How to

How To Set Up A Chess Board: A Simple Guide

First time playing chess and not sure how to set up a chess board? Don’t worry as we have got you covered. This article will teach you how to set up a chess board in a matter of minutes. So read along to find out.

Chess is one of the most popular board games in the world. Today many people play chess not just as a hobby but also as a serious tournament-level chess player. It is a sport that helps you develop your concentration and improves your level of thinking. Because it doesn’t depend on age nor does it require retirement, this sport is played by people of all ages during the whole year.

The game of chess is loved all over the world. From Amsterdam to Zhengzhou, people gather in living rooms, pubs, plazas, and libraries to match wits over the cherished checkerboard.

Why is it that people are willing to devote such time to the game? It’s undoubtedly the fact that chess involves an intense intellectual challenge that’s very good for the health of your mind.

If you are just starting to learn how to play chess and wish to learn how to set up a chess board, we have devised an easy to follow guide that will make you a pro in no time.

What is Chess?

Chess is a game played between two opponents on opposite sides of a board containing 64 squares of alternating colors. Each player has 16 pieces: 1 king, 1 queen, 2 rooks, 2 bishops, 2 knights, and 8 pawns. The goal of the game is to checkmate the other king. Checkmate happens when the king is in a position to be captured (in check) and cannot escape from capture.

The goal of Chess is to maneuver your pieces in an effort to remove your opponent’s pieces and ultimately capture his or her King. That might sound easy enough, but don’t forget your opponent has the same goal in mind, so while you’re strategizing your win, you also have to strategize your defense. There are some hard and fast rules in Chess, but there is also an art to achieving the ultimate goal of “checkmate” (winning the game). The art is in the movement of your pieces and the way you strategize the win.

History of chess

The history of Chess is a much-debated topic amongst historians, but the consensus is that it has its origins in Persia or India. The oldest ancestor of Chess is a 4,000-year-old game called Chaturanga—a game played with dice and playing pieces consisting of elephants, horses, chariots, and foot soldiers. The most recent ancestor of Chess, as we know it today, is a 2,000-year-old game called “Shatranj,” which was played by Persians and Arabs. The current game of Chess was designed by a champion player of his day (the 1840s) named Howard Staunton.

Pieces in a chess set

In a standard Chess set, you usually have white and black playing pieces. Some fancier sets have dark and light colored pieces in all different shapes and sizes, but it’s usually easy enough to identify who is who and which side is “black” or “white.”

In the royal courts of Europe, human chess boards were not uncommon. The pieces were human beings dressed in costume to represent various Chess pieces. The game was played on a huge chessboard in a courtyard or lawn. The human pieces took their places on the board. Monarchs and courtiers called the moves and the “pieces” moved where they were told to go.

Here is a list of the different pieces and the moves they can make on the board:

The King

This piece is the most important piece and, ironically, one of the least powerful. The King can only move one square in any direction and usually doesn’t journey too far into the board as a means of self-protection. But don’t be fooled! The King is the key player in the game because when the King is captured, the game is over. The primary objective of Chess is to capture your opponent’s King while keeping your own well-guarded.

When your King is trapped and cannot avoid capture, your opponent calls “checkmate” and the game is complete. If your King is threatened with capture, your opponent calls “check” and you have to figure out how to move out of that position. A King cannot move into a “check” position, but if your opponent says “check,” you must move out right away, and there are only three ways to accomplish this:

  • Capture the piece that is threatening your King.
  • Block the path between your opponent’s threatening piece and your King. (Don’t forget that Knights cannot be blocked.)
  • Move the King away.

The Queen

Ah the Queen, your most valuable player. She is the most powerful piece on the board with her ability to move forward, backward, and diagonally for as many squares as you want her to go-as long as her path is not blocked. Watch out though, if you lose this piece to your opponent, your offense and defense will be severely hindered.

The Rook

This is another very powerful piece due to its range of mobility. The Rook, often shaped like a castle, can move forward and backward along any row as long as no other piece is blocking its path. The Rook cannot, however, move diagonally.

The Bishop

This piece, like the Rook, is very powerful due to its range of motion. Unlike the Rook, the Bishop can move on a diagonal and can move as many spaces as needed, provided there is no other piece in its path.

