How to Setup Chess Board: Step-by-Step Guide 

how to setup chess board

Many chess coaches and instructors begin teaching chess directly with easy tactics and opening strategies. They assume the beginner already knows the basics of chess learning.

However, I would like to argue otherwise.

Learning about the pieces and their moves is easier, but one must be trained on how to set up chessboard.

Bobby Fischer famously said, “Chess is a war over the board…“.

Dear readers, if you don’t learn how to set up a board professionally, how would you become a professional chess player?

How to Setup a Chess Board?

1. Learn the Names of Pieces

Can you imagine a child reading without learning alphabets? 

Nope, right?

Learning the names of chess pieces is as important as learning alphabets before reading.

In chess games, there are 6 chess pieces with unique names.

  1. King     ♔♚
  2. Queen ♕♛
  3. Bishop  ♗♝
  4. Knight    ♘♞
  5. Rook     ♖♜
  6. Pawn    ♙♟

As you already know, there are two colors (for two players) in chess–black and white.

For each player, there is 1 King, 1 Queen, 2 Bishops, 2 Knights, 2 Rooks, and 8 Pawns in their own color. It’s either black or white.

2. Place the Chess Board in Correct Alignment

Trust me, chess enthusiasts, so much so depends on correctly placing the board before setting it up. Therefore, I suggest checking the alignment before setting the chess board.

Always begin by checking the squares on the extreme right of the players before setting up the chessboard.

place chess board in correct alignment

Is it a black square on the bottom-right corner of the players?

If yes, you’re doing it wrong.

this is how you set up chess baord

Remember, the white square on row 1 must fall on the right-hand side of player 1, who’s playing White. Similarly, the white square on row 8 must fall on the right-hand side of player 2, who’s playing Black.

3. Set the Pawns On the Board

Did you know pawns were called baidaq/paizada back in the 9th century AD in Persia?

Baidaq or paizada means foot soldiers.

As chess was the kings’ game, it was designed based on the real battlefield position.  During the ancient days, foot soldiers always took the front position in the war.

Likewise, pawns take the frontal position in chess. Set the white pawns on the second and black pawns on the seventh row.

set the pawns first

This step will leave the first and eight rows for the other pieces of their respective colors.

Even though it’s the smallest piece–both in power and stature–pawns can be highly powerful in pawn promotions and other chess tactics.

How does a Pawn Move?

Read Pawn Movement in detail to find out.

4. Place Rooks in the Corner

Chess originated in India. Later, it traveled through Sicily and Spain to the western world.

Did you know Rook chess piece is called “Tower” in Italian?

In the olden days, the towers or castles safeguarded a kingdom during an attack. Therefore, when setting up Rooks on the chess board, they are placed in the corner squares on the chessboard.

put rooks in corner - set up chess board

Place the white Rooks on a1 and h1 and the black Rooks on a8 and h8.

5. Place the Knights Beside the Rooks

Mikhail Tal famously said, “Fischer is Fischer, but a knight is a knight!”

I am sure the eighth world chess champion must have considered Knight very valuable to say something like this.

place knights besides the rooks

Place the Knights besides the Rooks of their own colors.

The White Knights will go on b1 and g1. Similarly, the black Knights will sit on b8 and g8.

Additional info: learn two knights’ endgame to make the most of your knights.

How does a Knight Move?

Read Knight Movement in detail to find out.

6. Bring the Bishops Next to the Knights

bishops next to knights

Place the Bishops next to the Knights of their corresponding colors. The white Bishops will go to c1 and f1, and the black Bishops will go to c8 and f8.

Bishops are like Demi-Queens. They can move diagonally as far as you want if the pathway is clear.

Try to learn about Bishop’s opening to learn more about this piece. Some of its variations are Berlin’s Defense, Hungarian Defense, Philidor Counterattack, and Calabrese Countergambit, etc.

Check out EnthuZiastic Chess Classes for a personalized Chess learning experience.

7. Place Queens on their Own Colors

Knights are cavalry, bishops are archers, rooks are cannons, and queens are wizards— Jacob Aagaard.

As a matter of fact, modern chess began with the “mad Queen.” In medieval chess, Queens moved only for 2 squares, both in diagonal and straight pathways.

Later, people began to move the Queen without any restriction of squares. After this radical shift, the Queen was popularly referred to as the mad Queen.

set up queens next

Place the white Queen on d1 and the black Queen on d8. To check if the Queens are set in the right place, see if they are sitting on their colors.

The white Queen must be sitting on a white square, and the black Queen must be sitting on a black square.

I suggest every beginner first learn Queen’s gambit, and then Queen’s gambit declined strategies.  

Remember, Queens are wizards of the chess game.

How does a Queen Move?

Read Queen Movement in detail to find out.

8. Put King Beside its Queen

Place the white King on e1 and the black King on e8.

set king beside queen - how to set up chess board game

Remember, although Kings move only one square, they are the heads of a chess game. You may capture as many opponent pieces as you want, but it’s checkmate if you fail to protect your tallest piece–the King.

Additional info: The King’s Pawn game with e4 is one of the most played chess openings. It can lead to Sicilian Defense, Alekhine’s Defense, Scandinavian Defense, etc.

How does a King Move?

Read King Movement in detail to find out.


What is the best chessboard? Which chess board should I buy?

I suggest buying the chessboard you’re comfortable using. Some of the most popular chess boards include the Ultrafast Chess Board and the Dragon Chess Board.

On the one hand, the Ultrafast Chess Board is designed for speed and is made of a lightweight material that is easy to transport. It also has a small footprint, so it can be used in small spaces.

On the other hand, the Dragon Chess Board is sturdy and bigger in size. Made of wood, it features a movable board and pieces that make it easier to play chess.

Ultimately, the best chess board for you depends on your preferences and needs.

Is there any proper order in which to start placing the chess pieces when setting up a board for play?

No, there isn’t any proper order for an experienced chess player. Contrarily, a beginner must begin by setting the pawns. Then, place the rooks, followed by knights, bishops, Queen, and the King.

This order is easier and easy to memorize. It will help you set up chess board without getting confused.

Which pawn should you move first?

There isn’t any rule in which pawn or, for that matter, to move the pawn first. However, beginning the game by moving the King’s pawn is one of the most used tactics.

Therefore, it’s better to start with e4 as your first move.

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Setting up a chessboard is the first baby step as a chess player. Even though it seems a simple step, it’s utterly important to learn how to set up chess board correctly.

Dear beginners, I hope I have helped you with learning how to set the chess pieces on a chessboard. You can also check out this video to visualize the instructions on the board.

If you have any confusion or want to add anything, please feel free to add it in the comments section.

Till then, stay happy and keep playing chess.

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