Setting Up

Learn How to Set Up the Board and Pieces.
  • How Your Board Should Look


    Once you have mastered setting up the board, jump back over to the Learn Chess page for lessons on individual piece movement.

  • Before you start to play a game of chess, you have to setup the board and pieces, and they have to be setup the same way every time. 

    Let’s see if we can break it down into some individual steps (and a couple of simple rules) that will make it really easy.
  • First lets look at the board by itself.

    The board is 8 squares by 8 squares, for a total of 64 squares. There IS a right way and a wrong way to set up the board. The rule to remember here is that a light-colored square MUST go in your right hand corner, as highlighted in yellow. Use the phrase “Bottom right is white,” to help you remember.





    Next, we’ll get about half the job finished by setting up the pawns.

    There’re 8 white pawns and 8 black pawns. They’re simple. You just line them up on the second and seventh rows. (8 squares, 8 pawns. Simple.)

    See, I told you this was simple. You’re already half way done.

    (Also, notice the letters along the side of the board, if you’ve got that kind of board. We placed the white pawns on the row with the ‘2’, and the black pawns on the ‘7’ row.)

    Now lets handle the rooks.

    There are four of them, two white rooks and two black rooks, and they go into the four corners. Guess which colors go where….


    Anyway, now we’ll look at knights.

    There are four of them, as well (two white and two black) and they get placed next to the rooks.

    The bag of pieces is getting pretty empty, isn’t it? 

    Okay, now we’ll place the bishops.

    Based on where the knights went, anyone care to guess where bishops go?

    That’s right. Bishops get set up next to the knights.

    Now we’re down to kings and queens

    And now lets go back to review when we first unrolled the board and put it on the table. Remember I said the board had to be placed so that square on your right-hand side was light, and not dark? Now you’ll see why, as we place the queens on the board.


    The simple rule to remember here is ‘queens are set up on their own color squares’. By that, I mean the white queen starts on a white square and the black queen starts on a black square

    We see that the white queen starts on a white square.


     And the black queen? Think about it now…. Black queen on a black square…..

    Yep, that’s it! Queens go on their own color squares.

    Now let’s see, all we got left is a couple of kings. Anyone have any ideas?….. Come on, now……

    Guess what? You’ve set up the board and pieces. You’re ready to play! Practice this a few times, and it’ll become second nature to you. You’ll be able to lay out a chess set without even thinking about it. And I’ll let you in on a little secret: just having gone through this exercise, you now know more about chess than 75% of everyone else, everywhere!

    I’ll make you a bet that if you watch people playing chess in a movie or on TV, more times than not they’ll have the pieces set up wrong!

    YOU know how, though, and that makes you pretty special!

    Once you have mastered setting up the board, jump back over to the Learn Chess page for lessons on individual piece movement.