Chess Piece Set Up & Board Layout for Beginners

Chess Pieces Set Up: The Definitive Guide For Chess BeginnersIf you are a beginner, the first thing you should know is that you will need 16 black and 16 white pieces. For a more detailed overview of chess piece setup, with more visuals, learn how to set up a chessboard here.

Chess pieces set up:

Each player has 8 pawns at the beginning of a chess game. Pawns are the least valuable chess pieces on the chessboard. While you are still an amateur, it’s no real drama if you lose one of the pawns during the game.

Each player also has 4 minor pieces at the beginning of a game – two knights and two bishops each. Knights and bishops are worth about 3 pawns.  Moreover, each player has two rooks which are more valuable chess pieces, being worth 5 pawns.

The queen, the second tallest chess piece on the chessboard, is the second precious piece of the game. Each player has one queen who is extremely powerful and worth 9 pawns. You see how important she is? She is worth more than all the pawns which you possess.

However, the most important chess piece is the king! Throughout the whole game, you must care for his safety – otherwise, you’ll lose the game. The main goal in the chess game is to checkmate the king.

Thus, while you have attack your opponent’s king, yours must always be in a safe place, protected by the other pieces. Your king’s value can’t be counted in pawns, because these would be endless.

In the graphic on the right, you can see how the chess pieces look like, and from now on identify them without any problems:

The Chess Board Set-Up:

Chess Pieces Set Up: The Definitive Guide For Chess Beginners

Before we set up the chess pieces, let us have a look at the structure of the chessboard itself. The chessboard consists of 64 squares.

Half of the squares are white and the other half is black, spread out evenly. By the way, half of the chess pieces are also white while the other half is black.

The chessboard has the shape of a quadrant which makes it consist of 8 horizontal lines (called ranks) and 8 vertical lines (called files).

The horizontal lines are indicated by numbers from 1 to 8 and the vertical lines with the letters a to h.

Consequently, a number and a letter are matched to each square which makes it easier to explain where the chess pieces are situated.

Chess Pieces Set Up: The Definitive Guide For Chess BeginnersIf you are the player with the white pieces, your chess pieces will be situated on the first two ranks – lines 1 and 2 – at the beginning of the game.

Whereas, if you are the player with the black pieces, your chess pieces will be situated on the last two ranks – lines 7 and 8 – at the start of the game.

From White’s perspective, the chessboard without the chess pieces looks like the image on the right.

Here’s a useful tip to make sure your chessboard is oriented correctly: “White on the right”. If the bottom right square is white, your chessboard is facing the right way.

What is the appropriate chess pieces set up?

  • Step 1: If your board has letters and numbers, the players should sit on the edge of the board with the letters.
  • Step 2: The bottom-right corner should be light-colored.
  • Step 3: Place the pawns on the second row, from each player’s point of view.
  • Step 4: Rooks go in the corners.
  • Step 5: Knights go next to the rooks.
  • Step 6: Bishops go next to the knights.
  • Step 7: The queen goes on her own color.
  • Step 8: The king goes to the last square remaining.
  • Step 9: Double-check everything

Here’s how the chessboard should look before the start of a chess game.

Chess Pieces Set Up: The Definitive Guide For Chess Beginners

Even if you cannot yet play like a grandmaster, you can still do everything in your power to appear like a pro before the game starts. You can learn how to fill out the score sheet, and you can learn chess etiquette – you can make some polite chitchat before the game starts and wish your opponent luck with a firm and sincere handshake.

But if you do not know how the proper chess pieces set up, it will immediately flag you as a rank beginner (or a patzer, in chess parlance).

Learning proper chess pieces set up, and the correct chess board setup may look complicated at first, but after a little practice, you will get the hang of it.

You might even be able to land the first psychological blow of the battle if your opponent has set their side of the board incorrectly – nothing will make you feel quite so smug as pointing out that your adversary has put their queen on the wrong square before the game has even begun!

How to Make Sure the Positions are Correct

Before starting the game, do one final check of the pieces and their positions to make sure that the chessboard set up has been done correctly.

  • Are all the squares on the first and second row occupied?
  • Have you used all the pieces in the chess set?
  • Do all the pieces mirror each other? (For example, the White king should directly face the Black king on the other side of the board)
  • Is the bottom-right square (from either player’s perspective) a light square? If not, you will have to go back to step 1 and start again! 

Once you have all the chess pieces set up, the real game begins. The player with the White pieces always moves first. If you are playing in a friendly game, you can decide who plays White and who plays as Black by tossing a coin, hiding a pawn of each color behind your back, and getting your opponent to choose, or simply by agreement.

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