JLP Queen Anne 21" Hardwood Player's Chessboard 2.25" Review - Chess House

mdero83
So first off I'd like to commend the Chess house on being an excellent company to work with.  My inquiries on the board were replied to quickly and the vendor was easy to work with.  The CEO was even kind enough to chime in.  As a Canadian, they worked with me on the shipping questions I had and I'm happy to say that the shipping, duties, and taxes were extremely reasonable on this item.  I'd not hesitate to order another product from the Chess House again.
 
Upon researching a chess board purchase, I found the lack of quality materials used in most boards a little concerning.  Specifically the fact that veneered boards of the same 21 inch size could be found for between $100.00 - $700.00 US made me think twice about what exactly I was paying for.  As someone who has owned a number of guitars, quality of wood is extremely important in the enjoyability and longevity of the product, and chessboards are no exception.
 
I chose the Queen Anne because I really appreciated the craftsmanship involved in the angles and planed edges.  The raised edge meets the playing surface with absolute engineering mastery and shows no gaps, wood filler, or signs of separation at all.  This board projects more of a traditional look in my opinion and would serve any 4 inch Staunton set well.  The board is almost perfect looking, which may not be suitable for someone looking for something that looks more man made.  Don't worry though as JLP has you covered there as well as they produce what they call a natural edge hardwood chessboard.  See examples below:
 
 
A more thorough video showcasing all of the JLP chessboards can be found here:
 
 
On to the pictures.  
 
Here's what you can expect from the shipping and packaging.  For this quality of chessboard I would consider the packing above satisfactory.  In my opinion it would be very unlikely you would receive a damaged board from shipping.
Please forgive any flash from the camera.
 

My board has what I would consider a very minor blemish.  This occurs along the boarder and occurs near a knot which can suck up stain significantly.  Still, this seems like an area which deserved a little more attention to achieve a more uniform look in the finish.  This is only viewable from a certain angle and I've provided picture from both angles just to show how drastic the difference can be.  Decide for yourselves.
 
The knots detract from the uniformity of the board but buyers should remember that this is a wood product.  As with any wood product, you are supposed to observe the material in its natural beauty.  Most chess boards you grew up playing on as a child may have been plastic, veneers, or other materials that project more uniformity.  This is purely subjective and everyone's preference will be different.  It's safe to say that a hand made wood chessboard has more character than factory made products.
 
Here are the Pros and Cons (some of which may be highly subjective)
 
Pros 
- Excellent quality materials and craftsmanship.  The mill work is absolutely perfect.
- The finish is also perfect as it's not too glossy and not too flat.  It will not detract from the beauty of the chess pieces.  There is no significant glare produced under any conditions that I could find
- No discernible edges or lips can be found in the playing surface.  All the playing surface squares line up point to point with exacting precision.  It lays as flat as can be, no movement whatsoever.
- The board colours are pretty neutral and most chess pieces will work on it.  Sheesham (golden rosewood) being one of the colours that may not provide enough contrast for some.  The walnut and maple hardwoods are something most chess players can relate to and gain a sense of nostalgia from. 
- The board is 3/4 inch thick, heavy, and has the feel of a quality product without coming off as gaudy or pretentious 
- The rounded edges to flat playing surface on the Queen Anne offer a delicate contrast and are something to behold.  Akin to the lines on modern cars.
- The border squares are truly 2.25 inches.  A mistake made by many chessboard manufacturers is to carry their inlaid borders (the fancy inlays that surround the horizontal and vertical A and H files) into the measurement of the bordering squares.  Not the case here.
- Turn the board over and you will see the playing surface on the other side which serves as a gentle reminder that this is a quality hardwood product through and through.
 
Cons
- Like some have said before, the wood grain runs vertically instead of horizontally.  I personally found it ever so slightly distracting.  Upon reviewing Drueke boards I found examples with the wood grains running different ways on different boards.
- The border could be a half inch wider all around
- My board has (what I perceive to be) a slight blemish in the stain in a very small area of the border.  This is only observable at certain angles and from the perspective of one side of the board.  Nothing that would come close to making me think about returning it at all and not something that will garnish much attention from observers.
 
