Getting into a hobby, one of the things people consider is the cost associated with the hobby, whether they can accommodate getting into the activity. People who start liking chess have similar concerns, that it would be expensive for them.
This is what I’m going to answer in this article, whether chess is an expensive game. I am going to estimate all the expenses that you may have for getting interested in his game (and the alternatives).
As someone who owns a lot of chess products here is what I know:
Chess can be an expensive game for those who are willing to invest in premium chess sets, courses, chess clocks, membership, etc. and one can easily lose around 500 USD.
Luckily, there are alternatives to play for free on lichess/chess.com and youtube tutorials that would shrink the cost.
This will eliminate the anxiety that you may have regarding the cost of this hobby, making you likely to stay interested in this for a long time. If this is true to you then this is more reason for me to make this article.
First let’s talk about the elephant in the room, which is the cost of chess sets.
Chess sets cost around 30-100 USD
A chess set is the first product that may come into your mind which includes the board and its pieces. We obviously cannot play a game if there is no board and pieces to actually interact with, this is necessary if you want to do it over the board.
A good chess set should cost around 30-100 USD with complete modifications and an overall appealing design. This is actually in the expensive part, there are alternatives that can make it cheaper.
But with full specification (storage included with a lock, chess notations on the side, weight on the pieces, etc.) this would be the range that you should expect regarding the price.
The quality can vary depending on the dollar, and I think that you could tell that just by looking on the product page.
If you want my recommendation regarding chess sets that can be purchased online, here are my top picks:
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Alternatives to expensive chess sets
If you do not really want to spend that much over a set and want to experience over the board, then you could definitely go for a cheap local chess set. This can cause a dollar or two and is super fragile but if it works for you and then it works.
Some people are not that comfortable with investing a lot of money with chess sets right off the bat, they want to get “a feel” of the product and whether they want an expensive set long-term.
You might want to go to your local store and see their cheapest set and own it for a while to see if you’re interested in buying the expensive ones.
Alternatively, you don’t even need a chess set anymore to completely play a game of chess, a lot of online platforms allow competitive play without a set and they are for free.
Cost of chess clocks are around 40-150 USD
Chess clocks are pretty important if you want to play chess competitively, it is a special timer specifically designed for the purpose of playing this game. A good chess clock should be around 40-150 dollars with all the specifications and special time controls.
It is kind of expensive as I’ve talked about in this other article “why are chess clocks expensive?” (will open in a new tab) since not as many people buy them in batches.
The biggest factor here is probably durability, the higher the dollar the higher likelihood of the clock lasting for a longer time.
If you want my top picks for chess clocks you can buy online here is my recommendation:
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Alternative to an expensive chess clock
For this one I actually don’t recommend buying a cheap clock from the local dollar store since it can only last for a day or something (local clocks are terrible!). But there is an even greater alternative that you can have for free.
Just go to an app store and you can find so many available chess clock apps that can be downloaded straight to your phone.
Apps are becoming much more advanced these days, I have just downloaded one this morning and they have so many advanced features similar to a real chess clock.
Now there are advantages to having a real chess clock since it is the one officially used in competitions, but if you are just a hobbyist then a chess clock app is completely fine.
Another type of people who may want a real chess clock are collectors, but if you are not one then you just go for a chess clock app and I think you would be satisfied.
Chess ebooks cost around 15-20 USD
Another thing that some people might consider buying are chess ebooks, especially on things that they can’t figure out on their own. Some people would want a handy ebook that they can just pull out whenever they are on their mobile electronic device.
A regular chess ebook should only cost around 15-20 USD on many topics, you can easily download the one if you have the money around this price range.
Just make sure that you are not downloading from a scammy website that may input malware on your device.
If you want my top picks regarding chess ebooks that you can buy online, this is the list:
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Alternatives to a paid chess ebook
If you want an alternative ebook-giving platform that will give you a chance to read ebooks for free, you may want to try signing up to chessable.com (I’m not an affiliate to that site) and they will give you access to some for no cost at all.
