In my chess classes, I always provide boards, pieces, notation sheets, and anything needed for our activities. I also bring 3 chess clocks.
For those of you that are really excited about chess, however, I recommend purchasing your own equipment. The best way to figure out whether this makes sense for you is by participating in a rated section in a chess tournament. If it's something you could see yourself doing again, then buying some chess equipment is a worthwhile investment.
These are my recommendations. I've either used these products myself or have done the research. I would put my own money behind every suggestion except in a single instance when I indicate otherwise. If you find a better deal somewhere, please let me know. You can also - if you'd like to run something by me.
Please Use These Links To Support My TeachingWherever possible, I've used affiliate links. I earn approximately 4% on any sales. If you're going to make these purchases, please use the buy buttons below to help support the work I put in. It does not cost you anything extra. It's part of how I make my teaching available to students whose parents can't otherwise afford it.
Also, be aware that prices occassionally change. I would stick with the recommended products below, but always double-check for the best price on the product by searching the product name in Amazon. When double-checking, please use this link to search on Amazon so I still get credit.
Chess Sets (boards & pieces)
Why get one:
- You'll be able to play "over the board" games (opposite of online) in between our classes.
- Although many scholastic tournaments provide sets, it's often recommended and occasionally required that you bring your own. If you don't bring your own, you may wind up having to play with a set that's unfamiliar or unpleasant (e.g. no coordinates for notation, non-standard pieces, dirty/bent board, unusually small or big, etc).
- For most chess books, you need to use a set as you read along to get anything out of it.
What to look for:
- Board Material: Vinyl is easy to roll up and lasts a long time. It's by far and away the most popular material.
- Piece Material: Plastic pieces that are mostly filled in (not hollow) will be able to take a beating, are easily replaceable, and have enough weight that they won't be easily blown away or difficult to quickly move when time is of the essence. Weighted pieces are even easier to move in a time scramble, but they are more expensive and more easily damaged - I would not recommend them for kids.
- Price: $16.99 including shipping (see below) is the best deal I've found. If you can buy the same type of set for less, let me know where.
- Extra queens: Most sets come standard with an extra queen for each color. Don't get it otherwise. This comes in handy for pawn promotions.
- Color: Board are usually black or green (& white), or less frequently blue, red, or brown (& white). Choose your favorite.
If you're also planning on buying a chess bag, check out my bag recommendation first. This set comes with it, so if you're going to buy both, you save some money with the bundle deal.
Why get one:
- Time management is a critical part of the modern game of chess. Without a clock, you won't be getting as much out of the experience. That is especially true at a chess tournament.
- Most scholastic tournaments require that you bring a clock, although in practice there is no penalty for not bringing one. However, tournaments rarely provide clocks (unlike boards & sets) and there's a good chance your opponent won't have one either.
- The time to learn how to play with a clock is NOT at a chess tournament. Your first tournament or two can be a bit intimidating. Playing chess with a clock can also be intimidating and uncomfortable at first. If kids need to acclimate to both new experiences at once, they might not have fun and won't want to continue with tournament chess. It's better to learn how to play with the clock ahead of time to make it easier to get past any initial nerves - then the fun can kick into high gear.
What to look for:
- Digital: Don't even consider an analog clock. They tend to be more delicate, are less precise, and don't have the ability to add a delay or increment.
- Durability: Even if you are really careful with your clock, you'll almost definitely face opponents who won't be and will slam your clock.
- Ease of use: Many clocks are notoriously difficult to set up with complex time controls. Make sure the clock you choose doesn't require you to be a rocket scientist.
- Lots of time controls: Some clocks limit the number of time controls you can use. It's best to get a clock that's completely customizable.
- Indicator light: This gives you the ability to take a breather away from the board and still know from a distance when it's time to return. This can be important with longer time controls.
Chronos GX Touch Chess Clock
For reasons no one seems to know, Chronos went out of business despite making some of the best and most widely used clocks in tournament chess circles. The GX Touch can be very hard to find. I purchased mine online in November 2012 for $118.71 including shipping. They used to sell for between $100 - $130. It comes in creme (my preference), blue, yellow, and black. The touch buttons discourage clock slamming, especially in a time scramble, and are a lot nicer to use. The metal casing is resilient. It has one of the clearest & best-designed displays that intuitively presents all the important info (remaining time, move count, time delay). It is much more compact and easier to set up than it's also worthy predecessor, the Chronos II. It can be set to any time control you need. One lesser known shortcoming is it's unreliability in hot or cold temperatures - I wouldn't recommend it if you play mostly outdoors (like the chess hustlers in the parks).
I do not recommend you purchase this clock for $299.99 as pictured below. I'm including this link in case you can find it cheaper somewhere or if you're very committed to chess and prefer this clock so much to the others that it's worth the extra money.
