Why are Tournament Chess Boards Green? Well…
Chess is a game of strategy and intellect. But did you know the color of the board can significantly impact a player’s performance? If you observe major chess tournaments closely, you’ll notice the boards are always green and white. Why is this particular color combination universally preferred over more striking hues? Let’s analyze the logic and science behind tournament chess boards.
A Brief History of Chess Boards
Chess originated in 6th century India as Chaturanga and featured a brown and white checkered board. As the game spread to Persia and Europe, a variety of materials were used for crafting boards, including wood, stone, clay, ivory, and marble. The iconic black and white design emerged in medieval Europe as an alternative to natural brown and ivory. However, green and white boards became widespread only in the 19th century.
This article specifically focuses on understanding why the vast majority of competitive chess today happens on green and white boards. What gives this seemingly odd color scheme an edge over others?
High Contrast Boards Disadvantage Players
Contrast refers to differences in color and brightness between adjacent surfaces. Dramatic contrast may benefit normal vision. However, prolonged staring can strain the eyes and impair concentration. This is particularly detrimental in mentally demanding games like chess.
Some commonly used high contrast boards include:
- Black and white – Classic but strains the eyes quickly
- Red and green – Vibrant but causes visual fatigue
Such boards have several disadvantages:
- Cause eye fatigue, headaches and loss of focus faster
- Camouflage pieces, increasing chances of errors
- Distract and disrupt thinking due to extreme contrast
So high contrast colors, while visually striking, can impede optimal chess performance.
Green and White Boards: The Science Behind Their Advantage
Decades of chess evolution led to green and white becoming the gold standard board for tournaments. What makes this combination so special?
Benefits of green and white boards:
- Subtle contrast doesn’t cause eye strain
- Green hues are proven to be soothing and reduce fatigue
- Enhances focus and concentration for longer periods
- Easy recognition of pieces against neutral white
- Reduces stress; positive impact on mood and cognition
- Minimal visual disturbance; better visualization of game
The science indicates green allows players to deeply focus, accurately identify pieces, visualize moves and formulate winning strategies without tiring their eyes or mind.
In fact, all major chess federations mandate the use of green and white boards only for official competitive games. This regulated consistency enables top players to perform at their peak universally.
Recommendations for Picking Chess Boards
While green and white boards are the gold standard, some alternatives are permitted by tournament guidelines:
- Wooden boards with natural brown squares
- Ivory boards with off-white squares
- Materials like plastic and card in varying colors
The World Chess Federation (FIDE) offers this criteria for boards:
- Matte finish preferred over glossy
- Colors must contrast adequately in normal lighting
- Natural wood also allowed but green is preferred
Personal preferences matter too:
- Players used to a specific board may play better with it
- Surface texture affects grip and feel
- Intricately designed boards cost more
- Cheaper boards may wear out faster
So green and white remains the tournament favorite for good reason. But individual choice, budget and playing style helps determine the best personal board.
Conclusion on why are tournament chess boards green
Next time you watch a high level chess match, notice the green and white board. While aesthetically less striking than bold blacks or reds, the logic behind preferring this subtle combo is now evident. Decades of research and testing have proven green reduces fatigue and stress, enables effortless recognition and visualization, and boosts focus, cognition and performance. This gives serious chess players a competitive edge necessary to prevail in grueling tournaments. So rather than flashy colors, smart players choose boards that let their minds shine brightest!
Benjamin Miller is the founder and editor of The Extra Game. He plays chess, scrabble and Monopoly at a masters level. He is a board game enthusiast, publisher, designer, and reviewer with over 10 years of experience in the industry. He loves to share his passion, knowledge, and recommendations for board games with the world.