How to Set Up a Chess Board

Whether you are an experienced chess player or learning how to play chess for the first time, knowing how to set up a chessboard is an essential part of playing the game. 

If you don’t set your chessboard up right, the rest of the game will be difficult or impossible to play. Mainly because different chess pieces move differently and if they aren’t set up in the right place they may not be able to move at all. 

So if you want to learn how to set up a chessboard correctly, here is a complete guide with step-by-step instructions.

 chess pieces on a chessboard

What You Will Need

To be able to set up your chessboard correctly, you will need to make sure you start with the essential parts of a game of chess. So you will need:

  • 32 chess pieces
  • 1 chess board 

Chess Pieces

You need to make sure you have the right chess pieces to start. You will need:

  • 16 Pawns
  • 4 Knights
  • 2 Queens
  • 4 Bishops
  • 2 Kings
  • 4 Rooks (or Castles)

Each moves around the board differently and so needs to be set up in a particular way. You will have two sets of chess pieces too – one light in colour and one dark. So in total, you will end up with 32 chess pieces to set up.


You will also need a chessboard in order to set up and play your game. Whatever chessboard you use needs to be a square with:

  • 8 rows (ranks)
  • 8 columns (files)

Your board should alternate in color, with light and dark squares. And if you want to play correctly, your chessboard will need to be a particular size too. Read more about why the size of your chessboard is important when it comes to playing chess.


Step by Step: How To Set Up A Chessboard

1. Orientate the board correctly

To remember how to orientate your board think: white on the right. That means that the square on the right-hand corner of your board as it faces you should be white.

2. Set Your Pawns On Row 2

Next, you need to line up your pawns on the second row, also known as the second rank. Your pawns need to fill the whole row, sitting on all square colours with no gaps.

3. Set Your Rooks In The Corners

Then, you need to set your rooks in either corner of your first row (rank). So put one rook in the left-hand corner nearest to you and then the right-hand corner nearest to you. You will have one rook in one square colour and another rook in the other.

4. Set Your Knights Next To Your Rooks

Next, put both of your knights on the squares next to your rooks in the first row. Again, you’ll have one knight in the light colour square and the other knight in the darker colour square.

5. Set Your Bishops Next To Your Knights

Now you need to put your bishops on either side of your knights. One on the left and the other on the right.

6. Put Your Queen On The Same Colour

You should now only have two squares left on the first row. So you need to place your queen on the remaining square that’s of the same colours as her. You can remember this by thinking about dressing the queen in the same colour dress.

7. Set Your King In The Last Square

You king should then be set in the final empty square on the first row. The king will sit in the opposite colour to his own.


8. You Are Ready To Play

Now all of your pieces are set correctly and you are ready to play. Whoever has the lighter chess pieces should move first.