Grading out of 5
 
Aside from the 3 subjective cons I can find no fault in the board.  It is exactly as described and represented on the Chess House website.  In terms of value nothing comes close.  So few major retailers are willing put their name on handmade chessboards at reasonable prices, the Chess House is one of the few exceptions here.  They believed in the concept so much so that they sought after and invested in a woodworking manufacturer to specifically produce a hand made board exclusively for them.  Like the legendary Drueke series past this should remain a staple chess board that represents heirloom quality and collectability, something that should be recognizable decades from now and hold its relative value.
 
4.75/5
DENVERHIGH

Nice board . . .

Good naration! . . .

DENVER

liml

Beautiful board and very nice review to go along with it. I'm glad you have a good shipping rate from Chess House. Living in Canada, I know how expensive shipping can be and that's on top of the unfavourable exchange rate for Canadian Dollar. 

mdero83
liml wrote:

Beautiful board and very nice review to go along with it. I'm glad you have a good shipping rate from Chess House. Living in Canada, I know how expensive shipping can be and that's on top of the unfavourable exchange rate for Canadian Dollar. 

 

Yeah, it's kind of sad that a lot of the best chess vendors still don't offer free shipping across North America.  I mean, ChessBazaar offers free shipping and they're based out of India.  Chess House was fair though so I can't fault them.  Would buy from them again in the future for sure.

dfndr2019

Thanks for the great review.  I'm looking at these boards in 2.25 inch size.  Did you consider their  raised player's board or their Drueke style board? I'm having a hard time deciding and would like your input. You discussed how the squares on the outer ranks and files are not smaller because that brown border is not included in the square's dimensions, but I'm wondering if the brown squares look oversized due to the border abutting them. The raised board and their Drueke styles don't appear to have the thin border around the squares.  Thanks.

mdero83

Thanks!  An yeah, I looked at both the Drueke style and the raised edge.  Their take on the Drueke style was my least favorite because I found the border to be too small on the 2.25 inch board.  On the 2 inch board it looks much better IMO.  That probably sounds ridiculous because the other 2.25 inch JLP boards have the same size border but I think that both the Queen Anne and the raised edge do more to differentiate the border from the playing surface. 

 

I enjoy that the playing surface is kind of like a pedestal, where something important happens.  For this reason I did not consider the Drueke and focused on the raised edge and Queen Anne.  I thought the Queen Anne was more elegant looking due to its curvature and since I wanted to pair the board with Staunton style pieces I thought it was the more appropriate selection.  When pairing it with more modern pieces that have sharper lines the raised edge might be a better pick.  I don't think you can go wrong with either.

 

To answer your last question when you're up close with the board and playing on it you can see a very minor difference in the raised edge that meets the playing squares.  To my eyes I think it adds an interesting dynamic to the board but that's completely subjective.

 

Best of luck to you, let us know if you end up getting one!

dfndr2019

mdero83, Thank you again for that comprehensive answer.  It is often difficult to fully appreciate an item one is trying to buy thru photos on a computer. Your response was very helpful. I know you are impressed by the design and execution of that gorgeous Oueen Anne board, but are you actually saying that the thin border around the squares is an integral part of the border pieces and not an additional and separate piece of trim fitted between the squares and the border?  After reading your last post I re-looked at the photos you posted and realized that may in fact be how that board is designed and built. Wow, if that is the way it is, it is a real piece of art! Thanks again.

mdero83

That's exactly what I'm saying.  One of the reasons I was so impressed with the craftsmanship.  The boarder is carved and shaped to meet the playing surface.  They didn't cut any corners here.

dfndr2019

mdero83, Well that is fantastic.  You have just ended my search. I'll be ordering a Queen Anne post haste. 

