Board set up for chess: Helpful how-to guide

I remember setting up a chess board when I was a kid – It was not difficult, but two chess pieces can be confusing. You can make mistakes with the Queen and King’s position.

That is precisely the first lesson I learned in chess because when I wanted to play chess with my dad, I had to set up the chess board every time (which was fun for me )!

When I started to teach my daughter how to set up a chess board, I just showed her which chess pieces to set up first, and she was able to memorize and set up the chessboard much faster.

In this article, we will learn about board set up for chess and what I think is the most effective way to memorize a chessboard set up!

What are the Chess board setup and rules?

First of all, you need to know the chess board’s setup; the actual board must have specific rules or set up. I explained this board set up to my daughter, and I believe they are essential, especially if you are starting to learn about chess.

Here are the 8 things you need to identify with your chess board set:

  1. Count the squares of the chess board; there should be 64 squares.
  2. The chess board dimension should be 8×8.
  3. The squares’ color should be alternating (e.g., black and white, white and blue, etc.…)
  4. Each square of the chess board should have equal sizes.
  5. The squares of the board should be large enough to avoid pieces touching each other.
  6. The chess pieces should have a size that is proportional to the square of the board.
  7. There should be 32 chess pieces available for your chess board.
  8. There should be a light square or white square on the bottom-right of the board.

You might also be interested with this article about basics of chess setup

Count the squares of the chess board; there should be 64 squares.

board setup for chess
The squares of the chess board should be 64

The squares of the chess board should not be less than or greater than 64 squares. If you are wondering why the board has 64 squares, well, the answer is because chess has 32 pieces, and multiplying it by 2 is 64 squares. 

Well, the most common answer is if it weren’t 64 squares, the chess board would not be square. 🙂

The chess board dimension should be 8×8.

board setup for chess
8 squares bottom to top and 8 squares from left to right

If you look at chess boards and count the rows and columns, you will notice 8 rows and 8 columns.

Those are the correct dimensions of a chess board; it should be 8 by 8 other sizes besides, that will be the wrong type of chess board. If you have a board with numbers and letters printed on it, you need to check if the last digit is 8, and the last letter is h.

That is an easy way to check if the board has the correct dimension.

Try it out! 🙂

The squares’ color should be alternating (e.g., black and white, white and blue, etc.…)

board setup for chess

The correct chess board should have an alternating color, but there should only be two colors.

The colors should be either green or white, but you will most of the time find white color on every type of chess board, and the other color will need to have a darker color. 

If your board does not have consistent alternating color, then the board does not have the appropriate chess board design and should not play chess!

Each square of the chess board should have equal sizes.

board setup for chess
The ideal size of the square should be 2 to 2.5 inches or 5 to 6.5 cm

The squares, if not equally sized, may cause confusion and mistake with a chess piece position. You or your opponent may not know if a piece placed on a square is exactly on that irregularly sized square.

Especially if you are playing in a tournament, the squares are essential to notice when setting up a chess board.

The squares of the board should be large enough to avoid pieces touching each other.

board setup for chess
In this image the squares are large enough for pieces to stand side by side

In the Blitz game, most players slide their pieces to move, and if the squares are not large enough, you might topple or hit another piece and cause you to lose concentration or lose track of the chess timer.

That is why the chess board squares should be large enough to have a smooth game of chess.

The chess pieces should have a size that is proportional to the square of the board.

board setup for chess
In this image the chess pieces are proportion to the square of the chess board

If your chess pieces are not in proportion with the board’s square, you will have difficulty in the placement and when you are going to capture a chess piece.

According to FIDE, the chess pieces should at least have these sizes below:

Chess PieceSize in cm
King9.5
Queen8.5
Pawn5
Bishop7
Knight 6
Rook5.5

Even if you are not going to play in strict chess tournament rules, you may want to have a chess piece appropriately sized with your chess board and its squares.

There should be 32 chess pieces available for your chess board.

board setup for chess
In this image we have 16 white chess pieces and another 16 black chess pieces with a total of 32 chess pieces on the board

One of the essential items to check in your chess board is the chess pieces. You should count or ask the seller to set up the chess board to check if the chess pieces are complete.

There should be 32 chess pieces consisting of the following:

2 Kings one is Black, and the other is for White

There should be a light square or white square on the bottom-right of the board.

board setup for chess
In this image I am pointing at the light square on the bottom right of the board

The most common chess board rule you should know is this last one. A light square or white square should be available on the bottom right of the chess board.

This is a rule or design that will help chess analysis a lot easier. If the white square is not located on the board’s bottom right, then all the colors of the chess pieces and notations will be challenging to identify.

It is still possible to analyze a previous chess game but more difficult; again, this is for the game’s uniformity.

If you want to learn more, I have explained this in this video.

Chess pieces set up position.

Now that we know what should be the design and set up a chess board, it is time to learn how to set up the pieces on your chess board.

Here are the 7 steps I teach my kids in setting up a chess board.

  1. Separate the chess pieces with the same colors
  2. Group the same chess pieces together
  3. Start with your Pawn position
  4. Place the Rook in the corners
  5. Position the Knight after the Rook
  6. Place your Bishop next to the Knight 
  7. Lastly, set up the Queen and King’s position, respectively

Separate the chess pieces with the same colors

board setup for chess
In this image the chess pieces are separated against their color

Did you know that the fastest time to set up a chess board was around 25 seconds? I’m planning to beat that record…

Anyway, if you are just a beginner and it’s your first time setting up a chess board, the best way is to combine all pieces with the same color.

It is already packed separately with my silicone chess board, and this is a good idea to have your chess pieces with the same color on a plastic bag.

