Saturday, May 5, 2012

Chess Pieces, Chessmen or Chess Set.

 That is the question.

From time to time we’ll receive a call from a customer that purchased a chess set and to their surprise and disappointment they did not receive a chess board with it. While we try our best to make it perfectly clear, whether it is just a chess set or if it also includes a chess board, there is that rare occasion when what our customer really wanted simply got lost in translation.

What it really boils down to is what "chess pieces" or "chessmen" might be to one person will be a "chess set" to another. Here at The Chess Store we define “chess set” as a set of 32 or 34 (when 2 spare queens are included) individual chessmen. However, some people define a chess set as a set of chess pieces or chessmen with a chess board. Not an unreasonable use or meaning of the two words and it can go either way but we have chosen the "chess set" road.

From our perspective, a chess set is a chess set and a chess board is a chess board. One does not necessarily imply the inclusion of the other. When we purchase chess sets from our suppliers, our purchase orders state “chess sets” and the items on the invoices we receive are described as “chess sets”. We purchase complete chess sets, not chess pieces.

The term “chess pieces” could be used to describe 2 chess pieces or a million chess pieces, regardless of whether they make a complete and cohesive chess set or not. When you say chess piece you are referring to a single chess piece and the plural form of the word only implies more than one and not necessarily 32. When you use the phrase "chess set", it’s exclusively is in reference to a set of 32 or 34 chess pieces.

It seems to be evenly divided between the stores that use the phrase “chess set” and “chess pieces” to describe a complete set of pieces. For the time being, we’re going to stick with the more traditional use of the word “chess set”. But, someday we might find that we need to convert for consistency sake and use the terms most shoppers have in mind when they think of a chess set.


  1. That is really interesting! Thanks for the info. I vote for chess sets.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The item on The Shannon Number says there are 10120 possible games of chess.

    I think that's supposed to be 10 to the 120th power.

    -- Don M