The game of chess has graced many households, schools, and cafes for centuries. But its recent resurgence, largely due to online gaming platforms and pop culture phenomenona like “The Queen’s Gambit,” has created a new wave of enthusiasts. If you have a budding Beth Harmon or a devoted Grandmaster in your life, our chess gift buying guide will help you find the perfect gift to charm them.
Table of Contents
- How to use this guide
- General Thoughts on a Winning Chess Gift Buying Strategy
- Chess Gifts by Player Type
- 1. Casual, Function-Oriented, Young Player
- 2. Casual, Aesthetic-Oriented, Young Player
- 3. Hardcore, Function-Oriented, Young Player
- 4. Hardcore, Aesthetic-Oriented, Young Player
- 5. Casual, Function-Oriented, Adult Player
- 6. Casual, Aesthetic-Oriented, Adult Player
- 7. Hardcore, Function-Oriented, Adult Player
- 8. Hardcore, Aesthetic-Oriented, Adult Player
- Chess Gifts by Category
- Gift Ideas by Age Group
How to use this guide
As with any gift purchase, the more you know about the recipient, the better. With that said, this guide is designed to help you in a few different scenarios. If you are very familiar with the recipient, you may want to skip right to the player profile section using the Table of Contents above. If you already have a specific type of gift in mind, i.e., something tech-related, then skip to the section on chess gifts by category. Finally, if you know the recipient’s age and not much else, the closing section broken out by rough age categories will likely be most helpful. If you’re looking for any and all ideas, start at the top and keep going.
Just a reminder, when you purchase through links on this site, we may earn an affiliate commission that helps support our work. However, affiliate status does not impact our strategy suggestions or recommendations – we only recommend products we truly support.
General Thoughts on a Winning Chess Gift Buying Strategy
When approaching the challenge of buying a winning chess gift, it’s important to understand that just like any other hobby, people appreciate chess for different reasons. Some players, either young are old, are new to the game and just getting their feet wet. Some players have been playing their entire lives, but still only play casually. The ideal gift should not only cater to the player’s skill level but also enhance their overall experience with the game, whether that experience is casual or deeply integrated in their lives. In essence, the best strategy involves a combination of practicality, personalization, and in some cases a touch of unexpected novelty. This chess gift buying guide breaks the options out in a few different ways to help you figure out what’s most important to your recipient.
Chess Gifts by Player Type
Chess is more than just a game; it’s a lifestyle for many. Therefore, when considering a chess-themed gift, it’s essential to understand where your recipient stands on the spectrum of chess fandom.
- Casual vs. Hardcore: Is your recipient a casual player who enjoys occasional games or a hardcore enthusiast who eats, sleeps, and breathes chess?
- Function vs. Aesthetic: While some might appreciate a beautiful, ornate chess set for display, others might prefer the functionality of a new chess clock with all the bells and whistles.
- Age: People of all ages play chess. Of course, it’s important to match the gift to the person. That ornate chess set that might appeal to an adult, may not be of much interest to a younger player
(Keep reading below for examples of great chess gifts for any player profile.)
When you classify chess players using these dimensions, you end up with 8 different categories:
|Casual vs. Hardcore||Aesthetic vs. Functional||Young vs. Older|
As you think about the best chess gift for your recipient, consider where they are on each of these attributes. Think of your gift as a strategic chess move—you want it to be thoughtful and impactful.
Now that we’ve identified the types of chess players one might by for, let’s take a look at each of these player types in turn and what gifts are likely to be checkmates!
Let’s take each one of the categories above in turn by considering a quick general player profile and some example gift ideas.
1. Casual, Function-Oriented, Young Player
Player Profile: Enjoys occasional games, prefers something simple and functional, and is young.
For this type of recipient the key ideas are ease and function over form, with a special focus on durability.
- Compact magnetic travel chess set (easy to carry around).
- Books or other popular media where chess is part of the story. If the recipient shows an interest in becoming more serious about their play, basic chess strategy books designed for children or young players are great gifts.
