We are all well aware that the modern game of chess originated from the game of shatranj in India. Shatranj was a game that was played by members of royalty in the Gupta Empire. Throughout it’s spread from Persia to Europe where the game underwent many changes, one thing still remained constant. It has always been played on a Wooden Chess board.
Back then, very little was known about glass and it’s use in daily life. It was impossible to picture a chess board made up of glass back then simply due to the lack of knowledge and resources. Moreover, there was never such a need. Glass chess boards have become very common today as a decorative piece for the showcase. They usually comprise of clear glass and frosted glass chess pieces on a frosted-cum-clear glass chess board. This is because glass is extremely fragile and it is very common for chess pieces to fall off (on the board and off of it).
Cloth is a great option to be used for making chess boards. During the advent of chess, there was plenty of it to be exploited. There were different varieties of cloths to choose from depending on the preferences of the players. Further, they could be coloured as per the rules of the game. They would be easy to wash and clean as well. In addition to that, they would be easy to fold away and store some place when not in use. Unfortunately, some of the downsides of using cloth are that it is fairly flimsy and light. It could distort in the middle of a game if it encountered a breeze or maybe even have it blown away. While highly promising, this was not an ideal choice for the material of the chess board.
Paper was always available in abundance for the manufacture of a chess board. Unlike that of cloth, it did not have the option of multiple textures. However, it did offer a high degree of customizability to the players in terms of size and colour. It also offered the dexterity of a cloth-based chess board because of it’s ease of use. One can fold it and store it away when not in use. It is definitely a lot denser than cloth, but may also be blown away in a strong breeze. Today, we hardly see chess boards made only out of paper. It is just not feasible and durable enough for companies to make them. Hence this wouldn’t conform to a standardized chess board material.
Yes, rubber is the most promising candidate for a chess board. During the invent of the game, there was an abundance of rubber trees and rubber plantations in the country. It was an easily accessible and very malleable resource that could be easily exploited for the construction of a chess board. Unfortunately, with rubber there are a few downsides. It is not as durable as the other materials. Once it gets dirty, it is not easy to get rid off the stains. This made it difficult to make chess boards out of rubber during those days. Even today, as compared to plastics, they are a lot bulkier to carry around and do not have a very large product life. As a result, they were not an ideal choice then and are not an ideal choice now.
Any metal or alloy that is commonly available could serve as a candidate for the material of a chess board. Unfortunately, this might just be a bit over the top. Sure, metals are great because they have a lot of strength and are very durable. The downsides however outweigh these pros. Strength comes at a cost and in this case it is the weight. They can get very heavy and as a result difficult to carry around. As a result, we see very few all metallic chess boards.
Well, plastics have been around since the late 1800s. They are a lot popular now, but plastics at that time were not studied well enough to be able to manufacture chess boards. It was only in the late 1900s that plastic chess boards had begun being mass produced for consumption among the masses. They offer a superb trade-off in terms of strength, dexterity and cost. These points make it an ideal candidate as the material for the manufacture of a chess board.
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Ahhh back to wood! It is just the right mix of strength and weight. It is easy to store and has a very long shelf life. Wooden Chess boards imbibe a sense of luxury to the game. The smooth finishing and long-lasting nature make it an ideal candidate for the material of a chess board. This was the reason it has been the most popular material of choice back then and even now. Wooden Chess sets have been popular ever since and continue to do so even today.
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