Photo by Piotr Makowski: Chess piece, the Knight

Photo by Piotr Makowski on Unsplash

A chess set for your every mood (and mood swings)

What it takes to be a good chess set for the demanding world of online chess? What do we find when we dig into chess set offerings from Lichess?

A common request is to make's Neo chess set available on Lichess. Simple reasons are: It is the default on that website. Almost every popular streamer seems to use it. And, it is a good chess set!

Lichess cannot bring it here since it is proprietary. There are even 'unofficial' attempts to bring it here through browser extensions, and what not.

I have some thoughts about this. Finally, I found opportunity to collect them here. I hope this helps to come up with great chess sets on Lichess. In the next section, I also provide my selection of chess sets from Lichess. Jump there if you just want a list of chess sets to try out.

I would like to add that I'm not a designer; just a regular fellow who loves chess sets and couldn't stop myself registering these thoughts.


On physical chess sets, there is a possibility for designers to provide perfectly matching board and pieces. However, players like to mix and match a wide variety of computer boards with piece sets. This requires chess pieces to be versatile and need to have specific characteristics.

When chess first came to computers (even before the internet), the chess pieces used were the ones designed for printing. Some examples:


This chess set is often found in older chess books, may be still found in new books from older chess publishers.


This is available on Lichess. Look for "companion" under Piece Sets menu.



I found this chess set is regularly used by Quality Chess publishers. I consider it one of the newer chess sets for printing.


This is also available on Lichess. Look for "merida".


Most of us don't have a problem with these pieces since we're so used to it, as we somehow find a board that makes the combination reasonably playable for us.

However, the pieces designed for printing have downsides when used for computer chess. Boards in books don't have fully darkened dark squares, just hatches. So even if the piece that is pitch black, it works. Printing that piece is simple. There used to be blocks of chess pieces, just like physical typefaces in the printing presses. However, when we mix them with different computer boards, especially the piece colors don't blend well.


It has to be specifically designed for computer/online chess. If we look at Neo, we can see these characteristics:

  1. These pieces are neither pitch black nor plain whites. Instead, they are different shades of grey.
  2. A distinct border is given to each piece that allows it to blend well on most board colors. On pieces designed for printing, you'll find such a border is missing, especially for dark pieces.
  3. Shadows provide a nice touch that improves perception that we're moving chess pieces, and not some ink. Of course, printing does not require this complexity and thus those pieces are plain except for some contrasting strokes.

There is one thing common. Pieces used for printing have subtle aesthetic style and character. Designers of Neo ensured that the pieces has distinct style. I particularly like the King (with the holes in the crown). Clearly, the printing pieces provided inspiration for the designers.


I wish all the chess pieces on Lichess adhere to the characteristics discussed instead of simply porting printing pieces to computers. At least variants based on these pieces could be provided by improving color, shading, and border.

That sounds depressing. However, if we dig into the chess sets on Lichess, there are delightful surprises.

"Gioco" on Olive

There is an outstanding 2D piece set on Lichess! It's called Gioco. It has everything computer chess pieces need and more.

WARNING: Knight is a bit sharp. Handle with care!

Perfect for your edgy positional struggles or ultra sharp tactical masterpieces!


I'm biased towards Gioco at the moment. In fact, there are several piece sets you could consider which satisfy many and all the requirements discussed for computer chess. Here is my selection:

"Staunty" on Blue


WARNING: Bishop seems talkative (to my eyes). One is tempted to sac it at the first opportunity!

The Knight is nicely poised for a strategic maneuver.

"Caliente" on Olive

I recommend this for your Unorthodox openings.

WARNING: Knights are the most innocent looking cuties in this set. DON'T TRUST THEM!

The drop shadow adapts to the board colors. Nice subtle touch!

"Cardinal" on Wood2

Ready for your training needs!

"Tatiana" on Marble

Suits best for your off-beat lines in typical openings!

"Dubrovny" on Grey

Great for your evil gambits!

WARNING: You get dangerously shifty Knights and rather clueless Bishops in this set.

"Shapes" on Metal

An underrated masterpiece!

As Bishop is X and Rook is + based on their moving style, I think Knight should be L.


Most of us avoid 3D chess sets because with many pieces, the position becomes confusing. I show you a position full of pieces and pawns with a 3D chess set from Lichess. It is still very very clear, in my honest opinion.

"Staunton" on Woodi

THE perfectly rendered 3D chess set! Look at the detailing, lighting, and oh, the muscles on the Knight! That's a strong Knight and you will be inclined to reject the popular opinion that Bishops are slightly stronger than the Knights.

A chess set that is great to practice with before your OTB tournaments! By the way, the piece moves are also satisfyingly animated.

WARNING: One tends to absent-mindedly try to pick these pieces by hand and scratch the screen. As a precaution, better cut your nails before using this set.

Other 3D chess sets on Lichess are also wonderfully rendered, but I find them unusable either because they're too big for the available board squares or when there are more pieces on board the position becomes difficult to understand. Also, I would love to have a 3D chess set that is similar to the typical standard set used in local tournaments.


Neo is a well-designed chess set. It deserves the love it gets. However, hope you'll agree by now, Lichess has an outstanding selection of chess sets too! All created with nothing but love. In turn, they also deserve our love and recognition that Neo gets easily due to its prevalence due to's marketing muscle.

I hope this inspires more great chess piece sets (and boards!) designed for computer/online chess.

PS: If you think this post is just an excuse for the love of screenshots, you're not far off.


@fookh made me realize a cardinal sin I committed. I never mentioned the lovable 'horsey' even once. Apologies, it is fixed now.

"Horsey" on Horsey (Hue: 252%)

Chess is fun! Why so serious?