Chess boards and pieces come in various sizes. Although you can play with any board, the standard chess board used for FIDE events is 16″ to 19″ in size.
If the chess board is either too small or too big, it becomes more difficult to move the pieces around and see on which square each piece is placed.
Additionally, you have to make sure that the size of the chess pieces is proportional to the squares, to make sure the pieces aren’t too small or too big.
Chess board square size
The chess board consists out of 8 x 8 squares, making up for a total of 64 squares.
According to the FIDE handbook, each square on the chess board should be between 5 and 6 cm wide. So in inches each square should be roughly 2″ to 2.4″ in size.
However, the regulations can change a little bit among federations. For example, the tournament boards used by the United States Chess Federation (USCF) are made out of squares that are 2″ to 2.5″ in size.
Standard chess board size in inches
Since each square on the board should be between 5 and 6 cm and the board is 8 x 8 squares, you can easily calculate that the standard chess board is 40 to 48 cm. That is roughly 16 to 19 inches in size.
However, most chess boards are slightly wider than this because there of the border around the 64 squares.
Below you can see the chess board that is used for most of the FIDE events, which is actually 50 by 50 cm in size (roughly 20″ x 20″).
As you can see, this specific chess board just has empty borders. But most chess boards you will find at chess clubs or regular tournaments have the files and rows labelled on the sides.
Chess piece dimensions
Besides the size of the chess board, there are also several regulations on the dimensions of each chess piece. FIDE recommends the pieces to have the following heights:
- King – 9.5 cm – 3.7″
- Queen – 8.5 cm – 3.3″
- Bishop – 7 cm – 2.8″
- Knight – 6 cm – 2.4″
- Rook – 5.5 cm – 2.2″
- Pawn – 5 cm – 2.0″
However, FIDE allows for the pieces to be up to 10% larger or smaller than these guidelines. So a king should be between 8.55 and 10.45 cm (3.4 ~ 4.1 inches).
The only important rule is that the order of the pieces should always remain the same. Meaning that the kings should always be the largest piece on the board, and the pawns should always be the smallest chess piece.
If you are not familiar with all the pieces yet, you can read my article on the names of all the chess pieces.
Chess piece size to square size
Not only the height of each chess piece, but also the size of the base of the pieces is important. As a general rule, the diameter of the base of a chess pieces should be no larger than half the width of a square on the board.
Since the squares are normally 5 to 6 cm in size, the diameter of a piece’s base should be no larger than 3 cm.
This also means that you can fit 4 pawns into a single square on the chess board. You can easily try this yourself if you have a chess board at hand.
What size chess board should I buy?
The easiest way to buy a chess board is to buy a chess set that contains both the board and the pieces. That way, you won’t have to make sure the size of the board and the pieces match together.
If you are new to chess, a silicon, vinyl or plastic chess board is great to start out with. These are very cheap and they will last forever even if you let kids play on them.
If you want a more aesthetic board that you can still play on, you can look at a wooden chess board. These can range from just a few tens of dollars up to thousands of dollars for luxury editions.
Chess boards made out of other materials such as glass or marble are normally used mainly for decoration, because they are easily damaged and aren’t as easy to play on.
Frequently asked questions
What chess board is used in the world championship?
The chess board that FIDE has used for all the world chess championship matches since 2012 was designed by Daniel Weil, who works for a company called Pentagram.
Each set is handmade from rosewood and boxwood and it takes roughly 3 days to make the board and carve all the pieces.
Daniel Weil enlisted the help from previous champions such as Magnus Carlsen and Vladimir Kramnik to play test the board. And after these two legends gave their approval, FIDE also quickly followed suit and allowed the board to be used for official events.
If you want to play on the same board as the world chess champion, you can!
But be ready to pay a pretty penny for a set.
What chess board do pros use?
Professional grandmasters normally play on a wooden DGT chess board during important tournaments. Since these chess boards are electronic, the moves that the players make will be automatically recorded and shared online with anyone watching live.
Most big tournaments have these live chess boards for the top 3 to 8 matches. However, since there are so many super grandmasters nowadays, not everyone always gets to play on these boards.
Any pros that are playing on one of the remaining boards normally use a regular wooden chess board.
What chess boards are used in tournaments?
Chess tournaments organized for regular players normally use either vinyl or wooden chess boards. For international events organized by FIDE such as the world championship, only FIDE-approved chessboards can be used.