- Chess-themed puzzles or board games suitable for younger players.
2. Casual, Aesthetic-Oriented, Young Player
Player Profile: Enjoys chess more for the fun than the competition, loves beautiful things, and is young.
As with the category above, this player profile is a young, casual player. An example here is the child that likes all things chess except for the competitive pieces. They may enjoy playing often, but don’t have an interest in tournament play or care too much about the outcome of the game. But chess is a prominent hobby and a big part of their life. As a result, there’s as much focus on learning as there might be for a more competitive player and suggestions here emphasize non-traditional chess gifts that surround the recipient with chess.
- Crossover-themed chess sets (like superhero or fairy tale characters).
- Chess-themed coloring books.
- Chess-themed t-shirts, backpacks, or bags.
3. Hardcore, Function-Oriented, Young Player
Player Profile: Very serious about chess, values practicality, and is young.
For players in this category, focus on helping them build their mental and physical chess resources with age-appropriate materials. These players are likely to be heavily involved in competitive chess and will likely appreciate anything that will help improve their game.
- Advanced chess strategy books for juniors.
- High-quality chess tournament supplies like a functional and sturdy chess bag, a quality tournament-ready chess set, or a nice game analysis folder with refillable notation sheets.
- High-end chess technology such as full-featured chess clocks, digital boards for tracking and analyzing games, etc.
- Premium membership to online chess platforms like Chess.com, donations to Lichess. Funds for advanced online lessons or local in-person chess instruction are also a great idea for this group.
4. Hardcore, Aesthetic-Oriented, Young Player
Player Profile: Loves the game deeply, appreciates beautiful chess-themed items, and is young.
What differentiates this category from the one above is the player’s additional interest in surrounding themselves with chess-related items. Not only are they deeply involved in the competitive side of chess, but chess is a big part of their lifestyle outside of competitive play. Here there’s an emphasis on unique chess-items that are both functional and aesthetic, while remaining age-appropriate.
- Artistic yet functional chess sets made from unique materials.
- Chess-themed wall art or posters for room decor.
- Beautiful chess journals or notebooks to jot down strategies.
5. Casual, Function-Oriented, Adult Player
Player Profile: Enjoys occasional games, wants something practical, and is an adult.
As adults, we tend to become a bit more practical. We also sometimes struggle to find time to sit down and play. As a result, for the casual, function-oriented adult we suggest emphasizing practicality and connectedness.
- Classic wooden chess set. If space is limited, something that serves dual purpose as a table is a nice touch.
- Introductory books on chess history or famous players.
- App store gift certificate for a chess timer for online subscriptions for apps that allow casual matches with friends.
- Interactive Chess Learning Course. Many platforms like Udemy, Coursera, Masterclass, and Chess.com offer interactive courses. These could be used in a group setting, where several people progress through the course together.
6. Casual, Aesthetic-Oriented, Adult Player
Player Profile: Likes to play for relaxation, appreciates art, and is an adult.
For the adult aesthetically-minded chess aficionado that doesn’t really play competitively but likes to be surrounded by chess in their day to day lives (or is maybe designing a chess-themed room in their home) there are many options. Of course, in contrast to the same group of younger players, gifts may tend to be a little more fragile and/or expensive.
- Ornate, decorative chess sets made of materials like marble or crystal. Crossover-themed sets that integrate other interests like this Star Wars-themed chess set can be great touches for certain decors and excellent conversation starters.
- Chess-themed home decor like wall hangings or sculptures.
- Coffee table books or art with stunning photography of historic chess matches or famous players.
7. Hardcore, Function-Oriented, Adult Player
Player Profile: Deeply passionate about chess, values functionality, and is an adult.
