Chess is a game that many people are familiar with, either because they have played it themselves or because they are interested in learning about it. Apart from that, it has been around for centuries, and although the game itself has just a few rules, it can be exceedingly complicated. So, if you are interested in learning how to play the game, the first thing that you need to know is how to set up a chessboard.

Start by placing the board the right side up. Then, position the pawns in the second rank, rooks in the first rank, knights next to rooks, and bishops next to knights. Finally, place the Queen in an empty square the same color as herself, and the King in the last remaining spot.

Chess Table Setup

Let’s discuss each step of setting up a chess board in greater detail and make sure you have all you need to know.

Chess Board Coordinates

Modern chess boards are 8×8 grids, with the squares alternatively light and dark. There are two types of chess boards available on the market: those with coordinates, and those without coordinates.

For beginners of the game, a board with coordinates is better as it helps players easily remember which piece goes where. The number side needs to be vertical, with 1 at the bottom and 8 at the top. In contrast, the alphabet side should be horizontal with the a on the left, going all the way to h on the right.

If your board does not have coordinates, just remember that you need to have a black square at the bottom left corner, which indicates that the board is facing in the right direction. If you have a white square in the bottom left corner, this means that your board is facing sideways and is incorrectly placed.

chess board set up

Position of Chess Pieces

Chess has two types of game pieces: the light or white ones, and the dark or black ones. Each of them has to be set up from a specific side, with the first being the starting point of the white and the eighth being the starting point of the black.

We start off by setting up the pawns, as it helps clear up the pieces quickly. They are set up in the second row, or rank, as it is also called. Once the pawns are all in place, you put your rooks in the corners of the first row or rank. Then, place each of your knights right next to each rook.

Next up, we have the bishops that come right next to the knights. At this point, you will have two squares left on your board. These spots belong to the queen and the king, and the first one to find its place is the queen. Simply put the queen on the square that matches its color. Finally, place the king in the last empty square.

With that, the board has been set up. You are free to start playing – just remember to move the white pieces first!

Each Chess Piece

Let’s get to the chess pieces. As discussed above, we have the pawns, bishops, rooks, knights, kings, and queens.

There are a total of 16 pieces of each color in a game:

  • 1 queen,
  • 1 king,
  • 2 rooks,
  • 2 bishops,
  • 2 knights, and
  • 8 pawns.

They may vary in size and shape. Since there are two sides in a game, each side represented by its color, each game has 32 pieces in total when both the light and dark coloured pieces are combined.

With that, we are done setting up the board. If there is still a bit of confusion, here’s a video to help you out.

Common Mistakes When Setting Up a Chess Board

Mixing up the Coordinates

This is one of the most common mistakes that beginners can make, and maybe one of the most serious ones, too. Setting up the chessboard on the inverted side makes the whole game null and void.

An important thing to keep in mind is that the first square at the top of the board, to your left, should always be black. Trying to play a game from the wrong side of the chessboard makes the game illegal and impossible to be recorded, especially if it is an official game. Those who play often or are experts can point this out immediately and even do so in TV shows or movies.

It is understandable that if you are a beginner, you will make some mistakes. So don’t worry too much about it. But now that you know this, you can watch some chess games to really understand how the board works.

chess board how to

Mixing up the Positions of the King and the Queen

Another common mistake that beginners make is mixing up the positions of the king and the queen. They often end up placing the king in the wrong square, which is the queen’s space, or vice versa. In order to make sure that the pieces are in their proper spots, there are two simple things you can do.

The first way is to always remember that the king is placed in the E file or column, while the queen is always placed in the D file or column. This is followed for both black or dark and white or light pieces.

The second way is to position the queen before the king; remember that the queen is always placed in a square the same color as her. So, if your queen is black, she should be on a black square, and if she is white, she should be on a white square. The king takes the last remaining square after the queen has found her spot.

If the queen is not in a square matching her color, then the board has been set up wrong and needs to be corrected.


And there you have it—a fully set up board for a fun game of chess.

It isn’t an extremely complicated thing and just requires you to remember a few points and rules regarding the game and the movements. Even if you make a few mistakes at first, no pressure – that’s how you learn! Just keep going and playing, and with time and dedication, you can become really good at it and even become an actual chess master.