How Do You Set Up A Chessboard?

Chess Initial Setup

Almost everyone is familiar with the general appearance of a chessboard, but how is a chessboard actually set up, and what is the purpose behind the placement of the various pieces? In order to play chess effectively, it is important to know where the pieces on a chessboard go, and here, we will take a look at how to orient a chessboard and ensure that all of the pieces are in the correct spots.

The Chessboard


Before placing one’s pieces on a chessboard, there is an important step to take in laying out the actual board itself. A traditional chessboard consists of a flat square that is subdivided into 64 smaller squares, which are oriented in eight rows (or “ranks”) of eight squares each. The individual squares alternate between one light color (usually white) and one dark color (usually black).

When first setting up a game of chess, players must make sure that they orient the board properly between them. To do so, the players must place the board down so that a white square marks the corner of the board on each player's right-hand side. Many chess players use the phrase “white on the right” to remember this rule. Once the chessboard is set up with the white corner squares facing right, players can begin placing their pieces.

Placing Pawns

chess placing pawns

The first pieces a player usually places on the chessboard are their pawns, the eight smallest and weakest pieces in the game. To place one’s pawns, a chess player will align them in the second rank of the chessboard. The second rank is the second row from the edge of the board closest to the player. As there are eight squares in the second rank and eight pawns for each player, players place one pawn in each square of the second rank, forming a line. With this step completed, one can move on to the following pieces.

Rooks, Knights, and Bishops

chess placing rooks knights and bishops

After the pawns, the rest of the pieces on a chessboard are placed in the first rank, the row of squares closest to each player. There are eight pieces that go in the first rank: two rooks, two bishops, two knights, one queen, and one king.

First, players place the rooks, which are shaped like castle towers, on the board. The two rooks go on opposite sides of the board, in the corner squares of the first rank, with one rook being placed on the white corner square and the other on the black corner square.

Next, players place their knights on the board. Knights are traditionally shaped like horse’s heads but can also be shaped like a knight riding a horse or something similar. A player’s knights are placed next to their rooks, one on each side of the board, leaving four squares left in the center of the first rank.

After their knights, players will place their bishops on the board. Bishops have tall, teardrop-shaped heads with a slash in them, which resemble a bishop’s hat, or “miter,” though the original intent of the shape was to resemble the trunk of a war elephant, which the bishop originally represented. A player’s bishops fill the two squares beside their knights, leaving two final squares open in the middle of the first rank. With these pieces now placed, the players can move on to the final two pieces, the king and queen.

The King and Queen

chess placing the king and queen

Last of all to be placed on the chessboard, the king and queen are the most important pieces in the game, as the queen has the most power and the king is the piece being protected. In setting up a chessboard, players place the queen first, and the most important part of placing pieces on a chessboard is that the queen must occupy a square that matches her color. In the initial set up of a chessboard, this will always be the leftmost of the two middle squares in the first rank, but it is easier to remember that the queen goes on her own color. Finally, the king occupies the final square, which is always the opposite of its own color.


While chess may seem like a complex game, and often is one in playing, setting up a chessboard is fairly easy. After a few tries setting up one’s pieces, it is a very simple task to prepare yourself for a game of chess. But of course, setting up a chessboard is only the first step in playing the game.