Frequently Asked Questions
This page is dedicated to providing our customers with the information needed to make sound decisions about purchasing chess equipment on the internet.  We provide extensive information about the sizes, shapes, wood, etc. that are relevant to your needs.  Please take the time to read through the following information to better guarantee your satisfaction.
How is a chess clock used?
   Chess clocks, or chess timers, as they are sometimes called, are used in order to insure that both player have the same time to think during a game of chess.  Generally, both clocks are set to an agreed upon time control, and then all of the moves must be made within that time limit.  A typical example would be a Game/90 time control.  This means that the entire game must be completed in 90 minutes for each player.  Thus, the maximum amount of time that the game can last would be 180 minutes (or 3 hours).  There are a few important rules to follow when using a chess clock.  1) Always use the same hand to press the clock that you use to move the pieces.  This is especially important when using an analog clock, since the same bar connects both buttons and if you simultaneously press both buttons the bar could break, ruining the clock.  2)  NEVER over-wind an analog clock.  If an analog clock runs when you depress the buttons then it does not need to be wound.  In the event that one of the clock faces is not running, then wind the clock 2 - 3 turns.  If you over-wind the clock then the tension spring in the clock will stick, and the clock will no longer run.  Over-wound clocks are not covered by any warranties.  3) Always try to set the clock in the direction of time.  This means that you should always turn the minute hand in the clock-wise direction.  By following these simple rules, you will be able to use the same clock for a very long time.


How do I set my chess clock?
Analog chess clocks are typically very easy to set.  Each of the clock faces runs forward as a normal clock does, so you must set the clock such that the minute hand passing the 12 o'clock mark signals the end of time.  A small flag hangs near the 12 o'clock mark and the flag drops when that player runs out of time.  For tournament time controls, the clock is typically set so that the hour hand lands on the six o'clock mark just as the flag drops, when the game is over.


What's the difference between a digital and analog chess clock?
    Analog chess clocks have a long history in competitive chess while digital clocks have only been on the market for the past ten or fifteen years.  Digital chess clocks are easier to read and are 100% accurate in their time-keeping.  Digital clocks allow you to set the time to the second and allow for USCF recommended time-delay settings.  Analog chess clocks, on the other hand, are not as easy to set and can require adjustment over time.  The advantage to the analog chess clock is price.  Digital chess clocks typically cost $40 to $60 more than an analog clock.  If you are on limited budget then the analog chess clock is likely the best way to go, but if you simply want the best, then we recommend a digital clock.

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Chess Boards:
What's the difference between dove-tailed and inlaid chess board construction?
Chess boards are usually constructed using inlaid tiles for each of the board squares.  On an inlaid board, the individual squares are glued into a recessed board.  When done well, this type of construction will last forever.  If the board is subject to severe temperature changes, moisture, or other unfavorable environmental factors, then inlaid tiles can come loose from the board and buckle.  These problems are avoided by using dove-tail construction.  With dove-tail chess board construction, the squares are solid wood with tongue-and-groove tabs used for gluing.  You can always see that a chess board is dove-tailed by looking at the bottom of the board, the squares will be visible on both sides of the board.  The Drueke Company, based in Ludington, MI has been using dove-tail construction on their boards for many years.


What are the types of woods that are used to construct a chess board?
Many different types of woods are used in crafting a chess board.  Boards are commonly made from walnut, maple, oak, mahogany, and elm.  Your own aesthetic preferences will usually determine the combination that you prefer.  Walnut and mahogany boards are darker in color while oak boards are much lighter.  Typically the light squares are made from some type of maple.


What size of board do I need for my chess pieces?
There are certain combinations of board size and chess piece size that work well together.  The height of the set of chess pieces is measured by the height of the king (the tallest piece).  A tournament size chess board has 2 1/4" squares, but many of our customers just don't have enough room to fit a board of that size into their homes.  Generally, a tournament sized board will measure around 22"-24", which doesn't leave much room on the coffee table.  A nice alternative might be an 18" board, such as the Drueke Champion, whose squares still measure 1 3/4".   The following table will allow you to match the height of the king with the size of the square on the board:
Square Size King Height
1 1/2" 2 1/4"
1 3/4" 3"
2" 3 1/2" - 3 3/4"
2 1/4" 3 3/4"
2 3/4" 4" - 7"

Occasionally, it might be important to know the diameter of the base of the pieces, but if you know the size of the square you can easily judge whether the pieces will fit the board nicely.  It might seem that the board with 2 3/4" squares fits a large range of pieces.  This is easily explained by the fact that taller pieces are much thinner and taller than smaller pieces.  If you are trying to match a set of pieces with a particular board, then a good rule of thumb is that four pawns should fit into the squares on the board. 

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Chess Pieces:
How are the chess pieces weighted?
Chess pieces can be un-weighted, which is often called single-weighted, double-weighted, or triple-weighted.  Usually, weighted pieces are lead weighted in the base, and then capped and felted on the bottom.  Most top-quality wood sets will be triple-weighted.  The weighting of chess pieces can often be confusing, since there are no exact mass requirements for the weighting of the pieces.  Playing with weighted pieces is nice for a number of reasons.  


What are some of the materials that chess pieces are made from?
Chess pieces are made from many materials:  wood, glass, marble, pewter, brass, onyx, soapstone, resin, poly-stone, porcelain, and plastic, just to name a few.  Depending on the board, and your personal preferences, different types of pieces will best suit your needs.  Different materials allow for differing amounts of detail, weight, and durability.  The following questions are commonly asked about specific materials:


What is rosewood and when should it be preferred?
Rosewood is a deep reddish brown, richly streaked, and heavily grained.  Rosewood pieces are generally heavily weighted.  Rosewood chess pieces often sell from $95 to $150 dollars.  Though often less expensive than ebony wood chess pieces, rosewood is still preferred by many chess players as more natural in appearance.


