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There are some unique designs of chess pieces such as the following:

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(For the one above, I am not even sure if the setting up of pieces is correct.) enter image description here

I will not feel comfortable playing with any of these weird chess sets and if I have to play, my understanding of the positions will definitely be negatively affected.

Am wondering if this will affect professional players or other strong club players at all. Do designs of chess pieces affect them at all?

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I have played in the past with non-standard pieces, or even improvised ones (so it was just let's pick something that can work as this type of piece). I find I had no problem at all, assuming the pieces were not confusingly similar among themselves and to the normal pieces they are not representing. So, if your knights were dragon-shaped that should be no problem, but I bet you would confuse most players if you played chess with bishops that looked like standard knights!

Looking at the above designs:

  • First chess I would not consider problematic. The only confusing pieces I see are the King/Queen. The difference seems arbitrary, but since the Queen will probably move on a different board zone than the King, that would probably make the ambiguity not matter.
  • Second one is more confusing: King/Queen seem to differ mainly on its height (a good hint, but it would be better if they weren't so similar), and knights/bishops seem arbitrary (why choosing them this way?).
  • Third one is unusual, but actually seem quite clear. You can see that knights and bishops actually hint in their design the way they move. Queen and Kind seem clear, too. Note that the Queen will usually have a round crown design.
  • The last one seem the most confusing, as they seem a mixture of dragons with no pattern? (surely a dragon breeder would immediately the spot represented races and have no trouble at all!)

I suspect, however, that the ability to differentiate the pieces is probably a separate ability than playing chess. Advanced chess players will probably be less distracted by the weird sets (they know there is a knight in that square), and weak players may be further hampered (unless they are using to the weird one); but good and bad chess players could be affected more than other good and bad players. I think those having problems with the set would favor a tactic of exchanging pieces, in order to reduce the number of weird pieces left on the board.

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Am wondering if this will affect professional players or other strong club players at all. Do designs of chess pieces affect them at all?

The short answer is "No" for the simple reason that they will never play any tournament chess with anything other than the standard Staunton design. The reason for that is given in the FIDE document Standards of Chess Equipment, venue for FIDE Tournaments, rate of play and tie-break regulations

According to the introduction -

This document defines the general standards for chess equipment and conditions of play, rate of play and tie-break regulations to be used in FIDE competitions.

On the subject of chess equipment it says this:

1. Chess Equipment

1.1 The chess equipment offered by the organisers (hosts) of a FIDE or Continental Championship, Olympiad and other FIDE registered tournaments shall conform with the standards mentioned below, and shall be approved by the Chief Organiser and the Chief Arbiter.

1.1.1. It is recommended, that the chess pieces, boards and clocks, used in the World or Continental top level competitions be approved by participating players. Their approval shall be obtained for other equipment the table, chairs etc. In case either side disagrees, the equipment to be used shall be decided by the Chief Organiser or the Chief Arbiter of the event, bearing in mind the standards for its size and form as mentioned below.

1.1.2. It is highly recommended that the chess equipment used in a competition is the same for all participants and all games.

On the design of the pieces it says:

2.3 Form, style of pieces

Recommended for use in FIDE competitions are pieces of Staunton style. The pieces should be shaped so as to be clearly distinguishable from one another. In particular the top of the King should distinctly differ from that of the Queen. The top of the Bishop may bear a notch or be of a special colour clearly distinguishing it from that of the Pawn.

Note that in the US lower level tournaments often require players to bring their own equipment. The USCF has its own regulations regarding equipment detailed in Chapter 4 of their US Chess Rulebook. Chapters 1, 2 and 11 are available free online but the USCF sees fit to charge for the rest of their rulebook. I would be slightly surprised if this allows non-standard designs.

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Probably not. Most top chess players can play blindfolded and still beat almost the entire chess community. It may have an impact on Blitz game, but once they've been played with these sets for a while, they'd be used to them and have no bigger issues.

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I remember a line from a movie once that was something to the effect of: Chess is a game you play in your head not on a board. In other words, a good player should be able to play the same regardless of what the pieces or board look like.

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