one thing, plus I prefer weighted sets. Compared to the other reproductions I've seen (in pictures), I prefer Staunton Castle's rendering of the knights. I think it's the best out there.

2) The Piatigorsky (Steiner) set by Official Staunton. The original reproduction of this classic design.

3) My third favorite set would have to be a tie between the Soviet Era set by Chess Bazaar and Romanian-Hungarian Tournament set, also from Chess Bazaar.

Soviet Era Set

Romanian-Hungarian Tournament Set

 

I agree with most of your choices but I don't own the Piatgorksky (Steiner) set.

I do love the Dubrovnik that Staunton Castle produces, the rooks are thick similar to Noj's Minceta Dubrovnik just a tad thinner.  I have mine finished in an antiqued version but I'm a Noj man as well and will be getting a Dubrovnik Minceta with DGT elements installed finished in a lighter Brown finish just like my Stage 1 Blitz set I had made by Mr. Gregor Novak and his dad at Noj at the middle or end of October. I love the other two European sets that you chose the Romanian and the Russian sets which I also own as well. You have a great eye for sets Lou!

loubalch

QtoQlevel3,

And, in addition to the aesthetic value of these sets, all the sets are dimensionally well balanced.

MCH818

I think someone on CB&E wrote we are in the golden era of chess sets. I would have to agree. I own sets from HoS, SC, and Noj. I would have to say pricing except for Noj is very competitive and the quality is also good across the board. The Noj quality is exceptional.

I haven't been buying sets a long as @Loubalch and @QtoQLevel3, so perhaps my taste may change over time, but for me it is all about the design. My Noj set is my newest but I can safely say it would not be my #1, #2 or #3. 

My number 1 is the HoS 3.75 Collectors. This design has been around for awhile now. It is not a reproduction but to me it has a classic Staunton look. I love the knight, rook and queen. I would say the knight is detailed but not overly carved.

2. I love my Staunton Castle 3.5" Morphy. I like all of the pieces and especially love the knight and bishop.

My #3 is the HoS Fischer Spassky Commemorative. I love the knight, queen, and bishop. 

#4 is the 3.5 Cooke from Official Staunton. I don't have this yet so that is why it is not #3 yet. I pre-ordered it already. I think it looks very much like a label 628 knight. 

Here is the original version of the knight OS shared with me:

 

#5 is my newest set from Noj. I love the knight, bishop and queen. Just like the Fischer-Spassky, this could never be my favorite as I love old Jaques stuff the most.

I think the only way another set would over-take any of these would be if the reproduction is more accurate than what I have or if the design is better. My most favorite is the label #8 1849 Knight. Official Staunton makes an awesome reproduction. However, that set only comes in 4.4" so I won't be buying that anytime soon.

chessroboto

I have been coveting the HoS Collector’s set ever since I saw it online. If they only offered it as DGT-enabled...

MCH818

@Chessroboto I am with you on that. I think @Cgrau posted a review of the 4" version and I just couldn't get it out of my head. It was the knight that did it. I don't have a DGT board but if I did I would definitely want that. Maybe one day HoS will release a version.

chessroboto

HoS could and has been releasing their own DGT pieces. First were the old favorites, Reykjavik and Dubrovnik, which are currently sold out.  Now they have the 2019 St Louis and 2020 Cairns pieces, which are priced too high to sell out. 

 

MCH818

@Chessroboto True. I like both of those 2019/2020 sets but the DGT versions are outside my comfort level for chess sets. I always thought about buying a set like the craftsmen or the Cooke Luxury with that specific knight. I just have other sets I love more at this moment.

chessroboto

Look at those pieces. Don’t they remind you of the tried and true Collector’s set? The knight is the signature piece of this set, with the neck arch as dramatic as a Zagreb but with a sectioned mane of a Dubrovnik.

Yes it has grown on me.

 

MCH818

I have to agree. It is beautiful! The knight is awesome.

TenaciousE

@loubalch  Lou - you mentioned the Noj Dubrovnik... My Dubrovnik II from them is weighted.   Since I last saw you, I bought a Steiner/Piatigorsky Staunton Castle set.  I sent it to Florida so I won't be able to show it to you.  -- Steve

loubalch
TenaciousE wrote:

@loubalch  Lou - you mentioned the Noj Dubrovnik... My Dubrovnik II from them is weighted.   Since I last saw you, I bought a Steiner/Piatigorsky Staunton Castle set.  I sent it to Florida so I won't be able to show it to you.  -- Steve

Steve, I just recently acquired a 1950 Dubrovnik set from Staunton Castle in regular boxwood, and to go along with it, I scored the last of the 2-1/4" custom James Bennett chessboards from The Chess Piece (they're closing up shop).

Also bought this 3.1" analysis set from The Royal Chess Mall (currently in transit).

Which turns out to be a reproduction based on the Pearce Cornhill set seen below. I prefer the king, bishop and pawn design of the reproduction over the original.