How to set up a chess board

Every player should know how to set up a chessboard. During this article, we will show how we should and shouldn’t place our pieces on the board, which materials we need, and the correct position of the board.

Materials needed for setting up a chessboard

If you play this game online, the websites automatically sort everything out. However, this is different in the over-the-board version of this game. The essential pieces needed to set up our board are a chessboard and 32 chess pieces. These pieces are, namely, eight pawns, two Rooks, two Bishops, two Knights, one Queen, and one King for each player.

chessboard setup

Initial Chessboard Setup

After we get these objects, we can have our order on the board and get started. We may also need a chess clock to help us stay on track during the game. If you don’t have a chess clock, various applications that can serve the same purpose can be found on phones or tablets.

Chessboard setup: Step-by-step

After rectifying the board placement, both sides are covering their first two ranks with pieces. We have subdivided this section into seven chapters. Let’s proceed step by step with the right chessboard setup.

#1: Orienting the Board

There are files and ranks attached to the chessboard. If these texts are not on the board, then it helps us figure out where to place them by looking at the white and black squares.

The bottom left corner square should be black – correct board orientation

The bottom left corner square should be black – correct board orientation

So, it is relatively easy to navigate if we are able to identify the left and right lowest corner squares on the board. The left corner is the black square, and the right one has to be white.

chessboard without pieces

A sample of wrong board orientation.

The above picture indicates a wrong angle on the board. Let the left square of the lower corner be black—90-degree rotation of the board. As we adjust it, we turn and get the colors right.

Poor placement of White’s chess board

Poor placement of White’s chess board setup

The given board setup is correct from the Black’s perspective. Please note the file and rank texts. If it intends to be White’s perspective, the board should have been turned around 180 degrees from having its a-file and first rank on that left corner square.

#2: Placing the Pawns on the 2nd and 7th ranks

Once we have the correct chess board setup diagram, we can start placing our pieces. We have sixteen pawns to be positioned initially. Of those pawns, eight belong to White and eight to Black.

chessboard setup with only pawns

Pawn placements on the chess board setup.

The White player places their pawns on the second rank of the board. Similarly, Black positions them in the seventh rank. Each player locates the pieces symmetrical to the enemy. This will be a general rule we will apply to every piece placement.

#3: Placing the Rooks

Once the pawns are placed correctly, we can fill the corner of the board with Rooks. Two Rooks for each party are positioned on the right and left corners.

chessboard set up with only pawns and rooks

Rook placements on the chess board setup.

The appearance of the Rooks is given above. They assemble a fortress by creating the cornerstones of the field. After they are situated, every other piece will be positioned between them.

#4: Placing the Knights

After the Rooks, we can settle the Knights adjacent to them. They will be situated between Rooks and Bishops. Both parties possess one pair of Knights and put them symmetrically, as in the image below.

chessboard set up with only pawns, rooks, and knights

Knight placements on the chess board setup

The White player puts their Knights on the b1- and g1-squares. The Black side places them on the b8- and g8-squares. They may be mixed up with the Bishops due to their minor character. Since they are adjacent to the Rooks, “Knights sit tight” is a creative way to remember their place.

#5: Placing the Bishops

The next step is to situate the Bishops adjacent to the Knights. Unlike Rooks and Knights, they will be adjacent to different pieces on the left and right sides.

Placing the Bishops

Bishop placements on the correct chess board setup.

The correct positioning of the Bishops is shown above.

On the White side, the left Bishop (on the c1-square) is between the Knight and the Queen. The right Bishop (on the f1-square) is between the Knight and the King. On the Black side, the left Bishop (on the f8-square) is between the Knight and the King. The right Bishop (on the c8-square) is between the Knight and the Queen.

Players can think that the Bishops are closer to the big guys (the King and the Queen) than the Knights to avoid confusion during the placement.

#6: Placing the Queen and King

The next step is to finish the setup by putting the remaining pieces (the Queen and the King) in place. Both parties possess a single Queen and King. Once the Queens are placed accurately, the King will have only one available square.

placing the queens

Queen placements on the correct chess board setup.

The two remaining squares (d1- and e1-squares for White and d8- and e8-squares for Black) are white and black-colored. The “Queen sits on its own color” rule will help us place it correctly. The White Queen, for instance, should be on the white square. This will be the d1-square because it is the only remaining light square for White. Similarly, the d8-square is the only remaining dark square for the Black Queen.

placing the kings

King placements on the correct chess board setup.

As the last step, Kings are placed in the last available squares (e1-square for White and e8-square for Black) between the two Rooks. By finishing this step, we are now ready to play the game. But before getting started, it is essential to re-check the settings for new players.

#7: Double-Checking the Setup

One of the most common errors is mixing up the Kings and Queens during the chess board setup. Let’s go through a couple of mistakes we encounter and point them out.

Double-Checking the Setup

Queens and Kings are mispositioned for the initial chess board setup.

In the above setup, the Queens and Kings are swapped. To fix the issue, we must place the Queens on the squares with the same colors as the players.

Always check your opponent’s setup

Always check your opponent’s setup.

Usually, the board is set up by two players. One might be good enough to place the pieces in their correct positions. The enemy, on the other hand, might lack that knowledge. It is essential to check the opposite colors and ensure they are accurate. In the position above, White set up the pieces correctly and should warn Black to switch the King and the Queen.

Knights and Bishops can be mixed up

Another standard error is confusing the placement of the Bishops and the Knights. In the above, Black positioned them right, while White needed to swap them to the proper squares.

Tips for Beginners

  • Once the initial chess board setup is set, White starts the game by playing their first move. Beginners should acknowledge the positioning of the pieces before the game.
  • The squares like f2- and f7- are vulnerable due to inadequate protection from other pieces (only King protects those squares at the start).
  • Another tip is to keep the King as safe as possible. We need him to win the game!


The chessboard should be set correctly to play the game with peace of mind. After orienting it correctly, the pieces can be placed individually to avoid any possible errors. Checking the opponent’s color and ensuring everything is proper is also crucial.

Written by
Emre Sancakli, Сhess Coach
has a rating of 2400+ on and, making him one of the top 5000 players in the world. He teaches many chess enthusiasts and even creates educational courses. As a writer, he keeps bringing his 'A game' to the content you will face on this website.
Ask Question


Where do the King and Queen go on a chessboard?

The Queen sits on her respective color (The White Queen, for instance, stands on the light-squared d1-square), and the King goes adjacent to the Queen.

What is the rule for placing the chessboard?

The corner square in the lower left should be black, and the a-file and the first rank should be on that square for White. - Your One Stop Chess Resource
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