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What Is The Size Of A Regulation Chess Board?

The game of chess is played by many people around the world and is growing in popularity. 

Unlike many sports in which the size of the court helps to determine scoring, a game of chess can be played on nearly any board, using pieces of any size and design.

However, both the World Chess Federation and the United States Chess Federation, plus different chess federations and leagues around the world, still have rules regarding the size of the board, the size of the squares, and the acceptable size of the chess pieces.

What Is The Size Of A Regulation Chess Board?

Board and Square Sizes

A chess board is made up of 64 equally sized squares. The squares are arranged in an eight by eight pattern, with each alternating square colored with a light or dark color.

According to the United States Chess Federation, the standard size for a square is 2.25 inches or 5.715 centimeters, and the squares should be no smaller than 2 inches or 5.08 centimeters and no larger than 2.75 inches or 6.985 centimeters.

Considering the smallest acceptable square size, a chess board should be 16 by 16 inches. However, most chess boards have a margin along the edges.

empty chess board

This margin is usually about 1 inch all around, although there are no firm rules on how big the margin should be. With the margin included, the smallest chess board is usually about 18 by 18 inches or 45.72 by 45.72 centimeters.

Chess boards with larger squares are often about 22 by 22 inches or 55.88 by 55.88 centimeters square. However, some boards have even larger margins, giving the board an overall size of 20 inches or 50.8 centimeters square.

The World Chess Federation sets a slightly different acceptable size for its squares and boards. According to this federation, the squares should be between 5 and 6 centimeters or 1.969 to 2.36 inches square.

This means that a small board would be about 45 centimeters or 17.72 inches square, while a larger board’s size would start at around 53 centimeters or 20.87 inches square.

chess board with chess pieces

King Height

There are also some rules regarding how large the chess pieces must be. Chess sets are measured according to the maximum height of the king, which is the tallest piece. All of the other pieces must be proportionate to the king.

The United States Chess Federation rules that the king must be between 3.375 and 4.5 inches or 8.57 and 11.43 centimeters tall, with an average standard height of 3.75 inches or 9.53 centimeters.

The World Chess Federation has less strict rules regarding king height, but the rules state that a good average height is 9.5 centimeters or about 3.74 inches.

chess king

Piece Diameters

The diameter of the king piece’s base and how much space it takes up on one square is also important. In general, a king’s base should only take up between 75 and 80% of one square, with each smaller piece a proportionate size to the king.

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This allows for the correct spacing between each piece, which makes playing easier and neater.

Pieces that are too small can seem lost on the board, as there is too much space between each piece. However, it’s generally considered better to play on boards that provide too much space instead of boards that do not offer enough space.

Another way to gauge the correct ratio between the size of the squares and the size of the board is to see if four pawns, placed at each inner corner of one square, can all fit onto that single square.

Pawns are much smaller than kings, so this is a great way to test the ratio. For players who prefer squares at the smaller end of the recommended spectrum, two pawns placed diagonally should fit neatly onto one square.

chess pawns on a chess board

Chess Board Materials

It is almost impossible to determine the exact weight of a chess board, even if you know what the average chess board’s dimensions are. This is because chess boards can be made of many different materials, and each board can have a different thickness.

Traditionally, chess boards were made of ivory, clay, pewter, wood, or stone such as marble. Boards can be made of nearly any material, however, and beautifully designed boards are often crafted from glass, different metals, or even found objects.

Most commercial chess boards or boards used in regulation play are made of plastic, cardboard, or wood. The most common chess board wood is walnut.

Inexpensive chess boards made of cardboard or plastic may only be a few centimeters thick. Many of these boards fold in half so they can be stored easily, and they’re very lightweight, making them portable.

Wooden boards, however, can have a thickness of an inch or more. These boards, and many other decorative or artfully crafted boards, can weigh several pounds or more, so they are not meant to be frequently moved. Instead, they are set up on a table that has been designated only for playing chess.

In some public areas, such as city parks, some chess boards are drawn or carved directly into the stone or plastic of a table. In this case, players will only need to carry their own set of pieces to get a game started.

set up wooden chess board and pieces

What is the objective of the game of chess?

The objective of the game of chess is to checkmate the opposing players’ king. Checkmate means to trap the king in a position where it can not escape and a move is not possible. 

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