How to Set up a Chessboard

Four Parts:Setting Up a ChessboardUnderstanding Chess RulesMoving the PiecesChess Help

Chess is one of the most ancient games that humanity still plays — and enjoys — to this day. Although chess has only a few rules, it can become wildly complex. Luckily, however, setting up a chess board and learning the rules is straightforward, and you can be on your road to the Grandmaster's Tournament in no time.

Part 1
Setting Up a Chessboard

  1. Image titled Set up a Chessboard Step 1
    Set the board so that the bottom right square is a white square. Both players will have a white square in the right corner of the board closest to them. The setup for each player is identical.
    • You set up your pieces on the two horizontal rows closest to you.
    • Unlike in checkers, chess uses every single square on the board.
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    Place a rook, or castle, on each of your 2 corners. Start with you rooks, which are tall pieces that move in only in straight lines. Place one on each of your two corners.
    • On novelty board, such as Civil War sets or movie-themed pieces, it may be impossible to tell what a piece is without understanding the symbols in the rule book or on the bottom of the pieces. The symbol for a rook is ♜.[1]
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    Place your knights on the inside of the rooks. The knights, often carved as horses, go to the right and left of the rooks. They move in an "L" shape, two spaces in one direction, one space in another, and can hop over pieces to do so.
    • The symbol for a knight is♞.
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    Place your bishops to the inside of the nights. Keep moving towards the center of the board by placing the tall, round-topped bishops next to the knights. Bishops move only along diagonal lines.
    • The symbol for a bishop is♝.
    • The left bishop will be on a black space, and the right bishop on a white space.
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    Place your queen on the matching colored square that remains. If you are the white side, your queen goes on the remaining white square in the middle of the board. If you are playing black, it goes on the black square. The queen is often one of the tallest pieces in the game and has a spiked crown. She can move in any direction, any number of spaces, making her incredibly valuable.
    • The symbol for the queen is ♛.
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    Place your king on the last open square of your first row. The king is usually the tallest piece on the board and appears to wear a rounded crown often topped with a cross. Once the king is down your entire first row (known as a "rank" in chess) should be complete. The king can move in any direction, but only one space at a time, so you'll need the rest of the pieces to protect it.
    • The symbol for the king is ♚.
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    Place all of your pawn along the second row. After you've placed you pieces, line the lowly pawns up horizontally on the second row. Pawns move forward, one space at a time, but they have a variety of special properties as well. Your board is now complete.
    • The symbol for pawns is ♟.
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    Review your pieces to make sure you have it right. Your first two rows, no matter what type pieces you are using, should look like this (black side player):

Part 2
Understanding Chess Rules

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    Win the game by forcing the King into "checkmate," meaning they must be captured. Checkmate means that there is no move whatsoever a player can make that will save their King from being captured on the next turn. If a player's king can be taken the next turn, they are in check, and there next move must be to save the King.[2]
    • You never actually capture the King. It is both players responsibility to ensure that there is not a move that can be made to avoid capture.
    • Putting a King in "check" means that you could take the King next turn, but your opponent can move a piece to prevent that. You must say "check" when you make a move that puts the King in immediate danger.
    • You may never put yourself in check by exposing the King to your opponent.[3]
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    Capture the opponent's pieces to remove them from the game. If you move a piece onto a square shared by another piece, you "capture" that piece and remove it from the game. Your pieces then takes the captured piece's place on the square. You cannot capture your own pieces or share squares.
    • With the exception of the pawn, you can only capture pieces in your normal line of movement. For example, rooks move forward or sideways, and can only capture pieces by moving forward or sideways.
    • You cannot skip over pieces to capture another one. If your piece "hits" another piece during its movement, it stops, captures the piece, and stays on the square. The knight is the only exception to this, as it only takes the piece on the square it lands.
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    Let the white player start, then take turns moving one piece a turn. White traditionally starts a game of chess by moving one piece. Then the black player makes a move with one piece, and the players take turns moving one piece each until the game is over.[4]
    • A player must move a piece every turn, they cannot pass on a turn and make the other player move again.
    • The only exception to this is called "castling," which allows a player to move two pieces at once in a specific pattern to protect a King.[5]
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    Understand how games can end in a tie. Chess does not always have a winner. Ties, known as stalemates, are when a player can make a legal move. This means that neither King is in check and the remaining pieces cannot do their signature moves without exposing check or. More often than not, this occurs when there are only a few pieces left, such as pawns that cannot move forward (blocked by other pawns) and Kings that can't move without putting themselves in check.
    • Remember that you can never put yourself in check. Thus, if your only move would put your King in check, then the game is a stalemate.[6] In some tournaments this means you lose, though most recognize this as a draw.
      • Remember, this doesn't mean you King is currently in check. It means they cannot move without going into check.