MGT88

"I enjoy that the playing surface is kind of like a pedestal, where something important happens"; my thoughts exactly! Glad to see everything worked out with the order; beautiful board!

mdero83
MGT88 wrote:

"I enjoy that the playing surface is kind of like a pedestal, where something important happens"; my thoughts exactly! Glad to see everything worked out with the order; beautiful board!

 

MGT, I owe you my thanks as your review put me over the top on the purchase.  Looks like dfndr2019 is also ordering a board as well so indirectly you've assisted two of us!  Thanks again for answering all my questions.

MGT88

Regarding the blemish you identified; there is a small blemish on the A1 square of my board, which you can see in my review; these kinds of imperfections come with the territory I suppose (natural wood), however, they do give the board some character and a unique quality that sort of "personalizes" it for us (no other board will have the same "blemish"). I use the blemish to identify A1 for orientation purposes.

MGT88
mdero83 wrote:
MGT88 wrote:

"I enjoy that the playing surface is kind of like a pedestal, where something important happens"; my thoughts exactly! Glad to see everything worked out with the order; beautiful board!

 

MGT, I owe you my thanks as your review put me over the top on the purchase.  Looks like dfndr2019 is also ordering a board as well so indirectly you've assisted two of us!  Thanks again for answering all my questions.

No problem at all; you paid it forward with a great review, which seems to have garnered another sale for Chess House; good companies deserve some positive word-of-mouth.

MGT88

man...Chess House does not do any justice to these boards with the pictures on their website...the pictures you took are 10X better, and really show off the beauty of this board...that finished raised edge is really nice

mdero83
MGT88 wrote:

man...Chess House does not do any justice to these boards with the pictures on their website...the pictures you took are 10X better, and really show off the beauty of this board...that finished raised edge is really nice

 

Yeah, you can't see the wood grain on the pictures the have.  They need some more close ups.  Almost looks like a satin veneer on their website.

 

Under promise over deliver I guess!

MGT88
mdero83 wrote:
MGT88 wrote:

man...Chess House does not do any justice to these boards with the pictures on their website...the pictures you took are 10X better, and really show off the beauty of this board...that finished raised edge is really nice

 

Yeah, you can't see the wood grain on the pictures the have.  They need some more close ups.  Almost looks like a satin veneer on their website.

 

Under promise over deliver I guess!

Haha yeah...when I received the board I was sort of blown away because it turned out to be way better than I expected, the coloring of the wood was also quite different than I expected (but in a good way). Seems like Chess House is full of good surprises...like how I found out the board was $350 CAD (not USD) at checkout!! I actually emailed them about this; they are probably losing sales to customers thinking the prices they are seeing are in USD, when in fact they may be seeing pricing in a different currency (probably depends on your IP address or something).

forked_again

How could you review a board without mentioning the price?  How can you review anything without disclosing the price?  Nice board?  For $100?  Maybe.  For $1000? Maybe not.  Yeah its important to know the price.  

Anyway, I googled it.  Looks like a $300 board.  Seems reasonable.   They do make nice boards.  And I must say that what you point out as a minor blemish is not a defect at all.  As you say, it is a natural wood product.  Wood has character.  Plastic is uniform.  Do not look for uniformity as a sign of perfection.  More of those variations in wood grain and stain absorption could even improve the look.  Its all how you look at it!

Finally I have to mention a fellow Coloradoan who makes boards in Co Springs, solid wood for very reasonable prices here:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/ColoradoWoodWorker

 

dfndr2019

MGT88, Looks like I owe you a vote of thanks as well as mdero83.  Your posts were read as well and certainly helped convince me of the quality and value of these boards.  Thanks.

MGT88
dfndr2019 wrote:

MGT88, Looks like I owe you a vote of thanks as well as mdero83.  Your posts were read as well and certainly helped convince me of the quality and value of these boards.  Thanks.

No problem; mdero's pictures are beginning to make me think I should have gone with the Queen Anne!

dfndr2019

Maybe they can be convinced to make a 2.5 incher.  Then we can all save up for another one.