It’s easy for novice chess players and those who have never played the game before to get confused about where chess pieces go. It’s even more confusing since the chess board is a perfect square and you’re not sure how to properly orient it to correctly position all the chess pieces.
There are some chess boards that make it easy to orientate the board because they use the numbers 1 to 8 to label the vertical squares and letters A – H to label the horizontal squares.
Even with the helpful labels that make it easy to orient the board properly and analyze the game, first-time chess players are still at a loss as to where the chess pieces should go and how they move on the board.
Here is a helpful summary you can use as a guide:
Chess Board Placement: Where Do Chess Pieces Go?
When you lie the board on a flat surface make sure that the lighter square is on the bottom right corner. This is the most important thing you should do first before putting any of the pieces on the board as the wrong orientation means the pieces will not be positioned properly.
- Player 1 (light): Uses squares 1A – H and 2A – H
- Player 2 (dark): Uses squares 8A – H and 7A – H
The pawns are usually the smallest pieces in your set and there are 8 of them. They are positioned on the second rank or row in a straight line.
- Player 1: The pawns go on the vertical row with a “2” and line them all the way from A – H
- Player 2: The pawns go the “7” vertical row and also go from horizontal columns of A – H
A set has two rooks for each player. They go on the bottom corners of the chess board.
- Player 1: Rooks are set on 1A and 1H
- Player 2: Rooks are positioned at 8A and 8H
There are also two knights per player and they go right beside the rooks.
- Player 1: Sets the knights on squares 1B and 1G
- Player 2: Sets the knights on squares 8B and 8G
Each player has 2 bishops and they go beside the knights.
- Player 1: The bishops go on the squares 1C and 1F
- Player 2: The bishops go on the squares 8C and 8F
This is the most important and powerful piece on the board at any given time and there is only one per player. It is also the one that is most commonly misplaced.
To remember where the queen goes without relying on the labels, just think that the queen has to match the color of the square. Meaning, the dark queen goes on the dark square and the light queen goes on the light square.
- Player 1: Positions the Queen on square 1D
- Player 2: Positions the queen on square 8D
This is the piece that needs a lot of protecting. Once a king is captured or trapped by the opposing player, the game ends.
This is why each player’s single king piece is kept in the middle of all the pieces to fully shield it from capture and entrapment.
- Player 1: Places the king on square 1E
- Player 2: Places the king on square 8E
It’s All About Practice and Mastery
At first it will be slightly confusing to remember where chess pieces go correctly. Since there are 64 equally sized squares on the board it is very normal to feel overwhelmed.
Novice chess players with boards that are labeled are still prone to confusion and mistakes during their first few games, but eventually the more you practice and play it will become second nature to set your chess pieces in the right positions.
Don’t worry if you feel at a loss with all the different pieces, you will eventually master the correct placement.
The game of chess is all about strategy, skill, and intellect, which means rules and proper placement of all the chess pieces is a must to correctly play the game. All chess grandmasters started out as novices, but with continued practice and determination, they have achieved the expertise that they have now.
Expect to lose some chessmen once in a while, especially a queen, which is considered the most powerful piece yet is so easily misplaced. The important part is learning from your mistakes so you can avoid them in future games.