Posted by Matt on 27th Jan 2014

Rules For Chess Equipment In Tournaments


Chess is a very complicated game that demands concentration and focus. Certain rules have been adopted for pieces, boards, and clocks to keep them from distracting from the chess game. If a set is too detailed or the pieces are too similar then they may distract the player who has to spend time figuring out which pieces are which. At the same time a chessboard with graphics on it or squares that are too bright can become irritating after looking at the board for several hours.


Chess pieces must be of the staunton style. The staunton style is the very classical look of pieces that most of our sets feature. This includes the King with a cross, a queen with a spiked crown, a rook that looks like a tower, a bishop with a diagonal slit, a knight that looks like a horse head, and a round-headed simple pawn. Many "fancy" sets are too detailed and it becomes hard to tell the pieces apart. Some modern sets feature pieces that look almost identical and can be frustrating for opponents who are not familiar with the pieces. Each set of chess pieces must also be significantly different in color - one light set and one dark set (usually white/cream/natural/light wood vs. black/dark brown/dark wood). Chess pieces are generally measured by the King's height. Tournament chess pieces should be between 3.5" and 4.25" (King height). The base should be 40-50% as wide as the height. The pieces should not be overly shiny and should be made of plastic or wood. The pieces should also be significantly weighted as to not tip over easily. Generally if your pieces weigh at least 1 lb. for all 32 pieces you are fine. Heavier pieces are not needed, though they do feel nice. If you have any questions about your chess pieces check with your tournament director. Wholesale Chess offers a number of tournament chess sets.

  • Classic staunton style
  • 3.5" - 4.25" King height
  • Made of plastic or wood
  • At least 1 lb set of 32 pieces


Chessboards must be plain squares of alternating light and dark colors. The colors should not be too bright and should also not blend in too much with the pieces. For this reason the most popular colors are matte green and blue (and why black/white is usually not recommended - it blends in with the pieces). The material may be any material that is not too shiny. Generally vinyl chessboards are recommended or folding paper boards. Wood may also be used. The squares must be between 2" and 2.5". They must fit the pieces proportionally - not too crowded, not too spread apart. Wholesale Chess offers a number of tournament appropriate chess boards.

  • Alternating light/dark squares
  • 2" - 2.5" squares
  • Made of vinyl, paper, or wood
  • Not too bright colors

Chess clocks and timers are used to control how much time each player uses. There are mechanical/analog clocks and digital clocks. Both are acceptable, though digital clocks are usually preferred if there is a time delay featured in the tournament (check with your Tournament Director). Clocks should be near silent. The player with the black pieces gets to choose on which side of the board they would like to have the clock. Wholesale Chess offers a number of tournament appropriate chess clocks.

  • Analog and digital clocks are allowed, though digital may be preferred
  • Clocks must be near silent
Besides pieces, boards, and clocks, you may need some other materials like scorebooks or scoresheets. Those are used to record, or write down, your games for record. Ask your Tournament Director if you are required to write down your games.