Your Comprehensive Step-by- Step Guide to Setting Up a Chess Board The Right Way!
Every time I play a game of chess I see it as a war. A war compiled of many battles—some of which I will win, and some that I will lose.
Each piece on your chess board signifies a character or element in a medieval war. Understanding each character will help you remember how to set up your chess board. Because the game of chess was meticulously designed and well thought out, the placement of each chess piece is integral to playing (and winning) the game.
Today I’m not only going to show you how to set up your board. I’m also going to teach you the reasons behind the placement of each piece. There’s a reason for everything in chess.
Chess is inherently a game of logic and reason, and understanding the motivation and purpose behind every character will widen your understanding of the game—and make you BETTER!
After you review everything below about your upcoming battle – you will have a board that looks like the image above! Now let’s get started!
Table of Contents
Many players see the pawns as cannon fodder. Pieces that can be used and lost without much consequence to the ultimate game. After all, you have 8 of them, so why not waste a few, right?
I disagree with this strategy. The pawn is my favorite chess piece, and I’ll show you why.
The Purpose of Your Pawns
You will start the game with 8 pawns. Each pawn holds 1 point in the game. This means that if you capture a pawn, you gain 1 point over your opponent. The same is true in favor of your opponent if roles are reversed.
Pawns have three main purposes in the game:
– They are placed in front of all the other pieces as a form of protection. They not only protect the other pieces, but they can also be played in a way where they protect each other.
– Pawns should be used to dominate the centre of the board. As every good chess player knows, if you hold the centre, you have a better chance of winning the game.
– Pawns can also be used to reach the other side of the board. When this happens, they change to any other piece you want—including the ever-powerful queen!
Pawns are sneaky. I like them because they’re under the radar. While your opponent is focusing on your other “more valuable” pieces, you can set up a stellar defense or attack. Don’t ever underestimate the power and value of a pawn—not yours, and certainly not your opponent’s.
The Placement of Your Pawns
8 pawns are placed across the second row of your board side. All the other pieces are placed behind them—which we will discuss further below.
- If you’re playing the white pieces, the squares that hold your pawns are the entire a – h squares of row 2.
- If you’re playing the black pieces, you will place your pawns across the entire row 7, also a – h.
Each player starts the game with 2 Rooks. This piece is shaped like a castle, and for good reason.
Castles and forts were considered the dominant shields against enemy attacks. More importantly, they were the main protectors of the king.
The Purpose of Your Rooks
Your castle is worth 5 points in a chess game—the second highest value of any other piece, secondonly to the queen.
Both rooks are placed on the far corner of each side for both opponents respectively. I’ve always seen this as an enveloping protective barrier for all the other pieces. Because the rook can move sideways or straight for as many squares as it wants, it’s in the perfect position to protect the pawns from behind—and more importantly—the king.
How Does the Rook Protect the King?
You may be thinking that the rook is too far from the king to provide any kind of adequate
protection. But that’s why castling is such a great chess move. Either of your rooks can move
sideways past the king to protect it (almost as if your king is entering the castle during a war.
There are conditions to castling which you should bear in mind:
– Castling can only take place if the king and the rook in question have not yet moved during
– None of the squares involved or between the castling move can be under attack.
– There can be no other pieces occupying squares between the rook and king.
Always try to castle if you can. It’s a great way to protect your king behind the pawns and beside therook. It also frees up your rook to get involved in the game.
The Placement of Your Rooks
As mentioned, the rooks are placed on the corners at the start of a chess game.
- White player’s rook will occupy squares a1 and h1
- Black player’s rooks will occupy the a8 and h8 squares.
Your Skilled Fighters
Every kingdom needs knights. Knights were the trained fighters who rode into battle and slayed
multiple enemies. They were excellent at fighting, extremely manoeuvrable on their horses, and
could easily escape when in danger. The same can be said about your knight pieces in chess. Let me show you why.
The Purpose of Your Knights
The knight is valued at 3 points in a chess game. That may not sound like a lot, but losing one can
seriously put you at a disadvantage in a game of chess.
The purposes of a knight are similar to those of a real knight in medieval times:
– To manoeuvre easily
– To escape quickly
– To target multiple squares that are not necessarily close by
How Does a Knight Move?
The knight can only move in an L-shape. But this makes it a very unique chess piece. It’s also the only piece that can jump over other pieces. The knight piece is probably the sneakiest of all, because many players don’t notice or predict where it will land up next.
The Placement of Your Knights
Your knights will be placed right next to the castle—which is fitting if you think about it. Knights were often kept close to fortresses and castles as guards to the king.
- White player’s knights are placed on b1 and g1 respectively.
- Black player’s knights will be placed on squares b8 and g8.
Let’s talk about the bishop. In medieval times there was little-to- no separation of religion and state. The religious leaders held way more power than they do in our modern society. Because they were the trusted advisors of the king, bishops had a strong influence on war.
The Purpose of Your Bishops
Your one bishop will dominate all of the white squares because it can move diagonally in any
direction for as many squares as it wants. Your other bishops will dominate all of the black squares.
This is a move that can easily be missed by your opponent, because the bishop lies tucked away on one end of the board, but can suddenly move diagonally to the other side. Very useful if you position them correctly!
A bishop holds the same value as a knight, which is 3 points. So trading off a knight for a bishop—orvice versa—is an acceptable sacrifice in any chess game.
The Placement of Your Bishops
Place your bishops next to your knights.
- White player’s bishops will be placed on squares 1c and 1f.
- Black player’s bishops will be placed on squares c8 and f8.
Your Most Dedicated Strategic Partner
The king’s closest ally in any war is his wife, the queen. The queen is valued at 9 points in a chess
game because she is a combination of the rook and the bishop. A queen can move sideways,
straight, and any diagonal direction for as many squares as you want her to. This makes her the most powerful chess piece—which of course comes with a certain level of vulnerability.
The Purpose of Your Queen
The placement of your queen suggests that she is both an offensive and defensive chess piece. It’s
always best not to move your queen away from her initial position too soon, as she provides
protection to multiple centre pieces during the first stages of a game.
How you use your queen is up to you. Just make sure you always keep her protected, as losing your queen can severely decrease your chances of winning.
The Placement of Your Queen
This is where it gets slightly tricky.
- The white player’s queen must be placed on the d1 square.
- The black player’s queen must be placed on the d8 square.
This means the queen always starts the game on her side’s color, and both queen start opposite
And Finally… YOU
The piece that represents your life in a game of chess is the king. If your king dies, you lose the game. Simple as that. Every other piece on your side has the ability to protect your king or attack youropponent’s king.
The Placement of Your King
There’s only one square left, and that’s exactly where your king goes!
- The white player will place the king on the e1 square.
- The black player will place the king on e8 square.
So again, the kings are placed opposite each other but on opposite colors to what they are playing.
So use your pieces wisely to achieve both objectives of defending and attacking. Chess is a game of
offense and defence. Learning to master both is important.