The foundation of the game of chess
It may be just 64 squares of alternating colors, but there’s more to the chess board than you may imagine.
In the final analysis, the chess board is the foundation of the game, the ball park if you will. And like so many other games, the playing surface has to be up to scratch. This is particularly true if you have purchased chess pieces separately from the board.
The two elements – the board and the chess pieces – have to work together. Quite apart from the question of color and contrast between pieces and board, just as vital is the scale between the chess pieces and the board. There has to be harmony both visually and in physical dimensions. The worst offence is to have a board that’s swamped by outsize chess pieces. Larger than normal chess pieces need a larger than normal chess board, otherwise it will prove tricky and irritating negotiating a move from within a tightly packed set.
No doubt there’s some arcane formula regarding the proportions of scale between chess piece and board. For most players, though, playing it by eye will suffice when it comes to finding the right board for their chess pieces.
Of course the world of choice when it comes to chessboards does not end there. There are the little matters, too, of the choice of materials and colors.
Taking the issue of color first, in most instances this will be a straightforward choice between the traditional black and white combination of squares, or red and black. This is one that’s down to personal preference for the most part. However, take cognizance of which color combination will best complement your chess pieces and also any guidelines issued by your chess organization should you be purchasing boards for competition.
Competition chessboards as approved by the Federation Internationale des Echecs (FIDE), a.k.a. the World Chess Federation, should be made of wood, plastic, cardboard or cloth. Also allowed are stone or marble so long as the squares are appropriately delineated in light and dark colors.
A range of natural woods are deemed acceptable and these include birch, maple and European ash. The crucial factors with wooden boards are that there is sufficient contrast between squares and that the finish is either neutral or dull, never shiny. Chessboards made of walnut, teak or beech etc. are unlikely to pass muster for competitions run under FIDE regulations.
Regarding board size, FIDE’s guidelines on the subject state that its dimensions should be such that the pieces appear “neither too crowded nor too lonely on the squares.” Ideally, FIDE likes the side of the square to measure between 5 to 6˝ cm.
Finally, ensure the board you choose will not slip during play.