Part 3
Moving the Pieces

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    Move pawns forward one space, or capture other pieces diagonally. The normal move of a pawn is to move forward one space. Pawns may seem useless, but they have a variety of special moves that make them an effective part of your team:
    • If your pawn gets all the way to the last row (your opponent's first row) you can "promote it" into any peace you want, typically a queen or knight.[7]
    • For their very first move, pawns may move two spaces forward instead of one.
    • Pawns can only capture other pieces one space ahead and to the left or right of them, diagonally. This means a pawn can't move at all if there is a piece directly in front of it.
      • En passant, or "capture in passing" is when an opponent moves their pawn two spaces ahead to avoid moving into capture position by your pawn. If they do, you can move your pawn diagonally into the space they skipped and take their pawn anyway en passant, or in passing, the turn directly after the opponent moves the pawn.[8]
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    Move rooks an unlimited number of spaces vertically or horizontally. Rooks can move only in straight lines forward, backward, or sideways. They can cross as many squares, however, as they want.
    • If an enemy piece is in they way, the rook must stop before the piece or capture it.[9]
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    Jump knights in L-shaped moves. Knights have the most distinct movement in the game: they "hop" two spaces to one side, and one space to other, forming an L. This can go in any direction -- backwards 2 and right 1, left 2 and up 1, etc.[10]
    • The knight "hops" pieces, meaning you capture pieces only when you land directly on the square they occupy. A knight always moves in the L-shape, no matter what pieces are in between.
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    Move bishops any number of spaces diagonally. Bishops can move in 4 directions, diagonally right or left and diagonally forward or backward. This means a bishop always stays on the same color it starts on-- if it begins on a white square, there is no way for it to get on a black square, ever.
    • Like rooks, bishops cannot hop over pieces. If there is a piece in the way the bishop must stop or capture it.[11]
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    Move queens in any direction, any number of spaces. The Queen can move forward, backward, sideways, and diagonally as many spaces as she wants.
    • The queen cannot move in the knight's L-shaped pattern, only in straight lines.
    • Queens cannot skip over pieces either. They must either stop or capture a piece before changing directions.
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    Move the King in any direction, but only one space at a time. Kings can only move one space, but they can do so forwards, backward, sideways, or diagonally. The only exception to this is called castling, which is when kings and rooks switch positions to help defend the king. To castle:
    • Neither the king nor the rook can have moved at any point in the game thus far.
    • There can be no pieces in between the rook or the king.
    • In one turn, move the king two spaces towards the rook, then slide the rook into the square the king skipped over. They will be right next to each other, just on opposite sides as before.
    • The king cannot castle if it could be taken on either of the two squares it moves through.[12]

Chess Help

Chess Rule Sheet

Chessboard Diagram


  • Remember that each queen starts on a square of her own color.
  • Remember that the square in the bottom right corner has to be white (from the perspective of either player).
  • Learn chess notation. Chess notation allows you to write down in a kind of "shorthand" both your own and your opponent's moves, allowing you to study and re-create your game later.
  • Learn chess tactics. Chess is an amazingly complex game. It has very few rules, but those rules have given birth to whole books full of tactics and strategy. Read as many as you can to become a better chess player.
  • Know the values of chess pieces. Chess pieces are assigned values as a matter of convenience for players trying to evaluate opportunities to give up a player in exchange for an opponent's player.
  • Learn how to open in chess. The opening phase of a game lays the groundwork for the rest of the game. Slip up here and you're likely to pay for it later. Openings are fun to study. An experienced opponent will be aware of many opening patterns.

Things You'll Need

  • Chess Board
  • Chess Pieces

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