What is ebony wood and when should it be preferred?
Ebony wood is the most luxurious of the woods used for chess pieces.  Ebony wood is the same material that is used for piano keys.  The wood is obtained in the East Indies, India, and Africa.  The heartwood of the tree is jet-black in color, but some of the woods are more brown than black.  Occasionally, you can find white ebony, which made from the sapwood of the tree.  Ebony wood can be finished to a glossy luster, and since the wood is very dense, it is usually the heaviest of the chess pieces woods.


What can I do if I lose a chess piece?
Often, we will either have the chess piece in stock that was lost, or we can locate the same piece through one of our many distributors.  If you can provide the exact measurements and a few jpeg photos of the piece that you are missing, we will try to located an identical piece.  If you live in the Ann Arbor, MI area, then we recommend that you bring your set into the store and we'll do our best to match the set.


What size chess pieces do I want and how are they measured?
The size of the chess pieces that you want with your set will depend almost entirely on your board choice.  Larger boards and pieces are easier for two people to play on but smaller sets are easier to store away.  Chess pieces are measured by the height of the king.  Generally, a 3 3/4" set is easiest to play on, but requires a board with 2" - 2 1/4" squares.  This can be quite large.  Please refer to our sizing chart if you want to know about the proper piece to board ratio.


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What chess books do you recommend for beginners?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions that we are asked at our store.  There are several good books that we usually recommend.  For the absolute beginner, at any age, the book "Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess" is quite good.  The book starts with the basics, and then works through positions adding ideas one at a time.  Also, the book is reasonably priced at just $7.99, so anyone can afford to own and learn from a copy.
    For the beginner that has some experience over the board, the Yasser Seirawan series is quite good.  Published by Microsoft Press, the book series covers tactics, strategy, openings, endings, and brilliancies.  The four books cover just about everything general idea that you need to know, in an easy to use format.
    The more advanced beginner, one with more playing experience, but little theoretical knowledge, can greatly benefit from working through Nimzowitsch's "My System" and the comprehensive "Praxis".  These books are both relatively dense, and require some effort on the part of the reader, but this should not deter the serious student.  An easier read, although no less complete, is Jeremy Silman's "Reassess Your Chess".  This book is aimed at the player who wants to take another look at the game, and to break any bad habits or misconceptions that he/she might have developed.


What books do you recommend on the opening?
Generally, if you are looking for one book that will allow you to learn all of your opening theory, then you're not going to find it.  Opening study takes years, and as with all such fields of knowledge, you can do no better than to specialize in some areas and not in others.  Understanding the ideas behind the various chess openings is much more valuable than memorizing thousands of lines of analysis.  Our recommendation is to play chess, uncovering the principles through experience and some fundamental strategy books, and then to study opening as they are presented to you.  You can usually find a book that will give an overview of the ideas behind one particular opening, and then as you become more interested, purchase books that cover the ideas behind specific theoretical lines.  By approaching the opening in a step-by-step fashion, the information will not be as overwhelming, and you can appreciate the ideas better by building up from the basics.

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What is the best chess software on the market?
There are two main pieces of software available for PC.  ChessBase, one of the  largest producers of chess software in the world, sells a variety of chess software, including the world famous Fritz6 software.  Fritz6 is one of the most comprehensive pieces of chess software on the market.  It has a strong playing engine, a game database with more than 200,000 games, and it talks!  In addition to producing Fritz6, ChessBase makes a full line of chess training products including instructional CDs, game databases, and more.  For the serious player, nothing is better than the flexibility that ChessBase provides.
    ChessMaster has been on the chess market for quite some time as well.  ChessMaster has software for both Macintosh and PC, though the Mac version is usually a couple of versions behind.  ChessMaster 8000 features various study modules, voice annotation, and a live internet interface.  Both ChessMaster and Fritz6 offer many features to the beginning chess player, Fritz6 and the ChessBase line allow for more flexible learning in the future.

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General Questions:
Does Chess Express sell pieces and boards that are in sets separately?
Not only do we sell most of our sets as individual pieces, but we encourage you to look through the entire web site in order to choose the board, pieces, clock, and other chess related equipment that best suits your needs.  The only sets that we do not break are the glass, marble, and soapstone sets.  Most of the wood sets are sold in pieces and boards separately on their respective pages.


What are your shipping rates, both domestic and internationally?
Our domestic shipping rates are listed on the Rates and Policies page of the store and also listed in the check-out area of the shipping cart.  For international orders, just send us an email that includes information about the product that you are interested in purchasing and we will get back to you with shipping rates for your country.  This allows us to give you prices on shipping to any country in the world.  We usually respond to email within a few hours, so you won't have to wait long for a response.


How long will it take to receive my order?
If you are interested in UPS Ground shipping rates from our location, click here.  Other expedited shipping methods are also available if you need your package to have a guaranteed delivery time other than UPS Ground.  We try to ship everything out the day after the order is placed.  We do leave ourselves a small window of time as stated on the Rates and Policies page, but we do everything we can to deliver your package as soon as possible.

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If you would like to contribute to our list of questions, please email us your question, or one which you think should be included on the list, and depending on the frequency of the question, we may post it on this page.
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