An Electronic Chess set is kind of a mid-way point between a standard Chess set and a Computer Chess program, such as Fritz 12.
Electronic sets contain a database of games, moves and rules, all stored on a computer chip, which is able to identify the individual pieces on the board, where they're located and which side they're on (e.g. Black vs. White).
Some sets are battery operated, others can be connected to a PC and run of its power source.
There are two main types of Electronic set:
We'll take a look at both types, here ...
Electronic Desktop Chess Sets
Desktop varieties, as you'd expect, offer a large size board to play on.
They're similar to what you'd expect from a traditional Chess Set, only with the added element of buttons and some sort of LCD screen, which is primarily there to tell you what move your Computer-opponent wishes to happen.
Other functions of the LCD screen vary from set to set, but, depending on the model, you can expect to find read-outs showing some sort of Time Control, Hints and Training Tips, and Change of Difficulty Level.
All good Electronic sets are programmed to meet the standard rules of International Chess, including:
Most sets have enough memory that they will allow you to take back multiple moves made and try again ... This is identical to the "Undo" option found on many PC Chess games.
It's all good for learning and improving your game, as you can try something and, if it doesn't work out, you can take play back to a certain position and give another set of tactics a chance.
Of course, unlike doing this on a PC, you have to physically remove and replace the pieces, before you can get back on with your practice.
You may find that these Chess Sets vary in the quality of your Computer opponent ...
Basically, when being manufactured, the different companies may have the sets programmed to a certain Chess Rating - using systems like the ELO Rating or English Chess Federation Rating system. So, just be aware of that, and choose according to your requirements.
When talking prices, these can vary WILDLY ...
* (for that, you could get Fritz 12, a decent mid-range Electronic Chess set, and still have change for a PS3 with Steering Wheel set, Need For Speed Carbon, and a load of other top games).
Electronic Handheld Chess Sets
If you want to practice anywhere, be it on your travels, or sitting outside in the sun, a small, Handheld device might be more to your liking ...
Some of these Handheld sets have enough features to rival an entry-level Desktop set, though, for the most part, expect a these Handhelds to have a smaller board and fiddly, little pieces.
That is, unless you go for something like Saitek's Kasparov Maestro (CM2006), which has a PDA-like touch screen and pieces are moved, on screen, using the accompanying stylus (pen-like thing).
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