Chess Board Setup
If you have ever wondered “How do I set up a chess board?” this article is for you! Here you will learn how to set up a chess board and pieces correctly in order to play a game of chess under standard tournament rules (F.I.D.E).
This guide is for beginners and those new to chess. It shows the normal set up for over the board (OTB) play.
While every computer chess game will set up the board automatically at the start of a new game, it is still useful to know correct orientation of a chess board and where all the pieces should be placed. This knowledge will enable us to play chess against human players in the sunshine (hopefully!), or at OTB tournaments.
Correct Chess Board Orientation
A chess board is made up of eight rows and eight columns of alternating light and dark colour squares.
Although the squares are often black and white, they may also be other colours. Light and dark shades of red, brown or green are common. Glass chess boards use a system of etching and transparency.
Whatever colour your chess board happens to be, it will have two contrasting light and dark colours. The most common colours for a chess board are black and white.
Correct orientation of a chess board is to have the corner square, on the right-hand side nearest you in the light colour.
At the start of a game, check to see if the right-hand square nearest to you is light or dark. If this square is a dark colour then turn the board a quarter turn (90 degrees) in either direction.
The reason that this is the correct orientation relates to placement of the queen and the ability to record games using standard chess notation.
A helpful mnemonic to remember this is: “Light to the right“.
By convention, images or chess diagrams show white/light pieces at the bottom of the board and black/dark pieces at the top.
How Many Pieces in a Chess Set?
A standard set of chess pieces contains 32 pieces, 16 light and 16 dark pieces. Good quality chess sets may have 34 pieces as they will include an extra queen of each colour.
A standard 32 piece chess set will have eight pawns, 1 queen, 1 king, 2 bishops, 2 knights and two rooks for a total of 16 pieces of each colour.
Rooks are not “castles”. The confusion may have arisen from the chess move called castling.
Where do the Pieces Go?
Each chess piece has its own assigned place in a chess board setup. The easiest way to setup a board for play is to place the pawns first, followed by the major pieces. This avoids reaching over the pawns and perhaps knocking or moving them.
The bottom yellow row highlights the starting position for the white pawns. The top red row highlights the starting position for the black pawns.
The black queen faces the white queen from the opposite side of the board. Like the white queen, place the black queen on a square of her own colour.
The correct place for the black queen is the black square nearest the middle of the back rank.
The black and white kings sit on the e file, next to the queen.
Kings always start on a square of opposite colour.
Each side has two bishops. A bishop sits next to the king or queen.
Some chess articles refer bishops as “Queen’s bishop” or “King’s bishop” depending upon their initial position.
This designation also informs experienced players as to the colour of squares that the piece may move on. This convention avoids phrases such as “white’s white bishop!”
Place one knight next to each bishop on the back rank.
Chess novices sometimes become confused over knight and bishop placement.
Here is a helpful way to remember correct placement. Bishops are likely to be members of the court and so are near the king and queen, but a knight is often depicted by a horse. No horses in the court!
Each player has two rooks and they are perhaps the easiest of pieces to place as they occupy the corners of the board.
Place each rook in the corner of the board, next to the knights. After all, where else would a knight “live” other than next to a “castle”?
I hope that you found this guide useful. Now the next time someone asks “How do you set up a chess board?” you can be confident that you know how to set up a chess board correctly.
Of course, if you use our online chess game here on here at computer chess online then setting up the board is simple as pressing “new game”! 🙂