The sizing of a chess set is a huge issue. There are now so many sizes of chessmen that matching them up to the correct sized board can be a real headache at times. Chessmen typically come in sizes from 2.5 inches up to 6 inches, with almost every quarter inch increment used up in between!
To a certain extent size is a matter of taste and personal choice. Some chess players simply prefer their chessmen to sit in the middle of a huge sized square, while others prefer a slightly tighter fit. Of course, the bases of the chessmen must fit inside the squares, that’s essential for any set.
The three main factors involved with sizing up your chessmen and board are:
- King and Pawn Height
- The diameter of the squares on the chess board
- The base diameter of the king (which should be the widest piece on the board)
The height of the chessmen is an important factor, there is a very rough guide that chessmen of a certain height will have roughly a certain size base. For example a chess set with a 4 inch king would probably fit onto a board with 2.5 inch squares quite happily. The only time this would become unworkable is in the case of disproportionate chess pieces (very short and fat, or very tall and thin).
Because chess boards vary in the width of the borders around the squares it’s important to know the size of the actual squares themselves. A 23 inch (total width / length) board from one manufacture might have different square sizes to one from another company. This would only happen because the border around the edge might be different from board to board.
If you want to get mathematical about sizing you need to look at two factors. The square size of the board, and the base diameter of the king. Ideally the kings base diameter should be around 75 – 85% of the diameter of the square. So if you have a 2 inch square, a king with a 1.5 inch base would be ideal.
Various chess bodies have tournament standards which stipulate sizes. The official guidelines seem to be that the kings base diameter must not be any more than 75% of the square size. Indeed some people suggest that you should be able to fit four pawns into one square! As with all facts, figures and regulations, you can choose which ones to ignore and simply opt for a set that you like the look of