Chess is a very traditional and minimalist game. The best sets are often those that are hand carved from wood with nicely weighted pieces or high-end pewter, or glass sets that double as a focal point for a room.
It’s also a two-person game and therefore unless you have someone to play with, physical options are usually limited and players turn to online games or apps. This does, however, lose some of the fun and mental connection that comes with moving physical pieces around the board.
A popular option that has improved in recent years due to improvements in technology is an electronic chess set. This allows players to practice when they do not have a partner and also allows them to learn strategy and moves when playing against a computer that won’t make “human” mistakes.
For those that don’t know quite where to start when purchasing an electronic chess set, we’ve put together this useful guide that will review some of the best electronic chess sets on the market.
What to Look for in an Electronic Chess Set
Below, we’ve put together a quick buyers guide to help you know what you should be looking for in a good quality electronic chess set, as well as what you’ll want to avoid!
This can be considered in two parts. Firstly, you want the actual chessboard and pieces to be traditional and of good quality. The reason for choosing an electronic chess set in the first place is usually because you want to experience playing the game in its true 3D form.
A lot of people struggle to visualize moves and analyze the board when playing 2D chess on a computer or phone. Therefore, the chess set of choice needs to resemble a traditional chessboard and be a good quality build so that you can enjoy the game in a similar way as you would playing against a human.
Secondly, you want the moves and gameplay to be challenging and adaptable. Whether the system is a tiered difficulty scaling from beginner to advanced or a more adaptable system that analyzes your moves and adjusts based on how you are playing.
This will all be controlled by the computer program or AI which is the next factor to take into consideration.
An algorithm is not yet powerful or accurate enough for computers to make human error type moves. Therefore, you will only be playing against the logic of a move based on computerized outcomes.
With this in mind, you’d want a product that can determine the difficulty and also allow you to learn strategy as you play against it. Ideally, they will be pre-programmed with well-known chess moves and could even have additional functionality such as learning a player’s most used moves, etc…
Best Electronic Chess Sets 2021
3. DGT Centaur- New Revolutionary Chess
The DGT Centaur is a unique electronic chess set that is designed to be used by players of all abilities. This is mostly due to the smart technology and adaptable algorithm that enables it to match the player’s ability level, creating closely contested games that are always a challenge but still feel like you can win.
This is a setting that can often be flawed with other computer systems as the higher levels will usually feel “impossible” to beat which will prove frustrating for most players. As a result, this chess set is fun above all else and you’ll find that you can actually enjoy playing against the computer.
The battery life is excellent and a single charge will last multiple games regardless of the duration and if the game shuts off while you have a break, it will load up again at your last play for ease of resuming. The board and pieces are lightweight and have an ultra-modern design that makes for a great looking set.
The take-back function is an issue (as it doesn’t exist) and you can get an occasional glitch where the computer won’t recognize pieces but overall, this is an intuitive and enjoyable board that does a good job of replacing a human for a challenging yet fun game of chess.
What We Like
- The smart algorithm adjusts its level of play depending on your initial and subsequent moves. This allows you to play against a setting that is more closely matched to your current ability. It also feels like you are actually playing against a human.
- The battery life is excellent and will last multiple games on a single charge making it ideal for travel.
- The design is modern with a great looking (and responsive) board and well-weighted pieces.
What We Thought Could Be Better
- This is a premium product and therefore the price point might be a bit steep depending on your budget.
- There is no take-back function and the computer can very occasionally glitch or fail to recognize a piece but these are rare occurrences.
2. iCore Magnet Chess Sets
The iCore Magnetic chess set is a great beginner option that comes with multiple features and game modes to learn the game of chess and also gradually progress.
The set features 100 pre-programmed tasks that help players learn the game whilst developing specific skills/tactics. It also speaks, warning players of potential mistakes and illegal moves that will accelerate their understanding of the game.
Chess aside, this set also features other popular games of strategy including Checkers and Reversi whilst the magnetic board makes this an all-around great travel accessory and gift set for children.
The one issue with this particular chess set is the board, pieces, and screen being too small. The overall playing surface is around 6” x 6” which makes it difficult to easily see and distinguish what all of the pieces are. The screen is also dimly lit and quite small as well.
For the price though, this is definitely a useful and useable product that has a universal appeal.
What We Like
- The referee mode allows players to play whilst the computer will guide moves to ensure legal and logical moves are being played which is a good addition for learning the game.
- 8 games in 1 make this a good choice for not only chess lovers but kids in general who want a variety of games.
- The magnetic pieces make this a great portable and travel option enabling you to play the game anywhere and everywhere!
What We Thought Could Be Better
- This is a relatively small chessboard with the pieces and screen, in particular, being noted as too small and difficult to see.
1. Top 1 Chess Set Board Game
The Top 1 Chess set is not too dissimilar from the iCore set we’ve also looked at but in our opinion, this set offers more functionality and reviews show this to be a slightly higher rated product.
With 100 pre-programmed chess modes, this makes for an excellent learning tool for those looking to learn basic strategy and move selection. The hint mode will help you identify possibly bad moves or illegal moves so that you can learn through trial and error.
You’ll be able to use the programmed games for quite a long duration while learning and progressing your skills and knowledge but once you reach a certain level of play, the computer becomes less challenging so this is definitely an electronic set best suited to beginners.
While this is a larger product than the iCore set, many still feel it has the same issue in that it’s slightly too small. If you need something portable and compact then it’s ideal (especially for traveling) but for anyone without great eyesight, it could prove to be an issue.
What We Like
- There’s the option to play against the computer or a friend for added versatility.
- 100 pre-programmed modes are excellent for learning the basic moves as well as learning chess strategy. Not only is there a variety of chess games but this 8-in-1 product also comes with a range of other popular playable games.
What We Thought Could Be Better
- The computer engine is not the strongest and therefore this game is better suited to the beginner/intermediate level and will provide little challenge for a more accomplished player.
- While not the smallest, this chess set is still on the small side and could be difficult for some people to use.
Our choice for the best electronic chess set is the DGT Centaur Digital Electronic Chess Set.
This smart chess set has an algorithm built in that allows it to adapt to a user’s skill level. It has three settings (friendly, competitive, expert) but within each level, the computer will adapt over time to ensure games are competitive and realistic for long-term enjoyment.
The design is very modern and the display, lighting, and controls are all of great quality. In our opinion, there are very few other models on the market that can compete with this in terms of realism of play and ease of use.
Electronic chess sets are not exactly a new invention but they are quickly catching up to the technology standards of other industries. The algorithms are now much more “life-like” meaning the computer will serve as an acceptable human substitute without feeling too robotic and competitive.
While not all the electronic sets on the market are a great standard or fun, those lifted in this article are what we feel are the best of the best when it comes to electronic chess sets.