We’re going to make a wild assumption that children haven’t comprised most of the audience that made Netflix’s chess miniseries The Queen’s Gambit a huge success. They may not even be the forces behind the sudden surge in chess set sales across the country. But we’re pretty sure that every parent who got hooked on watching the fictional Beth Harmon and her adoptive mother travel to glam hotels while dominating the ’60s chess world has been wondering the same thing: Could my kids also be chess prodigies if I buy them the perfect chess set right now?
OK, so maybe you aren’t secretly hoping to retire on your child’s chess winnings. Maybe you are instead hoping to spend some hours taking a break from screens and playing the game as a family this winter. Maybe you’ve read about how chess helps children develop problem-solving skills, higher-order thinking, and even a stronger brain. Those are probably better reasons to buy a chess set for your children than hoping to get your hands on one of those gorgeous coats that Anya Taylor-Joy’s Beth wears.
Last month, as The Queen’s Gambit grew in popularity, we heard that there might be a shortage of chess sets. The show, plus our pandemic demand for family board games, has probably caused this run on the items. But as we did some searching for this piece, we found that there are plenty of sets designed to help kids and/or beginners learn to play chess, and they’re available everywhere.
Now, if you’re wondering what a chess set for a beginner could possibly look like — aren’t they all the same? — we have a few different answers. You might buy something very inexpensive, just in case everyone in the household decides they hate it. There are also sets that remove some of the harder bits of the game for children and beginner adults. This means there are cheat sheets and guides on the board to remind one how each piece moves. In some cases, instead of developing long strategies to win the game (a la the Queen’s Gambit), players can use dice, cards, or dials to tell them which piece to move next, making it a game of chance instead of forethought. There are also computerized options that can coach players through the game. Or, of course, you can just go for it and purchase one of those beautiful heirloom-ready chess sets made of marble and wood. Even if no one becomes a chess master, they do make for pretty decor.
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Whichever opening you choose, we have a chess set your kids (and you!) will love here.