Should You Buy a Chess Board if You Only Play Online?

Online chess platforms have seen an undeniable surge in popularity. With apps and websites offering instantaneous access to the game, people across the globe are engaging in chess more than ever before.

The beauty of online play is its convenience; wherever you have internet access, you can challenge a friend to a game or join a tournament. Online chess platforms have indeed made the ancient game available to an entirely new audience.

Beyond ease of use, the online space has facilitated a unique sense of community. I have made acquaintances with players from different countries, participated in discussions about strategy, and even watched grandmasters in live stream sessions.

These platforms also offer advanced tools like analytics that can help a player like me improve my game considerably, something that’s hard to replicate with a physical board.

Despite these digital advancements, there’s a question I encounter frequently:

Should a person who predominantly plays chess online buy a traditional chess set?

To provide a comprehensive answer to this question, let’s explore the enduring appeal of physical chessboards and how they stand their ground in a digital age.

The Timeless Appeal of the Physical Chessboard

Despite the surge in online chess, many enthusiasts still swear by the tangible experience of moving real pieces on a physical board.

This isn’t just about old-school charm; it’s a whole different game when the senses are fully engaged. The touch of carved wood or cool marble, the sound of a piece decisively placed, the sight of the board as a battlefield — these experiences simply can’t be replicated on a screen.

Beyond the sensory enjoyment, a chessboard bears historical weight.

It’s a centuries-old game that’s been played by monarchs and strategists, philosophers and pupils. Owning a physical chess set connects you to this rich tradition. It’s not just about strategies and winning; it’s also about continuing a lineage of thinkers who’ve pondered over the same game.

The Practical Benefits of Playing Over The Board

There are also practical benefits to playing chess in the physical realm.

It’s been demonstrated that playing offline can help sharpen focus and improve memory. The absence of distractions from notifications or a lagging internet connection could lead to deeper concentration and a more meditative play style.

Even if you’re not part of a chess club or have no one to play with, having a chessboard helps you visualize and analyze games before hopping on to the computer and firing up the engine.

What’s more, physically setting up and clearing down a chessboard might promote patience and mindfulness.

Yet, for all these advantages, it’s essential to weigh them against contemporary lifestyle and preferences. Does a physical chess board suit your current setting? Would you find the same joy and value in online play while still appreciating the benefits that come from a traditional chess experience?

The answer to these questions might help determine the worth of investing in a physical chessboard, which is precisely what I’ll help you explore in the next section.

Considerations for Investing in a Chess Board

The choice to purchase a physical chess set isn’t one to take lightly.

You may find that the heft of the pieces and the grain of the wood enhances your enjoyment, but it’s essential to weigh certain factors before making this decision.

1. Cost

Firstly and most importantly, let’s talk about cost.

Unlike online chess, where you might pay a subscription fee for premium features, buying a chess set is a one-time investment.

The range in prices is significant; you can get a basic plastic set for a minimal cost if you wish, or spend hundreds on elegant professional sets.

2. Space

Think about space and how a chess set can fit into your home.

If you live in a smaller apartment, you might not want the board up at all times. But if you have a dedicated game room, a chess set could be an attractive centerpiece.

3. Socializing

Your chess set can also be a social spark.

Amidst the online sphere, there’s nothing quite like the camaraderie of face-to-face play. If you have friends or family who enjoy the game, or if you’re keen to join a local club, then a board is definitely a worthy investment.

4. Practical Benefits

Studies show that playing on a physical board can enhance spatial awareness and memory.

There’s a different depth to the strategy when you’re surveying the board, moving the pieces yourself, rather than clicking with a mouse.

Some people who mostly play chess online feel that they struggle when they play over the board. Because they are used to playing on a two-dimensional diagram, they find it relatively challenging to visualize sequences and combinations on an actual three-dimensional board.

By having a physical board, you ensure that you familiarize yourself with 3D visualization.

5. Abstract Benefits

It’s not just about practicality. The board also represents a commitment to the game — it signifies that chess isn’t just a passing interest for you, but a valuable hobby worth the physical space it occupies in your life.

Moreover, chessboards can a very aesthetically-pleasing addition to your place. An elegant wooden chessboard makes for a great coffee table piece.

A chess board can be a piece of art.
A chess board can be a beautiful piece of art.

Final Thoughts

The decision to buy a chess board when most of your play is online ultimately rests on personal preference.

Reflect on how the tactile sensation of moving physical pieces can enhance the chess-playing experience for you. Do you envision inviting friends over for a match, or perhaps joining a local club where your board will be in use?

For some, the blend of online and offline play offers the best of both worlds. It allows for flexibility in practice and adds a new dimension to skill-building. Online platforms are ideal for learning new strategies and playing whenever the mood strikes. A physical board, on the other hand, can be a conversation starter, an art piece, and a way to unwind without screen time.

Your individual play style plays a significant role too. If you thrive on face-to-face competition and relish in-person social interactions, a chess board is a worthwhile investment. It can become part of your lifestyle, serving not just as a pastime but also as a platform for personal connection and mental agility.

Making the decision involves weighing the aspects of utility, enjoyment, and personal development.

Consider how much you’ll use the board, the joy it could bring, and whether it will contribute to your growth as a chess player. If these factors point toward a positive impact on your life, then investing in a chess board, even as an online player, makes a lot of sense.

Your choice should serve your passion for chess. If a chess board enhances your enjoyment and expands your engagement with the game, it aligns perfectly with a player-first approach.

Always remember, the backdrop of your chess adventures, whether virtual or physical, should amplify your love for the game.

I have written detailed reviews on prominent online chess stores that offer a wide variety of chess pieces, sets, and boards in different styles and materials.

Have a look at them and choose your preference.

If you have any questions or would like me to help you choose the best board for you, feel free to leave me a comment down below. I’d be more than happy to have a chat with you.

4 thoughts on “Should You Buy a Chess Board if You Only Play Online?”

  1. Hello. I have just finished reading your post.

    I have been in the same boat, changing between the digital and the hands-on world of chess. I agree, there is something special about the feel of real pieces and the history they carry. It somehow makes the game more real and immersive for me. 

    I learned to play with my Father long before the online world took over and I have great memories of being face to face with my opponent and completely focused on the challenge.

    I like the online games as they offer great competitors but it does not ring the same bell for me.

    Have you found that playing on a physical board has improved your online play as well? I have learned that playing for real does give you the edge over learning online. I am sure some will disagree though.

    Great post and website. Thank you

    • Thank you very much for your comment Chris.

      The more chess you play, the better you will become overall — whether online or offline.

      However, playing on a physical board improves your 3D visualization, which is an aspect that people who only play online sometimes struggle with. 

      Improving your 3D visualization naturally improves your 2D, but the opposite is not always true.

  2. I totally resonate with the convenience and global community aspect of online play, it’s fantastic. Yet, your insights on the sensory experience and historical weight of a physical chessboard struck a chord. Your advice on considering factors like cost, space, and socializing is spot-on. 

    I’d add that having a physical board can be a great way to disconnect from screens and enjoy a more meditative game. The blend of both worlds seems promising – online for learning and quick matches, and a physical board for the timeless, immersive experience. So, it’s all about finding that sweet spot that aligns with your lifestyle and enhances your passion for chess.


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