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Chess Board Set Up Overview

Setting up a chess board may seem a bit complicated for the beginner, but this guide will make it seem easy and provide you will the knowledge you need to properly set up your game of chess. If you don't want to deal with setting up a chess board then check out electronic chess sets.

Setting up a chess pieces is really quite simple and there's nothing to it. Before we look at the actual chess board setup, let's look at some of the characteristics of the board itself.

What are the dimensions on a chess board?

This partly depends on your taste and the purpose of the boards. The World Chess Federation specifies the size of a square to be about twice the diameter of a pawn's base and it's recommended that the side of a square be about 5 to 6.5 cm (2-2.6 inches). So if you want a tournament regulation chess board then you can follow these guidelines, otherwise it's up to you. The actual chess board size will be around 50.8 cm (20 inches) square.

How many squares on a chess board?

In total there are 64 squares on a traditional board, 32 are light and 32 are dark. Traditionally the lighter squares are white and the darker squares are black. A board has 8 rows and 8 columns. The rows are labeled 1-8 where row 1 is the first row on the side that the light pieces have been set up. The columns are labeled a-h where column a is the first column on the left on the side where the light pieces have been set up.

What are the Chess Piece Names and How many are there?

Each side has 16 pieces. Meaning there are 16 black pieces and 16 white pieces. Each side has a king (taller then queen), a queen (shorter then king), 2 rooks (often looking like castles traditionally), two knights (often looking like horses traditionally), two bishops (often bearing a notch or symbol traditionally), and then 8 pawns (smallest of the pieces).

How to set up the pieces on a board?

When playing chess you often hear coordinates being used when moving pieces. For example, a7 to a6. This would move a dark pawn from its starting position one row forward. Below are the coordinates for the initial piece setup.

Light Pieces (white) Dark Pieces (black)
a1 (Dark Square) = Rook a8 (Light Square) = Rook
b1 (Light Square) = Knight b8 (Dark Square) = Knight
c1 (Dark Square) = Bishop c8 (Light Square) = Bishop
d1 (Light Square) = Queen d8 (Dark Square) = Queen
e1 (Dark Square) = King e8 (Light Square) = King
f1 (Light Square) = Bishop f8 (Dark Square) = Bishop
g1 (Dark Square) = Knight g8 (Light Square) = Knight
h1 (Light Square) = Rook h8 (Dark Square) = Rook
Pawns are placed across row 2 on columns
a-h.
Pawns are placed across row 7 on columns
a-h.

Chess Set Up - Board Visualization

Take a look at this chess board visualization to get a better idea of the layout.

Chess Set Up

If you're looking for a chess set then it might also be worth mentioning that the World Chess Federation (WCF) also prefers that boards be made of wood, plastic or card but in all cases should be rigid. Boards of marble may also be acceptable as long as appropriate light and dark colors are used but must be approved. Some natural wood can also be used as long colors and shine meet regulations.

If you're not concerned about a a WCF approved board then there are other options as well such as vinyl , gold, and glass.

Now You know the basics of setting up chess pieces. Happy Playing!