Guide to Choosing a Size of Chess Set

Choose The Size of Chessmen That You Prefer

Start with the size of the chess pieces. For the sake of comparisons, measurements are standardized to the dimensions of the tallest chessmen in each set – the Kings. Generally, for significant tournaments the height of the King varies between 3.35 inches or 8.51 cm to 4.5 inches or 11.43 cm.

The standard size of King pieces used at major Fide and USCF tournaments is 3.75 inches or 9.53 cm. For minor tournaments, practice or casual play, the height of the Kings may be from 2.5 inches or 6.35 cm upwards.

To ensure sufficient stability, the diameter of the base of each piece should be between 40-50% of its height. Hence a 3.75-inch-tall or 9.53-cm-tall King, should have a base diameter of between 1.5 inches or 3.81 cm and 1.88 inches or 4.76 cm.


Major tournaments also usually feature double-weighted or even triple-weighted pieces – with added heft and stability to suit the gravity of the occasion.

However, relatively lightweight pieces are used for rapid chess (tournaments and tie-breakers in standard tournaments), in order to make them wieldier, though even these are sufficiently weighted, to maintain desired levels of stability.

Of course, chessmen are available outside of 2.5-4.5 inches or 6.36-11.43 cm size range with matching board sizes. There are travel Chess sets or novelty miniature Chess sets where the pieces can be just 1.5 inches or 3.81 cm or even smaller.

Some of these sets have magnetic pieces that stick to the specially fabricated chess boards containing iron sheets under the playing surface, to compensate for the lack of heft and stability possessed by these much smaller pieces.

At the other end of the spectrum, are much larger chess sets, often beautifully crafted, that serve as show-pieces at homes and public galleries. And then there are giant chess sets, even life-sized ones with matching vinyl or foam roll-up boards – that are playable outdoors, and come with their own novelty value.

Then Match The Size of Your Chessmen To Your Chess Board

It’s absolutely vital to get the right size of chess board, relative to the size of the chessmen. If the chessmen are too large relative to the board, the set appears cluttered and untidy.

If the chess board is too large relative to the chessmen, while the King may look at home, the substantially smaller Pawns look puny and insignificant within the squares they occupy.

The general norm is that the diameter of the base of your largest piece – i.e. the King, must be between 75-85% of the square size of your chess board. Square size refers to the individual length of each of smaller 64 squares on a chess board.

For Eg square size of our typical 21 inch large chess board is 55 mm (2.16 inch)

(Hence, if you are using a 3.75-inch-tall or 95-mm-tall King, with a base diameter of 1.7 inches or 43 mm, the length of each square on your chess board should be between 2 inches and 2.26 inches or between 50.8 mm and 57.4 mm. This ensures an ideal fit.)

Obviously personal preferences can enter the equation. Not everyone needs to follow the norm. But most experts agree that if you must deviate from the norm, go with a board that is slightly bigger relative to the pieces – not the other way around.

One more way to ascertain that the size of your board is large enough to accommodate your chessmen is to check whether four pawns touching each other in a square formation, fit into a single square on your board. If they do, your board is large enough – but also take care to ensure that there is not too much space to spare on the square after all four pawns have been accommodated in it.

Whether you’re an active player, an avid enthusiast or a serious collector, use these basic guidelines when you purchase your next Chess set and you are unlikely to go wrong – whether on a functional or an aesthetic level.