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.



The Official Staunton Chess Company's Guide to Chess

The Official Staunton Chess Company is your number one choice when it comes to high quality chess sets. We have a variety of options available and we are here to help you if you need assistance when it comes to selecting the ideal chess set for you. Furthermore, we have taken the time to create a guide that should answer most of your common questions. Read the guide entirely and selecting a chess set that is ideal for you will be easy.

Table of Contents

  • What Does Pieces, Boards & Sets Mean

  • Overview of Chess Pieces & Board Options

  • Overview of Pieces & Board Materials

  • Purchasing - Present or Family Heirloom

  • Selecting an Beginner, Intermediate, or Pro Chess Set

  • Finding the Ideal Chess Set For You

What Does Pieces, Boards & Sets Mean?

Chess Board- The item that is used for playing chess

Chess Pieces – The 32 pieces that you use to play the game

Chess Set – An complete set that includes everything you need to play the game

When you shop with us, you will find that we have the best chess items to allow you to create your own custom chess set. You can get as creative as you like; do not be afraid to let your imagination run wild.

Overview of Chess Pieces & Board Options

Staunton – Chess players throughout the globe are familiar with this option. They originated back in 1849. It is a great piece for those who are new to chess. You can instantly recognize the pieces and they look amazing with all boards. There is quite a selection when it comes to Staunton designed pieces.

 Lewis Chessmen– Those who want unique pieces find these to be ideal. They were introduced on the Isle of Lewis in 1831. The originals can be found in museums yet the replicas are a close match to the originals.


 World Chess Championship Chess Pieces – These pieces were designed by Daniel Weil with the Staunton styled pieces in mind. Many chess players think of them as a more modern version of the Staunton styled chess pieces.

 Themed – Those who want, their chess set to stand out from others, should consider going with a themed set. You have a wide variety of options to choose from that are sure to meet your expectations.


 Board Styles -There are no steadfast chessboard styles, so you will come out better if you just browse the available selection to see which one catches your eye. Usually, boards are going to have a modern style while still having the traditional look. There are many colours available too

Overview of Pieces & Board Materials 

The materials used in chess pieces and board materials vary. You will want to make a decision based on your desires and your budget. Below you will find some of the commonly used materials for both.

Chess Pieces

Boxwood - Boxwood is an astonishing grained wood that is used mostly in mid to high priced pieces. It is appealing to the eye and can come in white or black.

 Ebony Wood – This wood looks to be black and it is found in mid to high priced sets.

 Resin – Resin is a dense material that can be moulded into various shapes while maintaining a healthy weight. Usually, medium to low ranged sets use this. However, higher priced sets can use it to since resin allows the pieces to have more details.

 Plastic – Budget friendly pieces are made with plastic because it can easily be shaped into various shapes.

 Metal – If you want pieces that feel a little heavy in your hand metal pieces are ideal.

Additionally, pieces can be made out of stone, glass, and ceramic.

Chess Boards

Sycamore – This wood has a mild grain and is light in colour. You will find that Sycamore is used on some of the higher quality boards.

 Walnut – Walnut is darker in appearance and the grain is vivid. It is also used on higher quality boards.

 Wenge – This wood is extremely dark and it can be found on deluxe boards.

 Maple – This is a light coloured wood, which you will find used with wenge wood on premium quality boards.

 Ebony Wood – You will find this type of wood used on premium and deluxe boards.

 Rosewood – Rosewood has a slight red tint to it so when your board is made with this type of wood it will give off a unique appeal.

If you purchase an chess board that uses a combination of the woods mentioned above you will find that you have made a great investment. This is because the board you have will be of premium quality and provide a smooth top for you to enjoy playing chess on. Therefore, when making a decision to invest in a chest board you have to consider what your preferences are when it comes to looks and aesthetics.

Purchasing - Present or Family Heirloom 

Purchasing a chess set as a timeless gift or heirloom is a great decision to make. Chess sets can be budget friendly yet at the same time some sets are amazing works of art. They combine fine materials and sometimes they even take hours to be created. The most beautiful ones are sure to be the perfect gift or family heirlooms.

If you are looking for a chess set that will be ideal as a timeless gift or heirloom we suggest that you choose a luxury set. They will be handcrafted, which enable it to last for decades to come so they can be passed down from generation to generation. Additionally, there are even limited edition chess sets available too.

Selecting an Beginner, Intermediate, or Pro Chess Set 


The price and quality of a chess set does play a role in which chess set you should buy. However, your chess skills should also determine the ideal chess set for you too. Below, we will go into more detail to help making a decision on what type of investment to make easier.

  • Beginner Chess Sets - We recommend that beginners start with a value or mid-range chess set. When you are just starting out you are unsure if you are going to continue. If you do decide to play chess for the long term, you can later invest in a set that has more detail and a higher price tag.


  • Intermediate – If you have been playing for a little while a mid-range set will provide you with the quality that you need. When you decide to take your chess game more serious we recommending upgrading to a luxury set. This way you can stay motivated while playing because your opponent is going to be in awe once they see the quality of your chess set.



  • Professional – When you play in tournaments, it is suggested that you go with a luxury chess set. They will be hand crafted with the highest quality woods, which will provide you with the highest quality experience when you play your favourite game. Investing in a luxury chest set is a smart decision too because it can be passed down to others in your family. The best part is you can receive a high quality luxury set at a rate that easily fits into your budget.

Finding the Ideal Chess Set For You 


Are you curious about how the game of chess works? – If you are someone who is unfamiliar with the game of chess but wants to get started, one of the value boards is ideal for you. It will look good, be of a decent quality, and fit into your budget easily. If you feel as though you are going to enhance your chess skills and play for the long term a mid range set may be ideal.

Do you need a set for entertaining? – Many chessboards are ideal for entertaining at home. However, we always suggest going with a mid-range board because it allows playing to be more enjoyable. The best part is if you plan to keep it displayed you will find that they can be appealing to anyone who walks inside of your home.

Are you a part of a chess club? – If you are trying to impress the other members in your chess club a mid range or luxury chess set is ideal for you. You will find that if you play a lot, the artisanship and woods will allow the chessboards to last you for decades to come. Some boards even have a chess clock so you can make the game even more competitive.

Do you play in regional or national tournaments? – Some lower priced chessboards can work for tournaments. However, we suggest going with one of the luxury chessboards. They will allow you to enjoy all of the tournaments that you go to while also impressing your competitors. Additionally, you will be able to pass the board down when you make the decision to have a deluxe chessboard. You will find that we have some of the highest quality chessboards around.

Are you a professional chess player? – If you are someone, who makes a living playing chess, a luxury chess set is ideal for you. You work hard and you deserve nothing but the best so it can last you for years to come. You will find that we have boards available that are FIDE approved, which makes making this investment very wise.

Closing Thoughts 

Some sets are going to be ideal for you yet not for others. Therefore, you have to base your decision of which chess set to invest in off your budget, personal preference, experience, and usage estimations. Reading reviews can be helpful yet just because one individual loved the chess set it does not mean that you are going to love it.

When you shop with us, you can feel confident knowing that we have the ideal chess set available for every chess player. We only provide you with high quality chess sets, which means regardless of what your budget is you will be able to find a chess set that meets your expectations. We have all different types of price ranges available. You can even select based off the level of quality and artisanship, woods, grains, and styles to insure that you have the perfect chessboard for your chest needs. Additionally, if you do not find any of the premade sets to be what you were looking for, you always have the option of making your own unique chess set by purchasing everything separately.