My first chess set was bought from the friend of a dead Master (no kidding) for $15. It had a fancy-ish but well-used green roll-up vinyl board, an ugly green bag and those yellow and black, really heavy pieces you sometimes see at the chess club. I loved it. I used it for years and it just kept going.
Eventually, I took each piece apart and re-seated the lead weights with clear RTV so they wouldn’t rattle anymore. A few thousand 5/0 games had taken their toll on the innards, especially the rooks. This both made them a tad heavier and much, much more solid sounding. If you were pick up one of my rooks, and set it down with authority, it sounded like a small gun had gone off. *BAM!* The things are really wicked.
Anyhow, I ended up moving on to more expensive, Staunton style plastic double-weighted sets (as opposed to the triple-weight of the first set) from House of Jocques, I believe. Anyhow, I got two identical sets in different colors so that I could have a bunch of sets, depending on my mood. I got a red/tan set and a black/white set, so I could bring white/red, black/red, tan/white, black/tan – well, you get the idea. It went over well, and folks liked the red pieces, especially. Well, *most* folks did, but I’ll save the one who didn’t for another entry.
Then I purchased a really nice wooden set – the kind where you can SEE the grains; I love that stuff. It’s my serious tournament set to this day, but is it my favorite set? I don’t believe so. I get a lot of compliments on it and all, but really, it’s hard to beat the weight and ruggedness of my first set.
So, my favorite set is still the yellow/black “Thumper” set, as I affectionately call it. The only drawback to the set is that it’s old and the pieces aren’t exactly new looking, and it only has one queen per color, whereas the rest of my sets came with four queens. But, they can be ordered cheaply enough and I’m considering doing that!