Weighted Chessmen - Cause, Mode & Effect

Much of the pleasure derived from playing a game of Chess comes from the look and feel of the pieces. While great-looking Chessmen adds to the aesthetic appeal, the tactile feel of the Chessmen - their heft, balance, stability, and the way they glide across the board - is perhaps even more important to the overall Chess-playing experience. 

The sheer diversity of Chessmen

Chessmen vary in form, from minimalist and abstract to stylized and themed. They range in size from button-sized to life-sized. And they come in a wide array of substrates - stone, metal, ivory, bone, glass, wood, and plastic. 

Naturally, all these factors, both individually and cumulatively, impact the relative weights of each set of Chessmen vis-a-vis all others. The concept of weighted Chessmen, however, doesn’t apply to a vast majority of these.

The concept of weighted Chessmen

The concept of weighted Chessmen applies only to pieces that are 

Built to standard size specifications - where the height of the King ranges between 2.5” to 5”
Made from the most commonly-used, relatively lightweight substrates of Wood and Plastic 

At Royal Chess Mall, we use weighted Chessmen in many of our premium Chess sets. This enhances the sheer pleasure associated with playing Chess - in two crucial ways:

Weighted Chessmen have greater heft to match the sheer gravitas associated with a chess move.

Weighted Chessmen are far more stable, which ensures they don’t topple when inadvertently touched by a player, or exposed to a strong breeze in outdoor conditions, either of which could potentially upset a game at a crucial juncture.

Most of our premium, weighted Chessmen come with plush felt- or baize-lined bases, to cushion the impact between the piece and the board. 

This not only protects both the Chessmen and the Chessboard from sustaining impact-related damage but also makes the Chessmen appear like they are floating on the board - and allows the pieces to glide smoothly from one position to another along the playing surface - for a far more luxurious feel.

How our Chessmen are weighted

We drill a hole at the base of each of our wooden Chessmen, into which we insert weights, in the form of lead or iron pellets, before sealing the base shut with plaster of Paris and sanding it smooth. 

In the case of Plastic Chessmen, we insert the pellets into a special cavity built into the mold, before injecting molten plastic into the mold which hardens snugly around the inserted pellets.

Single-weighted pieces have a single metal pellet inserted into them - usually made of iron.

British Chessmen

3.7” British Staunton Weighted Chessmen in Ebonized Boxwood

Double-weighted pieces, which are heavier than single-weighted variants for a given size of Chessmen, will contain two metal pellets made of iron or a combination of iron and lead or even a single pellet of lead.

Russian Chess

3.9” double-weighted Russian Zagreb Chessmen in Bud Rosewood

Since lead is a relatively denser metal vis-a-vis iron, it allows for the insertion of a heavier weight, without changing the size of the pellets.

Triple-weighted pieces, usually used in larger-sized luxury Chess sets, are even heavier than double-weighted pieces, typically having three iron pellets or a single large lead pellet inserted into them. 

Luxury Chess Pieces

4.5” triple-weighted Sheffield Staunton Luxury Chessmen in Ebony

The size, and therefore the weight, of these pellets, may vary based on the size of the pieces into which they are inserted. So while a triple-weighted piece will always be heavier than a double-weighted piece of identical size, a double-weighted piece of larger dimensions may outweigh a triple-weighted piece of smaller dimensions.

Possible drawbacks of weighted Chessmen

While it is generally accepted that weighted Chessmen find favor amongst Chess players across standards and categories, one of the major drawbacks of weighted Chessmen is the danger that the weights may be incorrectly installed or that they may become dislodged. 

This will result in the weights rattling around disconcertingly within the piece. It may even compromise the balance of a piece, effectively contributing to a problem they are meant to prevent - that of mishaps caused by the propensity of Chessmen to topple over.

Another problem often encountered when dealing with lead-weighted Chessmen is that when exposed to high ambient temperature, the expansion of the lead weights may cause the Chessmen to crack. 

An optimal gap must therefore be calculated and maintained, between the lead pellets and the inner walls of the Chessmen, to account for the degree of expansion (and contraction) of lead.

Weighing-in on weighted Chessmen

The drawbacks notwithstanding, it’s clear as daylight that the advent of weighted Chessmen has immeasurably enriched the experience of playing the game of Chess. 

So, if you wish to partake of the delight of playing Chess using weighted pieces, just visit Royal Chess Mall and take your pick from our wide range of exquisitely handcrafted premium Chess sets. 

We promise you won’t regret it, for even if your schedule doesn’t let you play the game as often as you’d like, just those glances of admiration tinged with envy will make the acquisition well worth your while!