Peter Zhdanov
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19 August 2021

Top-10 Chess Gift Ideas

Giving presents can feel even more satisfying than receiving them. Are you at a loss what to buy for your friend who is a huge fan of chess? Or maybe you are looking for ideas to add to your wish list?

Here are ten suggestions that are worth exploring. Regardless of whether your gift budget is tiny or enormous, you should be able to find something of interest.

A chessboard

Constructed of gold and platinum, the Jewel Royale chess set, priced at $9,800,000 when it was released, contains diamonds, emeralds, rubies, pearls, and sapphires. No matter how gorgeous it looks, most chess players would probably prefer to have this amount added to their bank account instead!

A chessboard is probably one of the most popular and overrated chess presents that often lead to disappointment. First of all, dedicated chess fans usually have more chessboards than they, their children, and grandchildren will ever need. Secondly, from my experience, many “serious” chess players prefer traditional Staunton tournament sets and frown when someone triumphantly presents to them some fancy chessboard from a luxury boutique. When playing blitz, you don’t want to waste precious seconds trying to recall what piece is what! Thirdly, quite a few chess fans, myself included, are thrifty and believe that the money spent on such a set could be allocated better. To sum it all up, unless your friend is a passionate collector of chessboards and you exactly know what his collection is missing, I wouldn’t recommend going for a chessboard as a present.

A notable exception is themed chess sets, such as Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Lego, etc. These could be an excellent choice if you know which one appeals to your friend’s taste.

A chess clock

Unlike a chessboard, such a present looks much more promising. Quite a few chess players are missing a chess clock at home or have only one, making it uncomfortable for them to switch venues since you have to remember to carry it around with you. Also, in contrast to chessboards that are pretty durable, chess clocks tend to break every few years or so, so even if your friend has one, she is likely to need a replacement at some point.

DGT clocks have been the #1 choice of professional chess players for over two decades, but there are plenty of other companies in the market. As a former CEO of Chess Evolution, I would like to mention their digital clocks specifically.
Also, if your friend likes the classics, you might consider buying a mechanical clock that people have been using in parks (and sometimes still do!) back in the 20th century.

A chess cake

One of my most memorable presents ever was a chess cake baked by two of my female friends. This present is cool-looking, tasty, and, especially if home-cooked, shows that you genuinely care for the person. Therefore, if you are a good cook, I wholeheartedly recommend this gift idea. Or, as an alternative, you can always order it at a local bakery!

A chess app membership

Magnus Trainer, Play Magnus, Tactics Frenzy, and Knight Runner. Appr. price per bundle of four apps: $14,17/month.

If your friend is serious about chess improvement, one of the most efficient presents would be a Magnus Trainer premium membership. Also, it is a trendy gift that has the potential of coming off as a surprise. Last but not least, it is our personal favorite, which we have put a lot of heart into!

A chess book

In Russia, there is a well-known saying: “A book is the best present.” I am not so sure when it comes to chess books. You have to know precisely the chess level of your friend and what areas of chess he is interested in. For example, one of my female friends presented me with a self-teaching manual about chess which was better suited for newcomers to the game than a player of my rating. Or sometimes you receive some outdated opening book by an author with a tarnished reputation, not to mention that you were never going to try out that opening at all…

Chess clothes and shoes

Former Women’s World Chess Champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, who recently won the Women’s World Cup, is also known for sporting elegant chess apparel and accessories.

Regardless of the person’s gender, you can always find some great-looking and fashionable checkered items – dresses, t-shirts, swimsuits, shorts, sneakers – pretty much anything!

Chess accessories and souvenirs

Set of six chess pins by Dragulf. Appr. price: €15.

If you have ever been to a large junior chess tournament, you probably know that kids love everything chess-related: caps, backpacks, pens, trinkets, notepads, watches, necklaces, cups, medals, trophies, badges, pins and so on.
Similarly, there are also options for adults, even though they are typically pricier. For instance, you can find chess-themed jewelry or exclusive World Chess Championship pens. If chosen carefully, these items have the potential to make a strong impression on a chess aficionado.

Speaking about recent trends, since most of us have to wear masks more often than we want to, including at some chess events, it could be a great idea to search for anti-COVID masks with a chess design. I have seen plenty of those already, so I am sure you will find one if you are interested.

A chess fragrance

Yet another hit or miss option. It is hard to predict whether the person in question is going to enjoy a certain fragrance. However, you can always try and pick something like Morning Chess.

Chess collectibles/antiques

CHESS TOURNAMENT, LONDON, by Howard Staunton, 1852. First edition. Sold by Russian Chess House. Appr. price: $1,030.

Chess antiques could be a fantastic gift. Once again, here, you had better be aware of the interests of the person. For example, if your friend is a die-hard fan of Bobby Fischer, he would probably cherish a book, board, or exclusive photo signed by his idol. Naturally, this gift idea is, on average, tailored towards a more mature audience, as kids usually are typically not keen on the great players of the past.

A ticket to a top-level chess event/masterclass

There are some tournaments, such as the London Chess Classic, where you can auction a seat and play chess with a world-class Grandmaster against a similar amateur + pro duo. Or, another idea, if you can afford it, you may buy the person a ticket to Dubai for the upcoming World Chess Championship match between Magnus Carlsen and Ian Nepomniachtchi. As you have probably read elsewhere, people typically derive more long-term pleasure from spending money on memorable events than on things. Of course, apart from the high price, such arrangements are tough to manage since you should be aware of the schedule of the person in question. Make sure not to present tickets to someone who hates traveling, is busy at work during the period, or has no opportunity to get a visa at the right time!

An alternative option is to book a lesson or a series of masterclasses with famous coaches. One of the best platforms for this is Cochess.com, where you can always sign up for group workshops or individual classes.

Final advice

Listen carefully to what the person says and try to visit her house to assess better what present will benefit her. If she has two digital clocks sitting in the closet, she probably doesn’t need a third one. If she loves chess and has a complete collection of The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings movies, she might adore a LOTR-themed chess set. Or if she tells you that one of her biggest dreams is to meet Magnus Carlsen in person, the World Chess Championship ticket gift idea might prove handy. Stay alert and, if in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask! It may spoil the surprise a bit, but at least you won’t upset your friend by giving her something useless.

May you be successful in picking chess presents wisely!