How to Set up a Chess Board: Complete Guide

How to Set up a Chess Board: Complete Guide

Chess is a fascinating game, full of possibilities.

The two armies – the white and the black one – put up impressive battles.

Some of them are long and full of strategy, where one of them is conquering territory after territory.

Others are pure fire and the chase after the rival monarch starts early in the game.

All this happens on one battlefield – the chessboard.

How to Setup Chess Board: Getting to know board & pieces

The Chess Board consists of 64 squares32 of them are white and the other 32 black coloreds.

Its size is 8 squares by 8 squares displayed alternatively – one dark square followed by one light square. On the edges of the board, you will notice some numbers (1 to 8) and some letters (A to H). We call these coordinates and they are useful for a number of reasons.

setup chess board

First of all, they indicate where the players should sit.

Remember – you should have the side of the chess board that contains the letters in front of you. If your chess board does not have coordinates, there is one rule that will help you always identify the way the board goes and you will find it in the next section of this article.

Secondly, these coordinates will help us give each square a unique name and identify them easier when needed. To find a square’s name, you simply have to read first the letter on its corresponding file and then the number of the rank it is on.

For example:

setup chess board

We also use the coordinates to denote the different files and ranks we have on the chess board.

How to Setup Chess Board: What is the File on a Chess Board?

A file is a vertical line that goes from the top to the bottom of the chess board.

We have 8 such files and we use the letters to name them.

For example, the square e4 in the diagram above is placed on the E file. The ranks are the horizontal lines that go from one side to the other of the chessboard. For these, we use the numbers. Using the same example of the square e4, we will notice that it is placed on the 4th rank.

How to Setup Chess Board: How to position the Chess Board?

If your chess board has the coordinates written on the sides, then it is very easy – the white player will arrange their pieces on the 1st and 2nd ranks, while the player going with the black pieces will do the same on the 7th and 8th ranks.

If your board does not have coordinates or you just want to make sure that they are correctly written, there is one rule that will always guide you – the square on the bottom-right corner must be a light square.

Take a look, for example, at the diagram above.

If you are playing white, you have the square h1 to your right, which is white. If you would be playing with the black pieces, then the square a8 would be to your right and this one is also light-colored.

In conclusion, it doesn’t matter what color you have, you can always guide yourself by this rule in order to make sure you have positioned the chess board correctly.

Now that this detail is clear, let’s move on to the chess pieces and how they should be positioned on the chess board.

How to Setup Chess Board: How do I arrange the pieces 

First of all, each side of chess board starts with 16 pieces and they will be placed in an identical manner by each player on the two ranks closest to them. For example, if you are playing with the white pieces, then you will set your pieces on the 1st and 2nd ranks.

The black pieces will then go on the last two ranks – 7th and 8th.

Now, let’s see where exactly each of the 16 pieces you have belongs on the chess board.

The pawns are the guardians of the entire army and we place them in front of the other pieces right from the start. In other words, they will be set on the rank that’s second closest to you. When playing white, we arrange them on the second rank, and when with the black pieces they start from the seventh rank.

The other 8 pieces go as follows:

How to Setup Chess Board: Where to place The Rooks

The Rooks are the first to go, as they belong in the corners of the chess board – on a1 and h1, for white and a8 and h8, for black. If you will try to play a game from a book or a chess magazine, you will see that each chess piece is represented by R.

How to Setup Chess Board: Where to place The Knights

Next to the rooks, we will place the knights on the chess board.

For the white player, they will stay on b1 and g1 and on b8 and g8 for the player with the black pieces. The letter we use when we write down a game, for example, is N – as to not confuse it with the King, which is symbolized by the letter K.

How to Setup Chess Board: Where to place The Bishops

After the Knights, it is the Bishops’ turn to be set on the chessboard. They belong on squares c1 and f1 for white and c8 and f8, for black. Their symbol is B, for short.

How to Setup Chess Board: Where to place The King

Now we are only left with the King and Queen.

The rule to remember in order to set them right every time is that the Queen always keeps her color. The White Queen will sit on a light square, while the black one on a dark square. So, if we think about squares, the Queens belong on d1 (the white Queen) and d8 (the black Queen). When writing a game down, the letter used to symbolize the Queen is Q.

How to Setup Chess Board: Where to place The Queen

You will be left only with the King now and he will take his place next to the Queen, on e1 if we are talking about the white King, or e8, if it is the black King. This piece is also wearing a crown, but the detail that differentiates it from the Queen is that the King’s crown bears a cross. In terms of letters, K is the one is used to symbolize the King.

When you are done, your pieces on the chessboard should look like this:


Now you are ready to start the game.

How to Setup Chess Board: Playing the game

Remember, the player with the white pieces will always make the first move.

Then, the black player will make one move and the turn goes back to the white player. Each player makes only one move at a time.

If you already have a partner to practice with, the only thing left to do is draw the color and the fun can begin! To do that, you could use any method of chance, really, but there is one way to do it that is very popular among chess players.

You take two pawns – one white and the other one black and put one in each hand. Then you hide your hands behind your back and ask your opponent to pick one.

The color that’s hidden inside your palm will be the color he/she will start the first game with. Once the first game is over, you can switch colors and start from the beginning.

This is, of course, a method that can be used for friendly games. When you play a tournament, the color you will play with will be decided automatically by the computer before the round starts.

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