There’s an article that I have written on this site where it forced me to sign up to chessable.com to see what they can offer, and they do give free ebooks but not as lengthy as paid ebooks (they are still helpful though!).
So if you don’t want to spend on anything then you might opt for that.
If you want another option though then there are apps out there that contain free chess ebooks which you can download completely for free.
Just go to the app store that is compatible with your phone (google play store for example) and type “books about chess” and you should find what you are looking for.
Cost of chess books are around 15-30 USD
Chess books are one of the most traditional mediums of learning chess that will never be outdated, there is still room for improvement using chess books in the modern world. If you prefer reading books then the prices are pretty standard.
It should only cost around 15-30 USD and is usually no more than that. It is slightly costlier than an ebook since the materials to be printed on are added to the markup, unlike an ebook that can just be downloaded.
If you want to know which chess books I recommend here’s the list:
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Chess coaches cost around 20-50 USD
Now this is a little bit debatable, whether beginners should hire a chess coach to improve some specific aspects of their chess skill.
I don’t usually recommend coaches for beginners, but only to those people who are suffering in a plateau (finds it hard to improve).
The standard rate should only be about 20-50 USD at a one-time transaction, or it could be more than that if it is a continuous transaction (per hour).
I suggest that you shouldn’t get a coach as a beginner, only get a coach when you are trying to play competitively (seriously).
For my top picks regarding chess coaches, this is the list:
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Cost of chess courses are around 30-100USD
Now we get around chess courses which are probably the most popular medium of learning chess right now. This makes sense since chess is a visual game, there needs to be a lot of demonstration in order to make the points clear.
But this also means that it will be a little bit more expensive than an ebook that doesn’t require as much presentation value. From my experience of looking for chess courses, the price should be around 30-100USD.
Depending on the length of the actual video course and the quality of its presentation then the dollar will roll higher.
There are courses out there that are much more expensive than $100 but I don’t think you should spend more than a hundred dollars for a chess course, under 100 dollars should be enough.
Alternative to paid chess courses
If you don’t have the money to spend on these premium chess courses don’t lose hope, there are many free options that you can go for.
The answer is much closer than you think, youtube, video courses on youtube are advancing rapidly which is an opportunity for us.
Some of the high-quality youtube videos are even better than some paid chess courses, and they are completely for free.
Of course I still trust paid courses more than youtube videos since the information is more likely to be helpful (due to the fact that the presenter is getting direct compensation for it).
But this doesn’t mean that youtube videos don’t have any value at all! For beginners the one that I recommend is Gothamchess, he is incredibly instructive in the things that he do and I’m sure you’re going to learn a lot for free.
Cost of chess subscriptions are around 8-100 USD
There are some chess subscriptions that are worth going for if you want to learn chess seriously. Some subscriptions out there are incredibly repetitive and you could probably find more value by just watching free youtube videos.
But there are some that are just so good they need more traction, whether they are in the form of a chess class or some other service. For these kinds of subscriptions the cost is around 8-100 USD, this is of course per monthly renewal.
These are my recommendations for chess subscriptions:
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If you don’t want to pay for a subscription on chess.com then I suggest going to lichess.com since their engine is for free, though you won’t get the other perks of a chess.com membership.
Cost of chess scorebooks are around 3-20 USD
This is the last potential expense that you might have, which are chess scorebooks. This is a specialized formatted piece of paper where you can swiftly record notations for a competitive tournament that you are having.
This should be cheap, around 3-20 USD is the price that I have seen. The $20 is really just applicable for batch-buying, if you are not buying many scorebooks all at once then it would not apply to you.
The single buy of a chess scorebook should be on the cheaper end.
The cost of getting into any hobby is an excellent consideration that needs to be on our minds for things that we are interested in.
We don’t want to participate in something that we cannot afford (there might be some equipments that are necessary that we just couldn’t buy).
Thankfully chess is not that way as I have shown in this article. You could literally be into this game as passionate as you can without spending on anything as long as you have a stable internet connection.
The alternatives that I have shown here are excellent for most people, the premium stuff is for those who are serious and want to really improve. I just want to help as many people as I can by maintaining this site, that is all, sleep well and play chess.