How hard can it be? Essentially a chess board is a large square with squares on it. Of course it’s way more complicated than that. Before the Far Eastern mass produced boards came along choosing was pretty much without risk. These days you have to be careful and choose wisely to make sure you buy the right chess board making sure you avoid cheap nasty boards from retailers who only care about profit.
One huge factor to consider when you choose a board is if you would like a solid wooden board or a veneer one. Some people will refuse to entertain the idea of a veneer board, assuming that they are somehow inferior. There are however plenty of advantages to veneer boards. Firstly they tend to be extremely consistent, in a batch of 50 boards you can expect each one to be almost identical. Because they are more ‘manufactured’ than their solid wooden counterparts they should be without flaw, precise and very clean.
Veneer boards are also a lot less expensive than solid wooden boards. If you desire a luxury hardwood such as ebony you will pay huge sums for a solid ebony board whereas a veneer version might be one third of the price. The solid ‘board snobs’ should certainly take a few moments to check out some really high quality veneer boards. They may well be pleasantly surprised!
Solid boards, while a lot more expensive are not to everyone tastes. Because each one has to be completely hand made there are plenty of inconsistencies. I like to think of solid wood boards as being something you would expect to find in an antique shop in years to come, whereas a veneer board would sit better in an ultra modern designer home.
Due to the nature of their construction solid wooden boards will certainly age better. Over the years we can expect our chess board to receive the odd dent or knock, of course no chess board is immune to this (apart from maybe a plastic one) but dents in solid wood certainly look a lot nicer than they do in veneered wood.
Another factor is that solid wooden chess boards are a lot thicker and heavier than veneer boards. A veneer board might only be 10 or 12mm thick compared to 25mm on a solid board.
What about the finish? Veneer boards are often finished in thin satin varnishes with the wood grain left open. This gives off a nice natural look and feels good to the fingers. It’s also easy to maintain as it does not require polishing. Solid boards however tend to be lacquered to quite a fine gloss finish. Which does look very elegant, especially when the reflections of the fine chessmen can be seen in the board. It does however require plenty of polishing and will pick up finger prints like you wont believe!
But lets not get too hot under the collar about chess boards. After all, if you choose the wrong one and you have bought online you are within your rights to send it back and exchange it for another type. Of course make sure you try to avoid those retailers selling cheap Chinese chess boards. Instead stick to reputable sellers who import from Europe.