How to setup a chessboard?

September 4, 2021 · George Henderson

Before you learn how to play, you must know how to set up a chessboard. Every traditional chess game starts from the same position and it’s import to get it right!

In your chess set, there are 32 pieces on the board - 16 pieces on each side. Some sets have extra queens for each color. You can set those aside for now. They are used in cases during game play where a pawn reaches the last rank and promotes to a queen when another queen is already on the board.

Both players have:

  • 8 pawns
  • 2 rooks
  • 2 knights
  • 2 bishops
  • 1 queen
  • 1 king

Lets walk you through a step-by-step demonstration of how to set up a chessboard in less than 2 minutes!

Step 1

Place the chessboard so that the bottom right square is a light square.

If your board has the notation, the square with the coordinates a1 should be on your bottom left. This is when you are playing with white pieces.

If you are playing with black pieces, even then a dark square should be on the bottom left. However, its coordinates should be h8.

Empty board

Step 2

Place all White’s pawns ♙ on the second rank and all Black’s pawns on the seventh rank.

The easiest way to remember this is that pawns are like soldiers who protect the more important pieces. Hence, they are placed in front of the major pieces.

Pawns placement

Step 3

The next step is to add the rooks ♖. They are the easiest pieces to place. This is because they go in the four corners of the board.

White rooks on a1 and h1 and black rooks on a8 and h8. It is wise to start placing the pieces from the corners as it will help you remember their order.


Step 4

The knights ♘ go beside the rooks on either side of the board.

The knights are the only pieces which can be developed without pawns being moved first.

The White knights are placed on b1 and g1 and Black knights are placed on b8 and g8.


Step 5

The bishops ♗ are next. One trick to remember whee they go is that they are positioned on either side of the king and the queen. You can remember their position like this - in any kingdom, bishops are important and are close to the ruler.

White bishops go on c1 and f1 and Black bishops go on c8 and f8.


Step 6

The king and queen both go on the center squares on ‘e’ and ‘d’ files. But how will you remember which piece will go on which file?

We have a trick for that as well! “Queen go on their color”.

Basically, your queen will go on d1 if you are white. As you can see, the d1 square is in White color, the same as the side you’re playing.

If you’re Black, your queen will go on d8.


Step 7

After arranging all the other pieces on their squares, there’s only one place left for the king! The White king is to be placed on e1 and the Black king on e8.


And voila! You have successfully learned how to set up the chessboard!

It’s always good to double check if your board does not have notation that you indeed have the queens on their color and white square in the right corner of each side.

Remember “White on right”, “Queens on their color”


Knowing how to arrange the chessboard is only the first step in learning chess. You have just started your chess journey!

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