Monday, April 16, 2012

Plastic Chess Sets

While visiting a local chess shop I had an opportunity to take a look at some currently popular plastic chess sets.

Generic set
Very popular and cheap!  About $5.00 from the USCF.  Very sturdy plastic tournament set is ideal for schools, chess clubs, and tournament play.  These pieces are virtually unbreakable.  3.75” King with a 1.50” felt base’  Not weighted. Set contains 4 Queens.  This is a good set if you are on a really tight budget or are buying a whole bunch of sets.  Generally though I’d avoid it because it’s too light weight.

Marshall Series
 A House of Staunton set with features a 3.75" King (1.75"diameter base), this set is heavy.   Felt base pads on bottoms.. About $28 from the USCF.  This set is similar in design to the famous turn-of-the century Jaques sets.  Very nice!
Another Jaques design dating to 1849 also by the House of Staunton. 4.0" King with a 1.875"diameter base. Very heavy with felted base.

Commemorate the Hastings 1895 Tournament.  3.875" King with a 1.75" diameter base, very heavily weighted with felt base pads.  Great set.  About $25 from the USCF

As mentioned, unless you are on a really tight budget, I’d avoid the first set but any of the other sets are great looking sets.  There really isn't much difference in any of these sets except the knight design and any one of them would be a good choice.  One thing I do not like, two things actually, are colored sets and black and white ones.  I prefer the black and tan pieces.

Two of the best sets I ever owned are the Player’s Choice by Drueke and the Windsor Castle sets.  The former were very popular in the 1970’s and the latter in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Bobby Fischer is seen playing with the Windsor Castle set.  If I ever find one of these old sets in a flea market or second hand store, I will definitely snatch them up.  I’ve seen them a couple of times on e-bay, but I don’t want them bad enough to pay the ridiculous, inflated prices the owners are asking for.

Player’s Choice By Drueke:

Windsor Castle


  1. please, please, colored sets. i played a game a few weeks ago where my opponent had a standard grren and buff board with blue pieces and a red clock...hideous...i thought i was having a psychedelic experience. also please make sure the board size matches the piece size!

  2. Can you help me? I have a Players choice set in a wooden box. I know the design was patented in 1941 but how do you tell what time period they actually came from? And I have a folding board black and kind of tan that says Lowe in one corner. Can you tell me anything about it? I don't play chess. These belonged to a friends husband who passed away last year. I'm trying to help her get a fair price for them. Thanks in advance.

    1. The Player's Choice chessmen were popular during the late 1960s through the 1980s. Drueke sold out to Carrom and the Player's Choice sets were discontinued.

      ES Lowe produced numerous styles of chessmen from the 1930s through the late 1980s. They made Figural as well as un remarkable Staunton pattern chessmen. All their sets came with chessboards with the ES Lowe logo mimprinted. Player"s Choice sets normally sell for $70 to $125, depending on the box, color and configuration. These often appear on eBay. Drueke made other patented chessmen which were available from the 1930s onward, but these were less desirable as playing sets than their Player's Choice.