This is going to make the set up more organized and save you a lot of time!

Group the same chess pieces together

board setup for chess
As you can see in this image the chess pieces are grouped with the same pieces

Once you have separated the chess pieces with the same color, you can now group the same chess pieces.

I’m referring to the same design of chess pieces, for example, the black pawns together, white pawns together, the black bishops together, white bishops together, and so on.

This way, all you need to do is locate the grouped chess pieces to its proper square located on the board.

Start with your Pawns position.

I will typically start with the pawns once I group the chess pieces. That is what I told my kids too!

Start with a pawn position; all you need to do is line them up in the second rank if you are white or 7th rank if you are black.

Here are images that can help you learn how to set up the pawns on your board.

board setup for chess
In this image I started with placing the pawns on rank 2 and rank 7 of the board

Place the Rooks in the corners.

Now once you are familiar with the chess board set up, you can randomly pick up any chess pieces and position it on its proper square.

But since you are just beginning to learn how to set up a chess board, you should start with these next steps.

We will set up the board going inwards, take the Rooks, and place them on the corner squares – that would be the first rank or 8th rank of the chess board.

Here are the images that will help you set up the Rooks properly:

board setup for chess
In this image the position of Rooks are in the last corner of the board a1,h1 and a8 and h8

Position the Knights after the Rook

These next two steps will be relatively easy; you need to continue positioning the pieces at the center of each square next to the Rooks is the Knights!

We are still moving inwards; the Knights, if you are not familiar, are the horses.

If your board has letters and numbers, your Knights will be located on the b-file and the g-file.

Here are the images that will help you set up the Knights on your board:

board setup for chess
In this image the Knights are placed in squares b1,g1 and b8, g8

Place your Bishops next to the Knight. 

The last pieces that are grouped with the same design are your Bishops!

You should have 4 Bishops left, 2 white Bishops, and 2 black Bishops; double check if you have those on your board.

Now that you have your Bishops ready place them next to your Knights! Bishops will be located on the c-file and f-file.

Here are the images that can help you identify if you are setting up the board correctly for your Bishops:

board setup for chess
In this image the Bishops are placed next to our Knights.

Lastly, set up the Queen and King’s position, respectively.

Finally, we have our Queens and Kings!

In this last step, we will follow a very simple rule for placing the Queen on the board.

The most popular rule is that “The Queen takes its color,” which means if your Queen is white, then place it on the light square or white square; if your Queen is Black, put it on the dark square.

This leaves us with the last square for the 1st rank and 8th rank, the e-file for the King!

Here are the images that can help you with setting up your Queen and King:

Chess board set up King

board setup for chess
In this image the White King is located in e file
board setup for chess
In this image the Black King is located in e file
The Kings should look like the image above

Chess board set up Queen

board setup for chess
In this image the White Queen is located in d file
board setup for chess
In this image the Black Queen is located in d file
The Queens should be setup like the image above

Where does the Queen go on a chessboard?

board setup for chess
Take a look at the image where the White Queen is placed in the d1 square
board setup for chess
In this image the Black Queen is located in the d8 square

Where does the King go in chess?

board setup for chess
The White King goes to the e1 square of the chess board
board setup for chess
The Black King goes to the e8 square of the chess board

That is the step that I teach my kids in setting up a chess board. Once you get the hang of it, you can jumble up the chess pieces, and you can still correctly set up your chess board!

You need to go through this if you are just a beginner!

4 Other things that help learn how to set up a chess board

Chess board layout with names 

If you want to see a chess board layout with names, I have created an image below where you can read the names on the square of the board layout.

Here is an image of this layout:

chess board set up
Take a look carefully with the image above of the chess board layout with names.

How do you set up a kid’s chess board?

Setting up a kid’s chess board is more fun, and it’s the same as setting up any chess board; you follow the steps I mentioned in this article. The chess positions will not change; the only difference is the kid’s chess pieces’ design. 

The kid’s chess board will have characters from popular games or even their favorite tv shows. 

If you are interested to learn more I wrote an article about themed chess sets or like star wars chess set for kids.

What does a chess board set up look like?

A chess board set up will look like the initial set up of all the chess pieces, the initial set up is where no chess pieces have been moved. I added an image below a chess board set up, which you can use as a reference.

board setup for chess

What do the King and Queen look like in chess?

Some beginners will have a hard time identifying the image of a King or Queen. All you have to know is that commonly the King will have a cross as a crown, and the Queen will have a normal crown. I added different images of King and Queen below, which I hope will be helpful for you.

chess board set up
chess board set up
chess board set up
chess board set up

Wrapping Up

It’s very important to position each chess piece in the center of each square of the chess board. Avoid pieces touching each other or pieces crossing over another square next to it. By following this guide, you can quickly master a chess board setting within a few minutes.

You can make your chess board using a paper, preferably a larger size paper, and you need to have a straight ruler and a pencil or color pen.

Once you have the requirements, you can follow this guide to make your chess board. There are many ways to create a chess board if you are not planning to buy a chess board.

You can make a print out with your preferred chess colors or maybe use used clothes and paint a chess board on it. You need to follow critical basic rules, and you can have your chess board.

Oh, if you ask what about the chess pieces, you can use a bottle cap and label them or print and stick them on top of the cap!

That’s just another idea you can follow for your chess board set up! I hope you learn something exciting and enjoy playing chess!

Gary Flores

Hi there! I'm a dad with kids who loves to learn how to play chess by learning online - also, this is my way of refreshing my knowledge about this game of tactics & strategy. I created chessdelights.com to inspire people who are also learning, re-learning or teaching their kids the game of chess.

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