For these last two categories gifts get more difficult. Adult chess players that are very passionate about chess have likely been playing a long time. They may even be professionals in some chess-related field. They have probably been acquiring chess-related items for many years, so finding something they don’t have or haven’t already considered may be challenging. Also keep in mind that after many years of intense involvement in chess, they may be very opinionated about the tools they use. For that reason, purchasing returnable gifts is a good strategy. Function-oriented players may appreciate a gift that simply offsets the cost of a tool they are already using, such as a gift certificate for a chess magazine or journal they already subscribe to.
- Advanced chess training software like ChessBase.
- Professional quality chess board or top-of-the-line clock.
- Subscription to chess magazines or journals for in-depth game analyses.
8. Hardcore, Aesthetic-Oriented, Adult Player
Player Profile: Devoted to chess, loves ornate items, and is an adult.
This may be the hardest category to buy for because of the points made in the category above and because it can be hard to find unique aesthetic chess items. To increase your chances of finding something they don’t already have, focus on handmade shops and items developed by smaller companies.
- Exclusive, low production items available from chess-themed sellers on sites like the Smart Moves shop and Etsy.
- Luxury chess sets handcrafted by artisans
- Chess-themed jewelry or cufflinks.
- Limited edition books on chess, bound in leather or other premium materials.
Chess Gifts by Category
Maybe you don’t know enough about the recipient to categorize them, or maybe you’ve already been given some direction to get something functional, tech-based, etc. Let’s look at possible chess gifts from a different perspective that focuses less on the type of recipient and more on the type of product.
Functional Chess Gifts
Beyond the allure of the game, the physical elements of chess themselves often carry a certain beauty and allure. For some, choosing functional gifts is about merging that inherent elegance with practicality.
- Boards: A standard tournament set might be best for someone serious about entering competitions. However, if you’re gifting an art enthusiast, perhaps a luxury board made of marble or intricately carved wood would be a fitting choice.
- Clocks: In the world of competitive chess, time is of the essence. A sturdy, reliable chess clock, be it digital like those from DGT or a classic analog, can enhance a player’s experience manifold.
- Travel Sets: For the friend always on the move, a compact, magnetic travel set ensures they can play anywhere, anytime.
Choosing functional gifts resonates with the essence of the game—a blend of beauty and practical strategy.
Chess Tech and Gadgets
The digital age has reshaped how we approach chess, making it more accessible and offering tools for every level of mastery.
- Apps: Websites and apps like Chess.com or Lichess offer platforms for both budding enthusiasts and seasoned pros. A premium membership can unlock advanced features and lessons, making it a worthy gift.
- Chess Engines: For those who love analyzing their games, chess engines like Stockfish & Lc0 can be game-changers. Literally. They provide insight into game strategies and highlight potential improvements.
- Training Software: Tools like ChessBase allow players to store, annotate, and review games—a precious resource for serious players.
Introducing someone to the expansive world of chess tech can significantly elevate their game and passion for chess.
Chess Lifestyle Gifts
For many, chess is not just a game—it’s a significant part of their identity. Lifestyle gifts allow them to wear this identity, literally and figuratively. A chess gift buying guide wouldn’t be complete without some suggestions that help recipients express that identity. The Smart Moves store includes exclusive designs you won’t find anywhere else.
Stylish chess-themed apparel: T-shirts, hoodies, & caps. Show your love for the game. Trendy, exclusive designs for grandmasters & enthusiasts alike!
Unique chess gifts for the chess enthusiast in your life. Perfect presents for every chess lover.
- Clothing: Imagine wearing your passion! Chess-themed clothing, from subtle pawn prints on tees to bold knight designs on hoodies, is a statement in itself. Brands like Threadless or Redbubble occasionally feature unique chess-inspired designs, if you don’t see what you like in the Smart Moves store.
- Home Decor: For those who prefer subtlety, chess-themed pillow covers or wall art can be an elegant addition to their living space.
- Accessories: The beauty of chess motifs is undeniable. Jewelry pieces, especially those with knight or king designs, can be both quirky and elegant.
Lifestyle gifts resonate with the heart, highlighting the profound relationship between the player and the game.
