Two Great-Value "Classic" Staunton Tournament Sets: 4.1" Popular Staunton (CB) vs. 4.1" Professional

sound67

This is a comparison between two great value "classically-designed" sets of Staunton chessmen, purchased directly from India. The "Popular Staunton" from Chessbazaar (CB), and the "Professional Staunton" from Royal Chess Mall (RCM)

The reason I'm comparing therse two sets is because - on paper - they are very similar indeed: Genuine rosewood (Dalbergia latifolia) for the black pieces, same king's height and general proportions (4.1"), about the same weight (1.5-1.55kg for a set of 34). Also, I paid just about the same amount for them: €89 for the CB set, €87 for the RCM - in both cases this included express shipping from India, no extra fees or customs charges. CB always ship through DHL (fastest, no charges ever), RCM through DTDC India (which for Europe mostly means DPD/German Express, if you're lucky). 

As far as prices are concerned, with both companies a lot depends on "timing". CB and RCM often run "sales" via eBay or Etsy, or in CB's case, their own homepage [RCM doesn't have one]. Some of their sets can also be ordered from Amazon. I paid almost the same amount for each set, but you have to look at the different portals to get the best price at a given point in time. Currently, the price difference is bigger:

Popular Staunton - €89, https://www.chessbazaar.com/the-popular-staunton-series-chess-pieces-in-rose-box-wood-4-1-king.html

Professional Staunton - €111 (best price at the moment) - https://www.etsy.com/de/listing/641667272/41-pro-holz-schachfiguren-staunton-nur?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=4.1%26quot%3B+pro+staunton&ref=sr_gallery-1-3&organic_search_click=1&pro=1&frs=1

The "Popular Staunton" are only available in boxwood/rosewood, the "Pro Staunton" can be had with rosewood, sheesham, or ebonized boxwood (the latter two cheaper, of course), and in different sizes (3.1" - 4.1" - the former in ebony or bud rosewood for black). Both sets are only available in buff finish, not lacquered.

I bought these two sets two weeks ago, within a couple of days of each other. That shows how volatile the prices for India-direct sets can be. They want to keep you on your toes. wink.png

Generally, these are both very fine sets in this range.  I prefer genuine rosewood (or, more precisely, East Indian rosewood, dalbergia latifolia) over ebonized boxwood and the lesser-quality North Indian rosewood (dalbergia sissoo, or Sheesham) whenever possible. The carving on both sets is very well done, with nicely detailed knights (see below) and well-matched pieces in terms of colour and brightness consistency. Both are robust and well-weighted sets (Kings between 70-77g) with green velvet cloth at the bottom. 

The Popular Staunton (Chessbazaar)


The Pro(fessional) Staunton (Royal Chess Mall)

One difference that is immediately noticeable is the differences in brightness and wood grain between these two sets. The RCM black pieces are brighter in colour, with more pronounced grains - the CB set notably darker and more "smoothly" structured.

Since both sets in reality look exactly like the sets as they appear in the ads, I must conclude that this difference is deliberate and will be consistent between each individual sample.

Now, a comparison between each of the pieces. Though both sets have the same general features, there are certain differences. The "Popular Staunton" pieces are pictured on the left, the "Pro Staunton" on the right:

The CB king, though also 4.1", is a bit smaller and a bit stumpier. This is compensated by the taller, more elaborate finials.

When you look at the queens, the impression is the opposite. The CB set has the sturdier queen, the RCM is a tiny bit more slender, with a smaller crown.

The mitre on the CB bishop is a bit bulgier, it seems maybe a tad more slender and elegant, though indeed the bishops are of exact equal height.

The CB rook is more detailed, but the turret more fragile. The stout contours of the RCM rook correspond to the purpose of this set, which the company describes as "an ideal set for playing in clubs and tournaments".

Obviously, the RCM "Pro" knight is a bit taller and more slender, otoh the carving on the "Popular" knight is more distinct, resulting in a more characterfuldesign. Again, the less "extrovert" features of the knights in the RCM set correspond with the intended use.

Finally, the pawns. No major differences there, but again the RCM pawn is a tiny bit taller.

Summing up, I think both sets are very well done for the price (and would compare favourably IMHO with any HOS set up to US$150 or more), the woods and carving are very nice indeed. The slightly less "characterful" features on some of the RCM pieces I think make the "Professional Staunton" the better set for club playing [things can happen], while CB's "Popular Staunton" set has a tiny bit more of a showroom style, so to speak. One could argue that the CB set has a more "together" look than the RCM.

I would wholeheartedly recommend either as a good, "classical" Staunton set that doesn't burn a hole in the pocket. I actually bought these two sets to give one of them away as a present to a family of friends who don't own a chess set. I still have not decided whether to give one away or keep both, and buy one extra set - in which case, because mostly of the difference in price at this point in time, I would opt for an extra CB "Popular Staunton" set.

Mohan_Kumar_Chess

The Queen, Bishop and Knight are better in CB, the King and Rook are better in RCM. 

KnightsForkCafe

Royal Chess Mall gets my vote. 

sound67
endgame347 hat geschrieben:

Brilliant post- the rooks on the first pic are stunning- well done

Yes, for a "standard" Staunton set they're very well carved. This time they polished the inside of the turrets too [not a given with sub-$100 CB sets):

Mohan_Kumar_Chess
sound67 wrote:
endgame347 hat geschrieben:

Brilliant post- the rooks on the first pic are stunning- well done

Yes, for a "standard" Staunton set they're very well carved. This time they polished the inside of the turrets too [not a given with sub-$100 CB sets):

But it looks like they are easily breakable. Should be handled carefully. 

sound67

Right. I wouldn't use them for a Blitz game. As I said above, the RCM set is definitely more robust, geared towards hard playing.

KnightsForkCafe

I hate it when they do that to the Rook's turret. I like shallow and low ramparts. However if they are tall ramparts. I want no angle cuts on the ramparts. More meat equals less breakage.

TundraMike

I Like the darker wood much better but like the royal mail rooks better among other things. I feel the darker wood just looks richer. 

essmanchay

@sound67, thank you for the review! This was an informative post. 

In your photos, what is the size of the squares for each board?

Thank you!

Oliver

sound67

The boards are 55mm (2.17") field size boards.

essmanchay
Thank you @sound67!
magictwanger

Excellent post,from someone who has time and time again demonstrated he has excellent taste too!

Gamegrunt

I own the CB set can and attest to its "fragility."  One of my young friends dropped a black rook on a tile floor and the result was a piece of turret broke clean off.  CB replaced it for $18.00 (although they asked me for $25 initially).  The glue repair was successful so I ought not to have paid for the replacement (oh well).  The finials on the kings would be my greater concern, as they would break in a heartbeat if handled improperly.  Having said all that, I love the set - it's a lot of Staunton for the money.