How To Set Up A Chess Board

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Here are the key points you need to know related to the chessboard structure and setup.

  • A chessboard has 64 squares, 32 dark squares, and 32 light squares.
  • There is a total of 8 horizontal rows (also called ‘ranks’) and 8 vertical columns (also called ‘files’).

Trick Time!: To remember what are rows and what are columns: both “rows” and “rank” start with the same letter ‘R’. So you can remember them in that way. What remains is the “file” which simply means “column”. Easy?

  • Remember that while setting the board the light color square should always be on your right side corner.

Here’s what a chess board setup looks like:

Chess Board Diagram Explaining The Chess Board Setup

Now, the setup of the chess pieces is exactly the same as shown in the figure above. There are only 6 types of chess pieces and the names of all the chess pieces are rook, knight, bishop, queen, king, and pawn.

And on each side, there is a total of 16 chess pieces, which makes a total 32 chess pieces in a chess set.

Chess Pieces Names

What are the positions of pieces on a chess board?

The pawns occupy the second row of each side, rooks occupy the corner squares, and after that the knight and then bishop.

Out of the remaining two squares, king and queen are placed.

The white (light-colored) queen occupies the light-colored square while the black (dark-colored) queen occupies the dark-colored square.

Finally the remaining square on the first row, the king is placed.

What are the squares on a chessboard called?

A chess board has 64 squares, 32 dark, and 32 light. The numbers from 1-8 represent the 8 rows (ranks). And alphabets from a-h represent the 8 columns (files).

See the image of the chessboard below. I have marked the position ‘d5’.

Chess Board Diagram Explaining Notation

‘d’ represents the ‘file’ while ‘5’ represents the row (rank) 5. So when I say square d5 you can immediately identify that square. Okay?

Any chess piece if kept on that square will be said to be on the d5 square. Moreover, the positions of the chess pieces when represented in the written format they are known as notations.

The chess players write these notations on each move they make in the professional chess games on a scoresheet. You can read my article on Why Do Chess Players Write Down Their Moves.

Now here I’m going to ask some questions whose answers are also given. You have to first guess and then check yourself. So let’s start!

Which chess pieces start on a1 and h1 square? The light-colored rooks are placed on the a1 and h1 squares. So the light-colored rooks start from a1 and h1 square.

Which chess pieces start on a8 and h8 square? The dark-colored rooks are placed on the a8 and h8 squares on the chessboard. So the dark-colored rooks start from the a8 and h8 square.

Which chess pieces start on squares b1 and g1 and b8 and g8? The light-colored knights are placed on the b1 and g1 square on the chessboard, so they start from that square. The dark-colored knights are placed on b8 and g8 squares on the chessboard, so they start from that square.

Which chess pieces start on c1 and f1 and c8 and f8? The light-colored bishops are placed on the c1 and f1 square on the chessboard, so they start from that square. The dark-colored bishops are placed on c8 and f8 squares on the chessboard, so they start from that square.

Which chess piece starts on its own color? In chess, the light-colored queen is placed on the light-colored square whereas, the dark-colored queen is placed on the dark-colored square. So the queen is a chess piece that starts on its own color.

Where does the king start in chess? The light-colored king starts from e1 square on the chessboard. The dark-colored king is placed on e8 square on the chessboard.

What is the order of chess pieces? The rooks are placed on the corner squares, then the knights, after that, bishops are placed, and the king and queen are placed on the remaining two squares of the first row (8th row for black). However, the pawns are placed on the second row (7th row for black).

Some Rules You Must Know After The Chess Board Setup:

  • White (Light Colored Piece) Moves First and then the players alternate their turns.
  • Only one piece can be moved in a single turn except in castling in which the king and rook both move simultaneously in a single turn. (You can read about kingside and queenside castling here)
  • While capturing any piece you first remove that opponent piece from the chessboard and occupy that square with your own piece (which you used to capture the opponent piece).
  • You can’t skip a turn in chess.
  • You can’t capture your own piece in chess.
  • You can move the chess pieces only according to how they are allowed to move. For example, a king can only move one step forward in any direction. So you have to move your move king like that only. You can read about how the chess pieces move here.
  • There are also some special moves like pawn promotion and en passant about which you must have an understanding.
  • Checkmate ends the game. The side that checkmates his or her opponent wins the game. Whereas the other side who gets checkmated loses the game.

Note: These are just the very basic rules that I think you need to know at first (after completing the chessboard setup). You can read the FIDE Laws of chess. FIDE is The International Chess Federation.

You can also read my article on the basic rules of chess every chess player should know. So you can directly skip to that lesson or read the next lesson.

Final Thoughts

So that’s it! I hope now you have completely understood how to set up the chessboard and all the related things. In case you directly landed here, I want to inform you this article is part of my how-to-play chess basics series. So if interested you can check out the lessons list below.

Lesson #1: Chess Basics Introduction

Lesson #2: Basic Chess Terms

Lesson #3: Chess Board Structure And Setup ( You are here 🙂 )

Lesson #4: How Chess Pieces Move

Lesson #5: Chess Pieces Value

Lesson #6: Basic Chess Rules

Lesson #7: Three Phases Of A Chess Game

Lesson #8: How To Play Chess Openings

Lesson #9: How To Play Chess Middlegames

Lesson #10: How To Play Chess Endgames