Buying Electronic Chess Sets in 2016 - A Detailed Guide

"Chess is an infinitely complex game, which one can play in infinitely numerous and varied ways." - Vladimir Kramnik

This quote from the Russian chess Grandmaster and former World Chess Champion perfectly captures the vast number of possibilities chess players have of not only how to play the game but also what platform to use. While many prefer to play on a traditional wooden chess set, there is a type of chess set that can appeal to novice and advanced players alike; an electronic chess set.

What are electronic chess sets?

With the advent of technology, almost everything in our lives has had an impact and that is also the case with how we play chess. It was back in the 80s when electronic chess sets first started to appear on the markets and since then new and improved models have continued to be released.

An electronic chess set is basically a computer-operated machine that you can play against or even use to play against another player in real time face to face or through the internet. Electronic chess games have the same classic look of the chessboard and chess pieces with the addition of today's amazing computer technology. You can adjust the difficulty level according to your level whether beginner or advanced. There are many different types of electronic chess sets available today. Some of them have built-in tutorials and puzzles to help new players learn new chess moves while some give out hints during moves.

The basic aim of these electronic chess sets of chess computers was to allow new players to learn the game by playing against a computer. However, over time as the computer technology and game algorithms improved, new electronic chess computers appeared that appealed to advanced players as well. Today, electronic chess sets are used in official tournaments as well since many of them allow easier broadcast of the game by connecting to a PC.

The Best Electronic Chess Set To Buy in 2016 - Reviews and Recommendations:

While the term 'best' is relative in most cases, our experts have come up with the best choice of Electronic Chess Sets that money can buy in 2016 after trying out almost all the available options in the market. Let's dive right in:

#1 The DGT Revelation II - Electronic Chess Set With PC Connectivity:

This electronic chess board developed in Netherlands as a collaboration of Digital Game Technology and Phoenix Chess Systems provides the ultimate electronic chess playing experience. Although an expensive option compared to normal DGT electronic boards, the vastly improved gameplay and features of the DGT Revelation II make it well worth the price.

Chessboard

Built using top quality wooden material and integrated with the best chess computer system to date, this DGT electronic chess board is truly a masterpiece. The board is tournament sized at 26.5" x 24" and comes with innovative DGT sensor technology that allows faster individual piece recognition.

LED lights inlaid in the board indicate chess moves which provide for an easy to recognize, seamless and fast paced chess experience. The board comes with a green OLED display that shows the current moves clearly and brightly. Six large keys on the board give this DGT e-board a classic menu-controlled operation available in English, French, German, Dutch and Spanish.

Chess pieces

Choose your ideal chess pieces from the selection of beautiful hand carved pieces according to your personal taste. While Timeless chess pieces come at no extra price, Classic, Royal, Venus, and Ebony require a price upgrade.

Gameplay

When it comes to gameplay, virtually nothing comes close the DGT Revelation II. The built-in computer comes with fully independent chess engines which can act as a standalone opponent or you can connect it to a PC and play against a vast variety of chess software.

The classic look and feel of the chess set will give you the same pleasure you can get with a traditional wooden chess set whereas the modern technology will enhance your gameplay by allowing you to play with powerful chess engines, internet opponents, and real-world competitors.

The DGT Revelation II is packed with a variety of chess engines, freeware, and commercial, to allow players maximum options to test their skills. If you are serious about improving your chess game, there is no better option than the Revelation II as it gives you the opportunity to play at ELO levels up to 2800 and above.

You can also run any engine of your choice by connecting the board to a PC through the wireless Bluetooth UCI server of the Revelation II. Additionally, you also have the option to upgrade to new engines whenever they are available on the Revelation website. Software and hardware upgrades are also a breeze which means that your DGT Revelation II Electronic chess board is always future proof. More Details: The DGT Revelation II - Electronic Chess Set at ChessHouse.com

#2: The DGT Electronic Chess Set With USB Connectivity:

This electronic chessboard from Digital Game Technology is all you need from an electronic chess game. Whether you like to play with an ultra-powerful computer software or with another player online or offline, this DGT electronic chess set will cater to your needs. Let's take a look at the features of this table top electronic chess game:

Chessboard

The chessboard comes in three different colors, all of which keep the traditional look and feel or a regular wooden chessboard. You can choose between a Walnut/Maple Board which is the default option or pay a small change to opt for a Rosewood or Wenge chessboard which comes with built-in algebraic notations for easier gameplay. The board comes with official FIDE Tournament size squares (2.24 in x 2.25 in) and thickness of 1.8 cm just like a normal chessboard.

Chess pieces

The chess pieces are designed in the classic Staunton style and hand carved to give you the familiar feeling of playing with a vintage Staunton chess set. Timeless wooden pieces come as a default but you can upgrade to Royal, Venus or Ebony pieces if you are looking for a more elegant experience. The king height is 3.75 and extra queens are also included.

DGT Clock

The chess set can connect to DGT clocks such as the ever-reliable DGT 3000, DGT XL Digital Chess which can be bought separately.

