How do you set up a chessboard?

The first blunder you can make when playing chess is to set up the board the wrong way.

Image via Pixabay

Setting up the pieces on the board is the first step towards playing a fun game of chess. Things will go wrong very quickly if you don’t know where the pieces belong.

Chessboard coordinates: everything you need to know

All of the squares on a chessboard have a designated coordinate comprised of its column and row: the columns go from “a” to “h” and the rows go from one to eight. The intersection of the two gives you the coordinate of a square, like b3, c7, e6, or h1. This helps you easily find any square on the board.

The first thing you need to pay attention to is to make sure that the bottom right corner (h1) is a light square. Some chessboards have the rows and the columns etched into their sides, reducing your chances of making a mistake. However, since a chessboard is symmetrical, there’s really nothing stopping you from turning it around by 180 degrees.

Putting your chess pieces in the right places

The white pieces belong on the first and second rows and the black pieces go on the seventh and the eighth. The pawns are all in the same line, on the second and the seventh rows, respectively. This is not the part people tend to have issues with.

No, it’s the placement of the rest of the pieces that can get a bit tricky. First, the rooks: they go in the two corners (the a- and h-files). Next to them, the knights (b- and g-file). People sometimes accidentally swap them with the bishops, which belong on the c- and h-files. When the board is correctly set up, the horses are next to the towers.

Queens belong on the d-file and kings belong on the e-file. Another way to remember this is to know that queens always go on the same color as they are (so the white queen is on a light square and the black queen is on a dark one), while it’s the opposite with the kings.

This is what your starting setup should look like:

Screengrab via

Identifying the chess pieces

  • The rook looks like a tower.
  • The knight looks like a horse.
  • The bishop has a pointy pope hat.
  • The king is the tallest piece on the board with a cross on his head.
  • The queen is slightly shorter than the king but taller than the rest of the pieces. he has a tiara-like crown.