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The Roundup

12 Bad-Ass Chess Sets

12 Bad-Ass Chess Sets

The game of chess is a timeless classic, challenging players from 6th century India all the way up to today. We can’t tell you how much it’s changed in those 1500 years, but we can tell you modern people are putting their own spin on it. They’re changing up pieces, boards, and sizes, even going so far as to mess with rules and styles of the game. Now, chess is as much a style choice as it is an intellectual pursuit. Here are 12 sets that prove that.

Three Player Circular Chess

Keeping track of two players on a board is difficult enough, though the third person does give us someone else to blame for cheating us out of an easy win. We’re also very attracted to how there aren’t any corners. We’ve lost (and won) plenty of games where our opponent boxed themselves in without even realizing it. It still counts as a win, but we felt a little cheap about it. That’s not going to happen with this board. Though, there is the risk that you’ll get ganged up on pretty quickly, which is sure to end some friendships. $50

Brass Art Deco Men on Red Grain Decoupage Board

They can use as many fancy words on this board as they want, but our main attraction to this set is the pieces. They’re beautifully simple, solid brass constructions with either pewter or bronze finishes that look like stylistic interpretations of the long thin women that frequented Parisian cafes in the 1920s. You could almost build a house with these as the inspiration for the design and decoration. $230

Back in the Bronx Pewter Chess Set

It’s always hard to tell when a product comes from genuine tribute or shameless pandering, but in this case, we don’t care. It’s excellent either way. The pieces pay tribute to the most notable places in the Bronx, including Loew’s Paradise, Yankee Stadium, the Botanical Gardens, the Bronx Zoo, and Kingsbridge Armory, with the Fordham Baldies, an old Bronx gang, making an appearance as the pawns. The board has some changes as well, with subway tokens for black tiles and Spalding High Bounce Balls as the white. $238

Wobble Chess

Regular chess is the perfect game for fidgeters, but this set takes things to the next level. The pieces do exactly what the name says, wobbling at the slightest touch or movement but never falling or rolling away. The pieces do most of the balancing themselves, but the board helps with its concave top, with each square turning into a rounded divo that keeps the pieces centered. It’s a crazy simple idea, but it does a great job updating a format that hasn’t changed for literally hundreds of years. $250

Straight Up Chess

This is a two birds, one stone type situation for anyone who loves chess and is currently in the market for some top quality wall art. Chess because it’s a chess set, art because, well, look at it. The pictures can be a little deceiving though. There’s not much size reference, so it might look like this is an enormous, man-sized vertical chess set, but it’s actually only about two and a half by three and a half feet. So a perfectly reasonably sized chess set to hang on your wall. $265

Roman Gladiators in the Colosseum

They say chess is a game of war, but that didn’t sink in until we saw this set. The Colosseum set is probably the most involved set on this list, featuring an intricately designed board with pieces to match. Each piece is solid pewter with a resin mould for the amphitheater surroundings. To be fair, no one’s going to be cheering your chess match on like they would have the old Roman gladiators, but if you wanted raucous cheers, you wouldn’t have gotten into chess. $290

Star Trek Tri-Dimensional Chess

This chess set is so iconic, people who don’t know anything about Star Trek know exactly where this set first appeared. Picturing Kirk and Spock battling it out on this multi-leveled set comes naturally. So naturally that at this point, people might be born with the ability to recognize this game. Learning it is a different story though and being able to play chess before this might not work in your favor. It seems like you have to forget how to play the original before you can learn this one. If you’re up for the challenge though, here are the rules. $400

Kettler Giant Chess Set

We never pegged chess as a summery, outdoorsy game, but we have to admit, this set it making a solid argument to the contrary. You don’t even really have to worry about a board. If you have some chalk for the street or nontoxic paint for the grass, you can sit out on the lawn playing chess all afternoon. Being able to actually walk on the board might even help you improve your game. So much of playing chess well comes down to being able to see the board as a whole without forgetting about individual pieces, and this giant set solves both those problems. $500

Ferrari Carbon Fibre Chess Set

You probably won’t find another set with as straightforward of a cool factor as this one. The pieces are beautifully sleek, the board looks like you could sit in it and do 0 to 60 in about two seconds, and the color scheme is classic Ferrari. You could almost park it in a driveway and not tell the difference between it and your obscenely rich neighbor’s Portofino. Just, remember, you’re supposed to take your time in a chess match. Don’t go burning your chess game’s equivalent of rubber just because you spent more than a thousand dollars on a set. $1260

World’s Smallest Chess Set

There’s absolutely no way you could play on this board. The surface is far too small, the pieces are nearly microscopic, and you could never hold your hand still enough. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of the coolest sets we’ve ever seen. There’s next to no information about this set available, beside that it’s handmade and one of a kind, but we’re thinking it had to be made by a watchmaker or jeweler. At least someone similar. That’s the only profession we can think of with any crossover in the tools or talents necessary for work like this. And steady enough hands. We can’t stress how steady your hands would have to be. Link

3-D Chess Board

This is yet another one of the sets you’ll have to make yourself if you want it, since this is just a concept from a talented designer. In this case, the idea comes from Ji Lee, whose description of his work is sparse. All it says is the unique shape adds more physicality to the game’s battlefield. Which is does, as the board ends up looking a lot like a trench from any one of the numerous wars where people dug them. Link

Platonic Chess

As you can tell from virtually every other entry on this list, there are plenty of variations on chess pieces, but this set is easily the most bold. It’s minimalist and striking, with bright white and deep black, going so far as to completely remove the checkered design from the game board. It’s a beautiful set, based around platonic solids, a fancy word for polyhedrons with regular dimensions. Sadly, these aren’t for sale, as they were originally designed as an art installation by Patricia Tower. But if you want to make your own, all you’d need was plenty of time, Solidworks, and an excellent 3-D printer. Link

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