How do you pair a set of chess pieces with a chess board such that the look is suitable? In this article, you will get the official size of the chess pieces including the diameter of the base and the height.
You will also learn how to simply calculate the size of the individual square and base diameter of the pieces using a constant ratio outlined by the United States Chess Federation. With that said, let’s jump right in.
Chess Piece Size Chart
The primary measurement of the chess pieces is the king’s height. The size of the pieces should be proportionate to their height and form. The following chart shows the size of each chess piece in centimeters, including the height and base diameter. These measurements are the recommended size outlined by FIDE in section 2.2 of their handbook (Standard of Chess Equipment)
The diameter of the base of the chess piece should measure 40 to 50% of its height. Therefore, if the king’s height is 9.5 cm, then its base should measure 3.8 cm to 4.75 cm according to calculation.
FIDE recommended chess piece size
|Height of chess piece (cm)||Diameter of base (cm)|
|King||9.5||3.8 – 4.75|
|Queen||8.5||3.4 – 4.25|
|Bishop||7||2.8 – 3.5|
|Knight||6||2.4 – 3|
|Rook||5.5||2.2 – 2.75|
The dimensions may differ up to 10% of the above recommendation but not exceeding. Nonetheless, you should always make sure that the King is higher than the Queen in length.
Square To Base Ratio
It’s important that the pieces are not too cluttered on the chess board. Enough room must be provided between the base of the chess piece and the individual square size so that the pieces fit well and offer a great playing experience.
As a general rule, the base diameter should be 78% or 0.78 of the square size. This is a standard guideline published in the US Chess Federations Official Rules Of Chess handbook by Tim Just. This ratio ensures that the board and set combination has the proper piece spacing. Other sources will say 75% to 80%, but 0.78 is more definitive.
Diagram illustrating base diameter to square size
For example, if you want to know what the King’s base diameter should be for a 2 inch square, you simply mulitply it by 0.78. That is, 2 x 0.78 = 1.56 inches
Conversely, if you want to know the size of the individal square for a King’s base whose diameter is 1.56 inches, then you divide it by 0.78. That is, 1.56/0.78 = 2 inches
Feel free to deviate 1/8″ or aim entirely for the look you want.
What Are The Different Square Sizes
There are two main popular square sizes for chess boards: 2″ and 2.25″ square. However, you must stay within the limit of 2″ to 2.5″.
The standard USCF tournament set has 2.25 inch squares and a king’s height of 3.75 inches (9.5 cm). If you should choose between the 2″ or 2.25″ square, I would recommend the 2.25″ square chess board as it accommodates more room for the chess pieces. Again, it’s up to your preference and what you think is best for you.
2.25″ square chess board is the standard USCF size
The primary measurement of the chess board is its overall size. In the above example, the primary measurement is 21″.
Other Features To Consider
Besides the size of the chess piece, other features that should be taken into account are stability and aesthetic considerations. The weight of the pieces should be suitable for comfortable moving and stability.
Styling Of The Piece
The pieces should be shaped so as to be clearly distinguishable from one another. In particular the top of the King should distinctly differ from that of the Queen. The top of the Bishop may bear a notch or be of a special colour clearly distinguishing it from that of the Pawn.
The Staunton chess pieces are recommended for use in FIDE competitions as you can easily distinguish the pieces (King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, Pawn).
Image showing chess pieces in Staunton styling
Color of Chess Piece
The “black” pieces should be brown or black, or of other dark shades of these colours. The “white” pieces may be white or cream, or of other light colours. The natural colour of wood (walnut, maple, etc.) may also be used for this purpose. The pieces should not be shiny and should be pleasing to the eye.
Image showing black and white chess pieces
Does The Size Of The Chess Pieces Matter?
Yes, the size of the base of the chess pieces matter as you need to have enough room for your pieces to move. This is especially important in blitz games as the pieces will get knocked down easily if the spacing is too small.
In faster time controls, you don’t have the time to be adjusting your pieces and fitting them into the squares. As a result, the base diameter of the king should be kept at 0.78 of the square size which is more than enough room to move your pieces freely even in fast time control formats like blitz or bullet.
The height of the chess pieces also matter because you need to be able to distinguish between the King and Queen. Having the Queen taller than the King will create confusion in distinguishing the pieces. The King is always the tallest piece followed by the Queen.
How To Tell If Your Board Is Overcrowded?
You can perform a set spacing test to see if you have the correct square size for your pieces. This test involves placing 4 pawns into one square. If all the pawns can fit into the square, then you have passed the test. If you are using the United States Chess Federation chess board/set, then it should pass the test.
However, this may not work for every chess board and piece, which is fine. If you wish to use less space, then follow this next test.
Passing The Bishop Between The King And Queen
Quite a number of chess players actually prefer to play with less space. However, if you choose to go for less space, then you should at least pass the “no touch piece test”.
This test involves placing the king and queen on adjacent diagonal squares, and then see if you can pass a third piece between them. If that piece passes easily between the king and queen, then your board is NOT overcrowded.
Chess piece size is right once you can pass a third piece between the king and queen which are diagonally adjacent to each other
Using a base to square ratio of 0.78 will guarantee your chess pieces a good fit. This is the published standard recommended by the United States Chess Federation.
The process of calculating the chess piece diameter based off the square size is pretty easy as you simply muliply the square size by 0.78.
If you are trying to find the appropriate square size given the diameter of the chess piece, then you will divide the base by 0.78.
Hoped this information was helpful. Cheers 🙂