While advising thousands of parents and educators on chess pieces that will work in their particular classroom setting, I’ve become aware of the key questions that surface. And this article will equip you to make a good decision that will fit your budget and please students, parents, and any participants.

When choosing chess pieces for the classroom, ask yourself, are they

  • safe for children
  • suitable
  • and long lasting?

Let’s look at these ideas briefly.

Safety is first, and the good news is that club style chess pieces are large enough to not be a choking hazard for school age children. What are club pieces? Any set of Staunton style pieces where the tallest piece is about 3 3/4″. Because it’s a standard, it’s very easy to find club pieces of this size. Staunton refers to the well recognized design, or variations on it, typical of the pieces the boy is playing in the photo accompanying this article.

Club pieces are made of plastic, wood, or silicone for the most part. Plastic or wood pieces may be “weighted”, an option that’s often enjoyed by players. The steel weights are securely fastened inside the pieces between the felt and the molded plastic. Only if pieces are abused will the weights come loose, which of course would be a safety hazard, and would ideally be removed from use or replaced with new pieces.

Most club pieces are safe without semi-sharp features. For example, on some sets, the Queen’s crown can be a bit sharp and I will point this out on particular sets, so you can factor that in if it is important to you.

Are the chess pieces suitable? Let’s consider these factors:

  1. Size
  2. Material
  3. Recommendations

For classrooms, the ideal size is the tallest piece (King) height of 3 3/4″, the regulation size. These are often referred to as club or tournament pieces. The pieces are ideally paired with a vinyl board (or other material) with 2 1/4″ squares.  And most often this board is green, the color that has become standard since it is friendly to the brain and eyes for long periods of concentration, unlike more agitating colors such as red.

As for material, silicone pieces recently joined the field of plastic and wood pieces. Plastic is most common of course, and most economical in bulk. Silicone costs slightly more and has the amazing benefits of being quiet, resilient, unbreakable, and fun. Are you playing chess in a library? Imagine the benefits of quiet silicone pieces. Wood chess pieces are not as common in classrooms or clubs, but as shown in the above photo, doesn’t this wooden economy set look attractive in this setting?

Here are my recommendations to help you get started immediately. The good news is that with any set of chess pieces shown here, Chess House can quickly replace any chess pieces that are ever lost by players, keeping your chess piece sets in action. So if you need a handful of replacement pieces 6 months or 5 years from now, Chess House has you covered, often at no charge.

  1. Basic Club Pieces – these will get you started and are the most economical. When it comes to budget pieces, although the sizes are the same, not all are the same quality from manufacturer to manufacturer. Keep in mind that Chess House invests in manufacturing a better Basic Club Piece. If quality is not a concern to you, we can source the cheaper pieces in bulk upon request, but we prefer to delivery a better product that will last and be molded straight.
  2. Quality Club Pieces – the design used for decades. Although the quality is not 100% where it use to be, it’s still a favorite design and notable in beige and black, rather than the typical black and white.
  3. Heavy Club Pieces – the extra weighted version of the basic club pieces (it’s more than twice the weight at 2lbs instead of almost 1 lb). The extra weight is enjoyed by almost all players, but definitely not a necessity. Remember if this is in a classroom, that’s added weight to manage in and out of class and events.
  4. Plastic Staunton Club Pieces – A stylish, economical alternative to budget chess pieces, new to the chess scene in 2015.
  5. Silicone Club Pieces – quiet, fun, and durable. For a small increase in cost, unbreakable pieces that are still easy to replace should any be lost. These pieces are also new in 2015 and are seeing widespread adoption from clubs to correctional facilities, prisons, and libraries. The pieces do not slide will on silicone boards or even vinyl boards and they do need to be cleaned occasionally, easily done with soap and warm water in a mess bag.
  6. Staunton Wood Pieces – this economy line of wood pieces is great for clubs where the budget allows. Consider wood sets as an incentive for the top 5 or 10 chess boards, and with the discounts they are an attractive option.

While many other chess pieces could be considered, the ones I have outlined or the top recommendations and will serve all potential needs very well. The sets come with extra queens for each player (34 pieces total) and felted bases, except the silicone pieces which are only silicone.

Chess-Pieces-for-Classroom_01-basic Chess-Pieces-for-Classroom_04-staunton
Chess-Pieces-for-Classroom_02-quality Chess-Pieces-for-Classroom_05-silicone
Chess-Pieces-for-Classroom_03-weighted Chess-Pieces-for-Classroom_06-wooden