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Customer Review

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best plastic chess set to be had anywhere, after some owner-made changes, May 15, 2011
This review is from: Drueke 832.97 3.75-Inch Plastic Chessmen (Sports)
This review is of the current Drueke Staunton plastic chessmen 3.5 inch, which I purchased in white (ivory) and black (ebony). The honey colored (natural) set is identical except for the color of the "white" army. I prefer black and white, which remain the de facto standard among club players.

Over the years, I've used just about every plastic chess set there is, and have formed strong opinions on which are best. This contemporary Drueke set is a modern yet tasteful re-interpretation of the classic Staunton design. I much prefer the clean design of this set over those stodgy "antique" style plastics that are currently making the rounds.

These Drueke chessmen sport a very smart matte finish. The pieces appear to be quadruple weighted! With this much steel weight packed inside the base, most plastics would shatter when dropped on a hard floor. The Drueke weights, however, are made to pop out if pieces are dropped on a hard surface, thus preventing any damage. Then, it takes only a moment to snap the nifty weight capsule back into its cleverly designed base. What's more, the plastic is extremely tough; not brittle at all. It's very high quality plastic that looks and feels great. Seams are minimal. These chessmen are impressively solid, heavy, and designed to last a lifetime. I cannot say this about any other chess set I've seen, plastic, wood, brass, or whatever!

However, the paper felts that these chessmen come with are a BIG disappointment. I re-felted mine with real wool felt. Not difficult, but it takes a couple hours to do well. Here's how: Remove the paper felts with mineral spirits and roughen bottoms of chessmen with sandpaper to ensure a good bond. Apply glue as thin as possible by smoothing with a bit of thin cardboard, but be sure to cover the entire bottom evenly. Too much glue results in pads that do not cushion properly on a hard surface such as a fine wood chessboard. If using polyurethane glue (the best), dampen fabric and blot dry before affixing (moisture acts as a catalyst). After glue has cured, use scissors to closely trim around the base. Now you have one superb set of tournament chessmen suitable for play on a vinyl or fine wood chessboard.

Caveat: I found the knights to be too bulky and clunky for this set. They weigh more than the queen and stand taller than the bishops! My guess is that some honcho at Drueke decided to replace the original knight design with this obviously misplaced and oversized knight. Indeed, the quality of the seam work and base design do not quite match the rest of the set. So, I replaced the Drueke knights with those from an old Excaliber set. The Excaliber knights are just the right size, finish, and colors, and matched this set perfectly (i.e. set with white and black pieces). If you opt for the honey colored Drueke chessmen, you can swap knights from an "Ultimate" set (that oft-seen heavily weighted set with the stout pawns). The Ultimate knights have the same knights as Excaliber, but are honey and black. Admittedly, all this is a lot of bother, and frankly does not speak well for the folks who put this set together at Drueke, but after my changes I sure love this set.

After all the above is said and done, however, I must confess that for everyday use, I still prefer my cheap triple weighted "club special" 3.75" Triple Weighted Tournament Plastic chessmen, double queens, King weighs.... Yes, the club special also requires re-felting if you intend to use it on a fine wooden board, and occasionally one of the weights from the club set may loosen and need re-gluing, but for everyday use (blitz) at the park or club, the size, style, and weight of the club sets are ideal, and the price can't be beat! I bought an extra club set to keep for spares. At such prices, why not? But if you really want something rugged and stylish, and like big knights and paper felt pads, or else are willing to devote effort to making them right, these Drueke chessmen are the undisputed best that money can buy. And yes, with the above reservations, I like these new ones better than the older discontinued Drueke "simulated wood" set (model 35).
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Tracked by 1 customer

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Showing 1-5 of 5 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 16, 2012 11:08:26 PM PDT
Rickie says:
Maybe I'm too confusable but you say the honey colored is identical except for the color of the "white" army. But the honey IS the white army. I don't get it. You say also that the set listed is the "undisputed best that money can buy," but that you "still prefer" your "cheap triple weighted" club special. You never explain why you prefer them more. Finally, you say you like the new Drueke set better than the older 35H set (which I have) but don't explain why. I'm curious on those points. Thanks for you input.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2012 1:24:01 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 17, 2012 1:37:45 AM PDT
Knight Hawk says:
These newer Drueke sets were originally offered in a choice of color for the "white" forces. One set has honey colored (sometimes called "natural", as in natural unstained wood), and the other has bright off-white chessmen, which color is sometimes called "ivory". (To my eye, they are too white to be called "ivory", but I won't quibble.) Both have matte black for the opposing army.

The Drueke set is one of the heaviest and sturdiest of the plastics, as I explained. And except for the knights, which are too heavy and bulky for my taste, the Drueke pieces and pawns are very pleasing and well proportioned. The set's design strikes me as quite modern and yet classy, not extreme. It's a design that one is not likely to grow tired of over time.