The Knight

The value of the Knight usually applies to the early stages of the game. It is a powerful piece that moves in an L-shape on the board. The reason it is so powerful in the beginning of the game is because it can jump other pieces on a crowded board.


These are the least powerful pieces due to their lack of mobility on the board. A Pawn can only move one square at a time (if its path is not blocked), except on the first play when it can move two squares forward. Pawns can only capture opposing pieces when moving on a diagonal, and even then this piece can only move one square at a time. If the Pawn manages to survive its way to the eighth row (because these pieces don’t last on the board very long), it can promote itself to any other piece except the King.

When a Pawn is promoted, it is then replaced by that piece, so it is possible to have more than one Queen, two Bishops, two Knights, or two Rooks on the board at the same time.

How to set up a chess board

This guide will teach you step-by-step how to set up a chess board to its starting position, and give you easy to remember rules so you never forget! If you want to start playing chess for the very first time, the chessboard and all the pieces may look pretty complicated in the beginning, but don’t worry – the following article will help you with the very first steps into the world of chess!

Of course, as well as a chess board, you’ll need 32 pieces and sometimes even a chess clock.

To start a chess game, the players have to know how to set up a chessboard, to understand on which squares all of the pieces belong.

1.   Make sure the board is in the correct position

The first step in setting up a chess board is positioning it. The chess board, normally, has letters and numbers, the players should always sit on the edge of the board with the letters. Make sure that the bottom-right corner is a light-colored square.

2.   Rooks go in the corner

Rooks usually look like little towers in most styles of chess sets. These pieces go always in the corners, just like in a real fortified castle. If you look at the coordinates, it should be a1, h1, a8, and h8.

3.   The knights should be next to the rooks

Knights are next in line beside rooks when setting up a chess board. Knights usually depict a horse, just like a real knight would ride. Just remember – knights protect the towers of a castle. They move in an “L” shape.

They are worth around 3 pawns and are especially useful at the start of the game due to their unique ability to hop over other pieces.

4.   Bishops go next to the knights

Bishops are the third piece in line on the back row when setting up the chess board. Also, bishops move diagonally any number of unblocked squares. The bishop’s name will help you remember their position. A coronation of a real-life king or queen is usually handled by a religious figure, who puts the crown atop the new monarch’s head.

In chess, bishops are thought to be worth about 3 pawns. They are often active at the start of the game, but if they survive into the late game they gain additional power due to their long range.

5.   The queen always goes to a square of her own color

By now, there should be two squares left on the first row. The queen is placed on the color square that matches the player it represents, so the White queen goes on a light square and the Black queen goes on a dark square. A good way to remember is that queens, being regal, naturally want their outfit to match their shoes. Queens can move any number of unblocked squares horizontally, vertically or diagonally-combining the powers of both a rook and a bishop. Queens are theoretically worth about 9 pawns.

6.   The king goes on the last remaining square

Finally, there should be only one square left on the first row for each player. Put the king there. The king can move one square in any direction.

The ultimate objective of the game is to “checkmate” the opponent’s king, while not losing your own, therefore kings are worth more than all the other pieces on the board put together, even though they are not as strong in play. Your king must be saved at all costs!

7.   Place all the eight pawns on the second and seventh ranks in front of all the other pieces

There are eight pawns of each color in a chess set. They are the smallest and least valuable piece. Every square on the second row should be filled with pawns of each color.

By putting the pawns on the board first, you will be able to identify the other pieces and complete the rest of the chess board setup steps more easily.

Benefits of playing chess

Chess can raise your IQ

Chess has always had a bit of an image problem, being seen as a game for brainiacs and nerds who already have stratospherically high IQs. So there’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation: do smart people gravitate towards chess, or does playing chess make them smart?

Well, in a review of the educational benefits of chess, Robert Ferguson describes a study of 4,000 Venezuelan students, which showed significant increases in the IQ scores of children after four months of chess instruction. Other research has corroborated these results of skill transfer.

Of course it probably works both ways: people who are naturally predisposed to strategic, “thinking” games tend to have higher IQs anyway, but playing chess also develops those same skills so after some time, it should reflect in their IQ scores.

Chess can help prevent Alzheimers

A study featured in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people over the age of 75 who engage in brain-targeted activities like chess were less likely to develop dementia than those who didn’t. Just like an unexercised muscle loses strength due to atrophy, the study’s authors found that unused brain tissue also tends to lose neuroplasticity, the ability to modify, change, and adapt both structure and function in response to learning. These results were corroborated by a big review that concluded chess is a protective factor against dementia.

