The Staunton chess set

The Staunton chess set

The chess sets we use in tournaments are all of the Staunton design.

This design was introduced by the famous games company Jaques in 1859, and has become the standard for all serious chess play.

It's a design classic.  The shapes for the pieces are all big, clear and sit on a plinth, nicely supported by a plain curved column.  But what did it replace?

Previously, a French player might have used a set of pieces in the Regency style, a German may have hung on to an old Selenus design, while an Austrian would have been familiar with the wooden 'coffee-house' shapes that were readily turned out on a lathe.  Spain had its own Regency design.

French Regency
French Regency

 

Selenus
Selenus

 

Coffee-house  
Spanish Regency
Spanish Regency

 

St George
St George

 

Upright
Upright

 

 

In England, the St.George pieces in wood were very common, replacing the old turned bone pieces, while in Scotland you might see a set in the Upright design. 

These are actually just a few of all the known chess set designs that were around in the 1800s.  You can imagine that playing in a tournament, there might be some moments of hesitation -- is that piece a Queen or a Bishop?

The standardisation of chess piece design was quickly welcomed, and now the Staunton set is used all over the world.

You can get a standard Staunton set and board from Tim Onions ( http://onionschess.co.uk/ )

You can see more designs here: http://exeterchessclub.org.uk/sets