Who goes first in chess and how to decide?

By Gary Flores •  Updated: 07/28/22 •  6 min read

In chess, who goes first? Is it white or black?

In chess, the white piece always goes first, followed by the black piece. In reality, the terms “white” and “black” refer to the lighter and darker chess pieces, respectively. If you have a regular chess board, you'll notice that the “white pieces” aren't always white, but rather a wooden color, even the board's dark color is not black rather it can be green, dark brown, or a different color from white/light color.

In the next sections of this article, we'll look at some examples and go over how to decide who goes first, who is responsible for this rule, and more…

Who made the rule that white goes first in chess?

According to Daaim Shabazz, who is also a top chess player (see here) according to Chess.com, a chess journalist, an associate professor of international business, and also the website owner of thechessdrum.net. The idea for white to make the initial opening move in chess was put forth by Johann Jacob Löwenthal.

It was held in New York in 1857 at the First American Chess Congress where he sent two letters to the secretary of New York Chess Club.

You can read the full article here.

I find it intriguing to consider whether black could have moved first before it became a rule. However, there was a campaign effort about that in 2019, which you'll learn about in the next sections.

The question you'd like to ask now would be how do we decide which players go first?

How to decide who goes first in chess?

So, how can someone determine who goes first in chess? We choose who goes first in a tournament or even a regular game at home by holding two pawns on a closed fist, one white and one black on each hand, and then asking them to point to which hand they want. If it's black, the other player plays white; if it's white, the other player plays black, and vice versa.

Pro Chess Players Study These Checkmate Traps!

Download your playbook to play traps like a pro! In this playbook, you will learn traps you can play with popular chess openings! King's Gambit ,Caro-Kann Defense, Italian Game, Ruy Lopez Opening and more...

Download The FREE Playbook

Does it matter who goes first in chess?

Does it matter who goes first or how important is it who goes first in chess? In chess, it makes no difference who goes first. Chess is a game of tactics and strategies, and your success is determined by how good your tactic or strategy is. That is what is important in chess. Or how lucky you are on that particular day…lol!

Is it better to go first or second in chess?

There is much debate on this topic, with some believing that it is better to go first, while others believe that it is better to go second.

From my own experience, It's always better to go first; I feel that you can dictate the game when you go first. However, there are opening lines that no matter what moves the white makes, you will be able to play an equal position. So, it really does not matter if you go first or second.

Just like the London system chess opening!

Ultimately, the best strategy for going first or second in chess depends on the specific situation and player's matchup.

Which piece to move first in chess?

We now know that the player with the light or white pieces moves first, followed by the player with the black or dark colored pieces (this is also mentioned in Article 1.2 of the Rules of Play of the FIDE handbook).

But if you're looking for a popular opening move for white, look no further than the King's pawn opening move ( which is 1.e4…). I've been playing this opening for a long time, but I also want to learn another opening, like French defense, so that I also have a popular opening for black to study.

Why the King's pawn opening? Well, one of the main lessons in the opening is always to control the center square. This is why this is the most preferred first move in chess.

But if you want to play other moves besides the King's pawn opening, you can also play 1.d4…, 1.Nf3…, and 1.c4… All these opening moves try to attack or control the central square.

If you are curious how I learn chess openings – I usually learn them online! 🙂

You may also want to check out how to learn chess openings online.

So, which piece should you move first? It's always a good idea to move pawns in the opening, not only it control the center square, but you can also develop minor pieces as well!

Does White or Black have the advantage?

Here are some interesting statistics I discovered while researching this question online: white consistently wins against black, with a scoring percentage of 52 and 56. The statistics for tournament games between humans and those between humans and computers are nearly identical.

However, I discovered that white's advantage is less significant in blitz games. That's quite intriguing, don't you think?

As a result, we can conclude that white has no advantage over black.:)

Playing white can be advantageous for some, but it all depends on the players. You could be a professional or a beginner, and your opponent could be a beginner or a grandmaster. This is also an important factor in determining whether playing white or black is advantageous or disadvantageous.

Racist rules of chess! It has been broken!

Here's the thing, there is white and black to distinguish each opposing player. The problem with this is that the term white or black indicates cultural differences worldwide.

However, there has been discussion about this, and it appears that in 2019, none other than Magnus Carlsen, the reigning world chess champion, advocated for letting Black make the initial move, which has broken the long-standing rule of white moving first.

World chess champion Magnus Carlsen and Dutch rival Anish Giri are marking a U.N. international campaign against racism by playing a game in which contrary to the longstanding rules of the game the player with the black pieces made the first move.

Source: https://apnews.com/

You can also read the full article here.

Ultimately, the decision during that time falls at the discretion of both players involved.

Wrapping Up

Making the closed fist hand selection is one of the ways we choose who goes first – which means who plays as white pieces. That is how we traditionally find out who goes first in chess, and up to this day we use that method. 🙂

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.
Pro Chess Players Study These Checkmate Traps!

Download your playbook to play traps like a pro! In this playbook, you will learn traps you can play with popular chess openings! King's Gambit ,Caro-Kann Defense, Italian Game, Ruy Lopez Opening and more...

Download The FREE Playbook
Chess pieces names, functions, equi...
Chess pieces names, functions, equipments & more