There are a wide variety of chess boards available for not only playing at home, but many other uses you may not have thought of.
Chess board sizes
Chess boards come in a variety of sizes ranging from small travel sets to boards that are used for outdoor chess and have pieces that stand five feet tall. What you use depends on what you want or need the board for.
Technically, there is no regulation size for a chess board for tournaments or professional play. The rules state that the board must have 64 squares and those squares must be 2.25″ square. The edges however I do not believe are regulated and this means that a tournament or professional chess board can be as small as 18″ square, or substantially larger.
Many of the roll up boards you will find are 20″ square because they have a 1″ border around the edge.
For regular play, you can of course have your board any size you choose. In fact, 15″ boards are quite popular for tabletop play. Travel chess sets, which are often magnetic, typically range from 7″ to about 12″ but again, can really be any size.
Club and small tournament boards/mats
Most clubs and many small tournaments use a mat, or roll up chess board. These come in a variety of materials and can be used with the typical plastic pieces, or really any type of piece you may want.
These come as just a board, or in sets which might be as complete as a board, pieces, clock, bag and score book as in the Wholesale Chess Basic Club Complete Set shown above which runs about $40.
Personally, I would upgrade to the Wholesale chess Triple Weighted Complete Tournament Set which includes and upgraded clock, upgraded bag, and most of all, nice weighted pieces for about $70. It should last you a really long time and certainly will make the playing experience much nicer.
More information on mats or roll up boards can be found in the article detailing everything you ever wanted to know about mats.
There are more types of wooden boards than you could want but they come down to two basic types veneer and solid wood.
Veneer boards are usually much less expensive. Most of this type are made from a fiber or composite core (think particle board) and then have a very thin layer of solid wood glued to the surface to make it look like a solid wood board.
There is nothing wrong with a veneer board, and when well cared for they could last you a lifetime of play. In fact, most of your travel size or fold up boards sold at department stores are veneer boards such as this Smart Tactics 16″ Folding Chess Set by Grow Up Smart for around $20. You could also get a much nicer board, while still being a veneer, with the Apollo 20″ Tournament Chess Board with Inlaid Walnut and Maple for around $80.
Hardwood boards can be substantially more expensive, often several hundred dollars for just a board. The advantages here are that a solid board will tend to last longer, be more durable, and is heavier and therefor more stable.
For a really nice solid wood board take a look at the 20″ Chessbazaar Wooden Chess Board in dark brown rose wood for around $237.
If you want to really spare no expense on your board, check out this Mission Craft African Padauk & Mable Solid Wood Chess Board for around $800, it is beautiful!
Travel chess boards are almost always in sets because the sizing of the boards can be so dramatically different, and because the pieces may or may not be magnetic or vary in magnetic strength.
One of the more popular travel chess sets is the Official travel checkbook chess set produced by the US Chess Federation and House of Staunton for around $12. This set folds up into a 6″ x 3″ checkbook size and then unfolds into something about 6″ x 9″ for play. The pieces are simply little magnetic discs with a picture representing each piece.
Don’t think that just because you want a small travel chess set you can’t have something a little fancier like this Dios Classic Handmade Magnetic 7″ Chess Set for around $20. It has a nice wooden board with wooden pieces and the pieces store inside the board in little pockets so they do not rattle around.
Demonstration chess boards
These boards are specifically for instructors to use in teaching. They are designed to hang from a wall or stand and typically have clear slots where the instructor can insert special pieces.
Typically much larger than standard boards so the students can see them from a distance, they often also come with carry cases. The one shown above is a 36″ Demonstration Chess Board from Wholesale Chess and runs about $48 with a case.