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Themed Chess Sets
Chess pieces are miniature statues, where each one can be a separate work of art.

(October 2004) If you think that all chess sets have little horses for the Knights, miniature towers for the Rooks, and a King bearing a crown with a cross, then you're missing a fascinating aspect of the royal game. Chess sets with historical, animal, and sports themes have uses beyond the more traditional Staunton chess sets. Along with their use for an occasional game of chess, theme sets can be displayed in the home or study for decorative or artistic purposes.

The pieces that most of us think about when we say 'chess set' are in fact a specific design called the Staunton pattern, first registered in 1849 by Nathaniel Cook. Staunton style pieces are required for serious play, including most tournaments. If you want a set for casual play, there's no reason to restrict your choice to the Staunton pattern.

Chess pieces are miniature statues, where each one can be a separate work of art. The 32 pieces in a normal set offer lots of scope for creative expression. When you consider the function of the six distinct types of piece plus their aggregation into two separate armies, they can represent just about anything you can imagine. Pieces with the same function, like the Pawns, don't even have to be identical as long as they can be distinguished by color.

Collecting chess sets is a hobby that many people, including non-players, pursue seriously. You don't have to be a serious collector to own one or two special sets to decorate a room or as part of a collection for some non-chess theme, like your favorite animal.

We've linked to some particular chess set themes (see the link box in the upper right corner of this article) available through the About Inc. shopping network.

  • Historical : Chess is a war game, and it follows that many specialty sets depict famous battles. Chess can also be used to symbolize less warlike situations where political adversaries fight over competing agendas.

  • Animals : Imagine a game of chess featuring cats versus dogs. Who gets the White pieces? Do the dogs always win? Then there are the dinosaurs. T-Rex as the King seems obvious, but who gets to represent the other pieces?

  • Children : Sets for children feature cartoon characters, movie characters, book characters, and at least one well known soft drink. They are for children of all ages!

  • Sports : You often hear chess used to describe more physical contests -- 'the Monday night football game was a real chess match' -- when a game involves lots of strategy and oneupmanship. Chess sets are also used to depict long-standing sports rivalries, like the Mets vs. the Yankees.

Each of the above leads to many specific examples under that particular category, like the American Civil War (under Historical) or dinosaurs (under Animals). Click on any link for a selection of chess pieces and sets related to that theme. Some themes are for pieces only, some are for pieces with matching boards, and some are for pieces with or without boards.

These are just examples of themed sets. If you explore further, you might find a theme that we've overlooked or that was introduced after we investigated available offers.

You've probably already figured out that these sets make great gifts. The best thing might be that you don't even have to play chess to appreciate them!

 More of this Feature
• Historical Themes
• Animal Themes
• Children's Themes
• Sport Themes
 Related Resources (offsite)
• All Theme Sets
 Elsewhere on the Web
• About Shopping
• ChessCollectors.com