The take-home message is that working your brain through problem-solving, thinking games like chess—or puzzles, sudoku, crosswords, and riddles—can keep your brain’s neuroplasticity pliant as you age, helping to stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Chess exercises both sides of the brain

In a German study titled ‘Mechanisms and neural basis of object and pattern recognition: a study with chess experts’, researchers showed chess experts and novices simple geometric shapes (unrelated to the game) and chess positions and patterns. They then performed a comparative study of their reactions to them, expecting to find that the experts’ left brains were more active than those who were new to chess.

What they instead found was that both hemispheres of the brain were activated by the exercise, and that novices and experts had similar reaction times to the geometric shapes (unrelated to chess), but that the experts were using both sides of their brains to more quickly respond to the chess-related patterns position questions.

This tosses out the idea that chess is a logic-centric game because it actually engages both the logical and creative hemispheres of the brain!

Chess makes you more creative

Since the right hemisphere of the brain is responsible for creativity, it should come as no surprise that activating the right side of your brain helps to stimulate creativity. Specifically, chess has been shown to greatly increase your capacity for originality.

One four-year study by Robert Ferguson had students from grades 7 to 9 play chess, use computers, or do other activities once a week for 32 weeks to see which activity fostered the most growth in creative thinking. The chess group scored higher in all measures of creativity, with originality being their biggest area of gain!

So, if you’re struggling to write that novel, perhaps invest in a chess board!

Chess improves your memory

Most serious chess players know-at least anecdotally-that playing chess improves your memory. Being a good player requires you to recognize patterns, plan strategies involving long sequences of moves, and remember how your opponent has operated in the past to help you win. But there’s also hard evidence to back up the anecdotal data.

In a two-year ‘Chess in Education’ study done in 1985, young students who were given regular opportunities to play chess improved their grades in all subjects. Their teachers also noticed that they exhibited better memory and organizational skills. This was corroborated by a similar study of sixth-graders in Pennsylvania. In fact, even students who had never before played chess were able to improve memory and verbal skills after playing!

Chess improves your problem solving skills

In a 1992 New Brunswick (Canada) study, a group of 450 students were split into three groups consisting of a control group (Group A), which received the typical math curriculum; Group B, who, in addition to the standard math curriculum, received chess instruction after first grade; and Group C, who began chess instruction in the first grade, in addition to math.

All of the groups then received a standardized test and it was shown, quite shockingly, that Group C’s grades went up from an average of 62% to 81.2%, outpacing Group A’s average by 21.46%.

This study shows just how much the game of chess exercises the kind of problem-solving skills that are employed during mathematics. And it makes sense: a chess match is like one big puzzle that needs solving, only, with every turn your opponent takes, the challenge (and therefore the solution) completely changes. And this is great brain exercise!

Chess improves your reading skills

In an oft-cited 1991 study, Dr. Stuart Margulies studied the reading performance of 53 elementary school students who participated in a chess program, evaluating them in comparison with non-chess-playing students in the district and around the country. He found definitive results that playing chess improved reading performance: in a school district where the average students tested below the national average level of reading skill, kids from the district who played the game tested above it.

Chess improves your concentration

Unsurprisingly, the intense concentration that the game of chess demands serves as really good exercise for players, who can then apply those skills of concentration to other areas of their life! Getting distracted or thinking about something else for even a moment can result in the loss of a match, partly because an opponent is not required to tell you how he moved if you didn’t see it. Numerous studies of students in the U.S, Russia, China, and elsewhere have shown time and again that young people’s ability to focus is sharpened through the game of chess.

Chess teachings planning and foresight

One of the last parts of the brain to develop as humans mature is the prefrontal cortex, the region responsible for planning, judgment, and self-control. So, biologically speaking, even young adults aren’t fully matured until this part develops, which is typically by age 24.

Strategy games like chess, however, can promote prefrontal cortex development and help improve teens’ and young adults’ decision-making in all areas of their life, perhaps keeping them from making stupid, risky choices of the kind associated with being young and reckless.


Now that you have learned how to set up a chess board and learned about the different benefits of playing this board game, you can get together with a friend and start practicing!