When starting a new game of chess, the first thing you’ll have to do is to set up the chess board with all the pieces.
This might sound trivial, but I often see beginners placing some of the chess pieces on the wrong starting squares.
So if you want to learn how to play chess, you have to first learn how to set up a chess board properly.
In this article, I’ll show you how to set up your chess board in 7 steps using both a real board and a digital board.
If you see any pieces you don’t know, you can read my article about the names of all the chess pieces.
1. Rotate your chessboard
The chessboard represents a battlefield on which two sides wage a war and should have an 8×8 checkered pattern.
A standard chess board is roughly 20 inches in size, but slightly larger or smaller boards are still ok.
Start off by placing the chess board right in front of you and make sure to rotate the board correctly.
If your board has coordinates on it, make sure that the left corner is a1 for the white player.
If your board doesn’t have any coordinates, then make sure that the left corner is black and the right corner is white. This is the same for both players.
In theory it doesn’t really matter how you rotate the board. But in practice, chess players always make sure that the left corner is black.
You might notice that not every chess board actually uses black and white squares. For example, if your board is made out of wood, it probably has brown and white squares.
The colors on your board doesn’t really matter though. Just make sure that it has dark and light squares, with a dark square in your left corner.
2. Place the rooks in the corners
You can place the 32 pieces on the board in any order you want if you already know where each of them should go.
But to keep things simple and easy to understand, let’s start by placing the rooks in the corners. The two white rook should be placed on a1 and h1, and the black rooks belong on a8 and h8.
3. Place the knights next to the rooks
Next up is the knight! You can place the knight directly next to your rook on the same rank.
The white knights belong on b1 and g1, and the black knights should be placed on b8 and g8.
When placing the knights on their squares, you can rotate them however you want. Most people like to rotate their knights such that they are facing sideways, because that’s how they are displayed in diagrams and on a digital board.
But I’ve also come across plenty of players that like to make sure that their knights face forwards.
4. Place your bishops next to your knights
You can place the bishops right next to the knights. White’s bishops should be placed on c1 and f1, while black’s bishops belong on the c8 and f8 squares.
If you did everything correct so far, you’ll notice that each player has one bishop on a light square and one bishop on a dark square.
Bishops can only move to squares of the same color they started on. So it’s important to have two bishops of opposite colors.
5. Place both queens on the d-file
At this point, there should be two squares left empty on the first and 8th rank. One square for the king, and one square for the queen.
Both white’s queen and black’s queen should be placed on the d-file. So white’s queen on d1 and black’s queen on d8.
Placing the king and queen on the wrong squares is the most common error that beginners make when setting up the board.
A simple way to remember this is to always place the queens on the same colors as themselves.
So the white queen should go on d1, because that square is white. While the black queen should go on d8, because that is a dark square.
6. Place the kings on the e-file
It’s time to place the kings on the board. And since there is only one square remaining, this one should be easy!
Place the white king on e1 and the black king on e8.
7. Place the pawns in front of the pieces
Now that the 1st and 8th ranks are full of pieces, it’s time to place the pawns on the board. Both players start the game with 8 pawns.
The white pawns should be placed on the 2nd rank and the black pawns on the 7th rank.
Starting the game
Congratulations! You have successfully set up the chess board with all the pieces on the correct squares.
You are now ready to start playing chess.
The white player starts and always gets to make the first move. If both players want to be white, you might have to flip a coin. Or you can agree to play two games; one with the white pieces and one with the black pieces.