Books provide a bridge to the vast and deep world of chess, offering insights into strategies, historic games, and the minds of grandmasters.
- Books: Classic texts like “My System” by Aron Nimzowitsch offer invaluable strategies, while biographies such as “The Life and Games of Mikhail Tal“ provide a glimpse into the life of a chess prodigy.
- Magazines & Journals: Subscription to magazines like New In Chess can keep the enthusiast updated with the latest in the chess world, from tournament news to interviews.
Gifting literature is gifting knowledge—an invaluable treasure for any chess lover.
Chess has a serious reputation, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for fun! Novelty items capture the lighthearted side of the game, perfect for those who appreciate a touch of quirkiness.
- Puzzles & Games: Think beyond the regular chessboard. Chess-themed puzzles can offer hours of entertainment, challenging both the brain and the dexterity of hands. There are even alternative chess games that introduce novel rules or merge with other game concepts.
- Collectibles: Some chess sets are so unique that they are more apt for display than play. Imagine a crystal chess set or one made entirely of metals like brass. Or consider limited edition stamps featuring grandmasters – a real treat for philatelists.
- DIY Kits: For the creative minds, a DIY chess set crafting kit can be both entertaining and satisfying. Building one’s own board and pieces provides a unique, personal connection to the game.
Novelty gifts remind us that while chess is a game of deep thought and strategy, it also offers joy, creativity, and light-heartedness.
Gift Ideas by Age Group
And finally, let’s think about chess gifts one other way – by age. Gifting is an art, and age often dictates the canvas and palette available. To round out this chess gift buying guide let’s consider the spectrum of options by age.
- Themed Sets: At this age, fairy tales, superheroes, and cartoons reign supreme. Themed chess sets, which merge beloved characters with the game, can be both familiar and educational. Imagine a Harry Potter chess set where each house is a team!
- Interactive Apps: Modern kids are tech-savvy. Gamified chess learning platforms, filled with animations and interactive challenges, can make the learning curve much smoother and engaging.
- Clothing: Young ones love to flaunt their interests. Chess-themed kids’ wear, especially those with vibrant designs, can be a hit. Think of a playful t-shirt that reads “Future Grandmaster.”
- Advanced Board Sets: As they transition from playful themes, a more sophisticated yet still approachable board set can symbolize their growth in the game.
- Chess Clock: Introducing the concept of timed games can add a layer of excitement. A beginner-friendly chess clock, perhaps one with vibrant colors, can be ideal.
- Books: Strategy books aimed at younger audiences can nurture their budding skills. Titles like “Chess for Kids” by Michael Basman can be apt.
- Tech Gadgets: With their increasing tech affinity, advanced game analysis software or premium app memberships can be ideal. It caters to their growing seriousness towards the game.
- Lifestyle: Fashion plays a role in high school dynamics. Trendy chess-themed hoodies, backpacks, or even phone covers can be both stylish and reflective of their passion.
- Literature: More advanced books, offering deep dives into historic matches or discussing advanced strategies, can feed their ever-growing curiosity and skill set.
- Luxury Sets: As tastes mature, a beautifully handcrafted wooden board or a chess set made of materials like marble or glass can be a statement piece in their home.
- Lifestyle Gifts: Sophisticated home decor, such as chess-themed wall art or even bar accessories like coasters, can subtly highlight their love for the game.
- Novelties: For the adult who has almost everything, rare collectibles or limited edition items can be a delightful surprise.
Chess, with its intricate strategies and timeless charm, offers a plethora of gifting opportunities. Whether it’s the tangible beauty of a chess set, the tech-enhanced training aids, the personal touch of lifestyle items, or the deep knowledge reservoir of literature – there’s a chess gift for everyone and every age.
Your move in the game of gifting is crucial. With our comprehensive chess gift buying guide, we hope your choice becomes as flawless as a Grandmaster’s checkmate. Make your move and let the game of joy commence!
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