The Chronos II is very similar to the GX Touch. It has a few extra time controls (that you likely won't ever need), but it's much bigger and harder to program. I would only get this if I couldn't find a GX Touch and the price was right. It also comes in creme/ivory (my preference), black, yellow, or blue.
Saitek Competition Pro III
I've played with this clock but never owned it. I did a lot of research before purchasing my Chronos GX Touch and this was my runner-up choice. I've brushed up on my research to prepare this page, and I still stand behind this model. It has one of the better displays, it's not hard to program, and has all the time controls you'll need. There is a slightly cheaper version with less features, the Saitek Competition, but the extra $15 is well worth it to get the Pro III.
Chess Set Bags
Why get one:
- A bag is a good way to protect your investments - it makes it much harder for kids to lose pieces or their clock.
- It makes it much easier to conveniently and safely transport your equipment, especially at tournaments.
What to look for:
- Spaciousness: Many chess bags don't have enough space to comfortably fit a clock and scorebook alongside your set. Make sure you get one that can easily accommodate whatever you want to put in there.
- Ease of use: Some bags have an elastic ring that you need to insert your rolled board into. These are really difficult to use and won't keep your board in good condition. Velcro straps that you can take apart work much better. It's also preferable for there to be two compartments for pieces - one for white and one for black. This will make setting up much quicker.
- A place for your clock: Ideally you don't want your clock to be loose in the bag. It's best if there's some kind of compartment or strap that will keep it secure.
- Shoulder strap: It makes it easier to carry, and you'll look less nerdy on the subway.
Unfortunately there aren't a lot of good options. I'm not thrilled with the one I own. It's also hard to evaluate the bag from just online research. I only found one that I'm comfortable recommending. It doesn't have a shoulder strap and I've never used it personally, but judging from the reviews it seems legit. It also includes the set I recommended above. If you're intending to get a bag and a set anyways, buying this combo will save you some money.
Why get one:
- Keeps your game history in one place: Most scholastic tournaments provide notation sheets and you can always print your own. Unfortunately, kids tend to lose them and value them less when each game is floating around individually. If lost, you can't review your games with your coach (me) and you won't have anything to fondly look back on years later.
- Makes it easier to take notation: If you always use the same type of notation sheet, it becomes that much easier to get into a habit of taking notation. The sheets of a scorebook are also usually designed better and therefore easier to fill out. You'll also be less likely to forget to take notation if you have your own book.
What to look for:
- Hardcover. If you're willing to pay just a little bit more, you can get one with a hard cover and better binding. Notation books with spiral binding eventually become damaged, especially with kids.
- Plenty of space. Although you don't want it to be oversized, it's important to make sure there's enough space for you to notate without having to write really tiny. Having to write tiny causes most people to make more mistakes, making it harder to review the game after and wasting valuable clock time.
I found one a few cents cheaper than the option below, but the cheaper one looks like it may be of lesser quality. This one also comes in different colors, but those versions are slightly more expensive.
If you're very price-sensitive, then you can save a little bit by getting a softcover scorebook instead. This one is the least expensive when you factor in shipping costs - it qualifies for free shipping if part of a $35+ order on Amazon. There's a good chance you might find one for a dollar or two cheaper at a chess tournament.
Why use pens:
A "writing utensils" section might seem a little silly, but I needed someplace to explain why I recommend using a pen instead of a pencil. Kids use pencils because they can erase their mistakes. In school, this might make sense. When notating a chess game, however, it's a waste of valuable clock time and paradoxically often makes things messier. It's better to just put a single line through your mistake and rewrite the correct move next to it. Of course, you can do that with a pencil too, but kids will wind up using the eraser out of force of habit.
Pilot G-2 pens are my favorite. I use the "extra fine" (0.5 mm tip) model, but the "fine" model (0.7 mm) probably works good too. They write really well, are very comfortable, and you can replace just the ink cartridge to save money. The last thing you want to be worrying about is your writing utensil when you're immersed in a tournament chess game. In my experience, it's good to give yourself every possible advantage, including a comfortable, reliable pen. It may seem insignificant, but it's not, particularly as you advance in chess. I've included both the fine & extra fine versions. You can choose black or blue (or other colors) from the Amazon page.
Reminder: Please Use These LinksWherever possible, I've used affiliate links. I earn approximately 4% on any sales. If you're going to make these purchases, please use the buy buttons above to help support the work I put in. It does not cost you anything extra. It's part of how I make my teaching available to students whose parents can't otherwise afford it.
Also, be aware that prices occassionally change. I would stick with the recommended products above, but always double-check for the best price on the product by searching the product name in Amazon. When double-checking, please use this link to search on Amazon so I still get credit.