DGT Case

Portability is always an issue with full sized electronic table top chess sets but the DGT case available as an add-on with this DGT Electronic Chessboard can hold everything in an orderly and secure fashion - from the board and pieces to the clock and other accessories - allowing you take your chess experience with you wherever you go. Red and black colors options of the DGT case are sophisticated enough to catch the attention of chess lovers anywhere you go.

Supported Software and programs

The powerful Fritz 15 PC chess software will take your chess experience to the next level. There are numerous other notable programs that are also compatible with the DGT electronic chess game such as:

- TOMA, which is DGT Projects' professional chess tournament broadcasting software. Use it for live tournament broadcasting or for publishing existing games.

- World Chess Network allows you to play against internet opponents around the world.

- ChessBase products such as Rybka, Fritz, Hiarcs, Nimzo, Junior, etc. to match the needs of all skill levels and age groups from beginner to advance as well as children.

- Pocket Grandmaster 2.0, which is a fully featured and extremely strong award winning chess playing program for Pocket PCs running Pocket PC 2002+ or Windows CE 3.0+.

- Arena (All versions) A GUI to play with many chess engines like Craft, GNUChess, LambChop to learn advanced techniques and moves.

- Internet Chess Club allows you to play live online chess with BlitzIn + the WoodIn plugin.

- US Chess Live: Use US Chess Live Windows Version 4.0 to play on the game site, using the DGT board.

Chess Assistant and ChessPad
Gameplay

When you buy an electronic chess, you are looking for superior gameplay no matter you are playing the computer or a player. The vast number of compatible software programs coupled with the extremely powerful computer of this DGT Electronic game means you are in for a treat.

Adjust the difficulty level of the computer according to your skill level and your goals and enjoy the traditional look and feel of a wooden chess board while making use of the modern computing technology. Safe to say, this electronic chess set is the best of both worlds.

USB connectivity

The ability to connect this DGT Electronic chessboard with a PC through a USB wired communication cable is what separates this chess set from many other electronic options. With USB connectivity, you can connect to a PC software of your choice allowing you to broadcast live chess games, play online with other players or battle it out against a chess engine of your choice.

Other useful features

- Advanced sensor technology means the computer can recognize chess moves quickly allowing you a smooth gameplay experience even in a fast blitz setting.

- Internal memory of the chessboard can store up to 500 moves and retrieve it as a PGN later to analyze and improve your game further.

- 24-hour rechargeable Li-ion battery makes longer games possible even if you are away from a power source. Charging is possible over USB cable connected to a PC as well as AC power.

- Three-color LED status indicator on the electronic board keeps you updated about every move.

- Firmware upgrade feature makes installing future software enhancements and new functions a breeze and makes your electronic chess board investment future-proof.

- One Year Warranty means you are covered in case anything goes wrong with the board, pieces or accessories. More Details: The DGT Electronic Chess Set With USB Connectivity at ChessHouse.com

#3: The DGT Electronic Chess Set With USB & Bluetooth Connectivity:

This electronic chessboard game made in Netherlands and Spain combines the best of technological innovation and traditional wooden chess experience into one. Equipped with USB & Bluetooth connectivity, you can experience a superior chess gameplay by connecting to a chess software of your choice through a PC.

All but two of the features of this electronic chess set are the same as we have already discussed above for the DGT Electronic Chess with USB connectivity. So, for a detailed review of gameplay, accessories and useful features of this chess set, go through the above review.

Done? Great! Now let's discuss what makes the Bluetooth version of this DGT electronic chess computer different.

The one big difference is the added Bluetooth connectivity feature which is a wireless communication channel that connects the chess board's built-in computer with a PC. This means that you can transfer game data easily as well as fire up chess engines of your choice through the PC for without the hassle of dealing with a USB cable.

The second big different is that the board of this version is only available in Rosewood as compared to the several options the USB-only version offers. The Rosewood board is a delight to play with, however, as it comes with algebraic notations which allow you to track your moves easily as well as plan the next move efficiently.

All in all, the Bluetooth upgrade and Rosewood board are worth the additional cost.

More Details: The DGT Electronic Chess Set - USB & Bluetooth at ChessHouse.com

Types of Electronic Chess Sets

There are different types of Electronic Chess Games available in different sizes, functionalities, features, usability and price but they can be classified into two main categories:

Hand-Held Chess Computers
Table top chess computers

Among these two categories, there are several different options to choose from with varying strength levels or ELO ratings. Before we move forward, you should know what an ELO rating and how it affects the playing experience of an electronic chess set.

ELO Rating

Every chess computer has a different maximum machine strength which defines what level of moves the machine can make against a player. It is named after its creator Arpad Elo, a Hungarian-born American physics professor. You can find electronic chess games with ELO ranging from 1500 up to 2800 and above.

A chess set with a lower ELO around 1500-1800 will not play proper positional moves and will not play the right opening setups. However, it will still be good at calculations and will be a good match for a beginner. For advanced players, a higher ELO of 2100 and above is better suited and as their game improves, switching to even higher ELOs is the next logical step.