As I explained in my review, I replaced the Drueke knights in my set with others from another set, that happened to have the exact same colors i.e. bright off-white and black and with very nearly the same pebbled matte finish. But even after swapping the knights and replacing the paper felt pads with real felt, my Drueke sees little use, while my steel-loaded "club special" remains the set that I use the most, especially when I'm on the go. The club special is a little smaller and almost a pound lighter than the Drueke. This is important for tournament players or anyone who needs to carry a set with them. What's more, the club special is accepted as the de facto "standard", and remains the most popular set among club and tournament players.

The club special has been around for at least 40 years, and is modeled on the very popular French style turned wood sets of that era. Its proportions and features remain my favorite of all the Staunton pattern chessmen--a real classic. The club special can be purchased for typically half the price of the Drueke, or less.

The cheaply manufactured weighted club special falls down in one important respect. Some of the weights may eventually work loose, and will need to be re-glued. Sometimes even a new set will have one or more loose weights. Often too, the weights do not always mount flush with the base of the piece, extending a bit too far, thus making the piece unstable (wobbly). This can be corrected by soaking the piece in water overnight to loosen the glue, then remove the loosened steel slug and file it down until it is flush with the base. The steel is very soft and files down easily, but the slug should be held in a vise while filing. After filing, re-glue the slug and re-felt the bottom. Many players don't want to deal with all this, and may end up with a set that has a number of weights missing. Because of the way the Drueke pieces are constructed, I doubt that loose weights or wobbly chessmen will ever be a problem.

Why do I prefer this new Drueke over the old? The design strikes me as more refined and more appealing, at least to me. I especially prefer the new bishop and king, but also the rook and pawn. The old knights were fine, however. I also prefer the pebbled finish of the newer set. But the older set came with real felt pads.

Ultimately choosing a chess set is a matter of personal taste and preference. I have a number of chess sets, both wood and plastic, but for everyday rough-and-tumble play, the club special remains my favorite while the new Drueke is the runner-up.

I hope this helps.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2012 10:17:21 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 17, 2012 10:19:48 AM PDT
Rickie says:
Thank you for all the elucidation! That helps. Like you, I'm the type to tinker and modify for the better. It's also a way of personalizing the set, too... hey you're going to be spending hours handling and looking at it anyway. Why not "bond" a little too. I did not realize the the club set has been around for 40 years. I prefer the matte finish and the darker antique white vs. the ivory--it's too bright. Well, portability is a factor, but one that I overlook. What I find is that the diameter of the base is a big factor as well, or I'll often knock the pieces over in play--very annoying. Even a .1 difference makes a significant difference in feel. One other thing; you have the height as 3.5 but the listing says 3.75. Which is it? (The old 35H set I have is 3.5 inches)

I'm hoping the set that's pictured on Amazon is not exactly the one, because I like the description in the 2 reviews better.

I do appreciate your conversation. Thanks.


In reply to an earlier post on Mar 17, 2012 10:57:40 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 17, 2012 11:15:00 PM PDT
Knight Hawk says:
Hi Rich,

It's nice to correspond with someone who takes his chess set seriously. One more comment occurs to me. I find the new Drueke set to be too cumbersome for speed chess (5 minute). I'm not a frequent speed chess player, but some folks might want to consider that such large, wide based, and heavy pieces are more difficult to manipulate in a time scramble. This is particularly so with the large Drueke knights which definitely slow ones hand.

The weighted club special is my ideal for speed chess. It is just the right weight, size, and balance.

If you order, I believe the set pictured on Amazon is the set you would receive. The pictured knights appear a bit smaller than those in MY Drueke set. The pictured steed's mouth looks different, too--close-mouthed rather than open.

When I received my set some years ago, I wrote a letter to Drueke, complaining about the knights. I said the knight was too large and that it looked more like a raptor than a horse. Maybe Drueke received other such letters and decided to modify them. Wouldn't it be great to think that a company would actually sit up and pay notice to John Q. Public? I'd love to know for sure, so If you do go ahead and order the Drueke, I'd appreciate a comment back, when you receive the set, indicating the height of the knights.

I've found the best way to measure a chess piece accurately is to hold it upside down so that the top-most tip is at the bottom and touching the tabletop. Then prop a ruler next to it with the end of the ruler also touching the tabletop. Then you can read the height off directly, where the base touches the ruler. Please let me know the result to nearest millimeter.

If you have a postage scale, it would also be good to know the weight of the knight. If the knights for your set are different than mine, I will post again to let others know.
My knights are 63 mm (2 5/8") without felt pad. Each weighs 2.5 oz.(!!) The club special knight weighs 1.3 oz (about half the weight of the Drueke knight) and is 57 mm (2 1/4") tall.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 25, 2012 12:34:24 AM PDT
Rickie says:
Check on my new post. Let me know if I didn't answer anything.
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