Hand-Held Chess Computers

These are smaller electronic chess sets with an LCD or peg chess pieces which are available in a wide range of pricing from various brands. They are ideal to be used as portable chess sets while traveling.

The LCD ones come with a touch screen interface which allows players to make moves effortlessly. Some of the newer models of hand-held chess computers are strong enough to beat 95% of chess players with ELO rating as high as 2600 in some models. They also come with the ability to change the strength levels to suit the needs of a novice as well as more advanced players. You can either play against the computer or online with any through the internet.

Some hand-held electronic chess sets are rechargeable as well so you don't have to replace the batteries every now and then. Packed with processors as strong as quad core coupled with beautiful graphic displays make the LCD/LED hand-held chess computers a great option.

The one downside of LCD/LED games is that they do not have that 'physical' three-dimensional feeling of playing chess that many chess players like to experience. If you share the same feelings, peg style hand-held chess computer might be the answer. They have small peg style chess pieces that can be moved around for a more enjoyable experience while still being relatively small and portable.

Table top chess computers

These are full-fledged chess games with many of them having the same size and style of chess boards and pieces of a traditional chessboard. Just like hand-held chess sets, these come in varying ELO ratings and prices.

Table top electronic chess sets have the ability to connect to a PC through a USB cable or Bluetooth. Most of the models have pressure sensory system that allows the players to make their moves by pushing down on the piece they want to move followed by pushing down on the square they are moving to. After a player has made his move, the computer will display the move by turning on the small lights on the rank and file of the chessboard. The player then does the same pushing exercise on the board for the computer's move before moving on to their next move.

This whole practice of pushing down on the chessboard especially when you are playing for longer periods of time can get a little unpleasant. To avoid this, there are auto-sensory chess computers which, although more expensive, allow players to make their moves by simply lifting the chess pieces and placing on the next desired square. The sensors in this type of chess set automatically detect the move so no pushing is required.

Electronic Chess Sets - What are the benefits?

There are tons of benefits of choosing an electronic chess set over a traditional wooden or metal chess set. Let's take a look:

Great for learning

First and probably the most important benefit of buying an electronic chess set is that are a great learning tool, especially for beginners. When you are just starting out, it can be difficult to find someone at a level slightly above you to practice chess. This is easily achieved with electronic chess games where you can set the difficulty level to your skill set and play for as long as you want. There are chess sets with built-in voice tutorials as well that will guide you through each move and provide hints and warning as you make your moves.

Perfect for improving your skills

Even if you are at an advanced level, taking your game to the next level is something electronic chess sets can help you with. You can choose a variety of ELO levels and practice against a chess engine that matches your level. By connecting the electronic chess set to your PC, you can load chess software from beginner to advanced and practice new strategies that you are trying to learn.

Portability

What could be better than having the ability to play chess anytime, anywhere you want and against an opponent that is always there for you, ready to challenge you at any difficulty level you want. This is made possible by electronic chess sets, specifically the hand-held ones with a rechargeable battery that offer playing time of several hours.

Online play

Newer electronic chess games have the capability to connect to the internet via a PC which gives the players access to thousands of other chess players from around the world. You can play against opponents of varying strength levels and even save the games to come back and resume at a later time.

Which Electronic Chess Set Should You Buy?

Buying an electronic chess set can be a difficult decision with so many options to choose from. However, a careful consideration of your needs, budget and skill level can make the process a little easier. Let's take a look at some of the factors you should consider:

Skill level

Are you a newbie just starting out with chess and trying to learn how to make the basic moves and getting familiar with the rules of chess? An entry level chess computer such as Talking Chess Trainer might be what you need. It is an affordable option that will give you hints as you make your moves against the computer.

If you are just looking to introduce children to chess, there are many software that do exactly that using fun and interactive metaphors. Fritz & Chesster and Dinosaurs Chess are two good examples of this.

For more advanced players looking to learn a specific technique or simply looking to move to a higher ELO level, playing against powerful electronic chess computer or online opponents provides the perfect solution.

Budget

There is enough variety of electronic chess sets to suit every budget need. Decent low budget options start from as low as $40-50 while pricier options with powerful features can go as high as $4000 and above. Choose the one that fits your budget and current need.

Needs

Are you looking for a portable option to carry around and practice whenever you want? A hand-held electronic chess set might be all you need.

Looking to buy something for your home for some casual chess time with family and friends? An entry level table top electronic chess set is the way to go.

For a more advanced option for home, school or club, there are full-size electronic chess sets that come with AC power supply or rechargeable batteries along with standard size magnetic chess pieces.

Want to practice at a high level and learn advanced chess strategies and techniques to prepare for a regional or international tournament? A full-fledged electronic chess station that connects to a PC and has all the necessary nuts and bolts of advanced chess learning techniques, is your best bet.

Final Word

Whether you are looking for an electronic chess game for yourself or as a gift for a loved one, you would be hard pressed to go wrong with a product from DGT. Available in various budgets, technical specifications, colors and with the necessary accessories, choose the one that fits your needs and take your chess game to a whole new level!

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