Board Layout

A chessboard consists of 64 equal squares arranged in eight rows and eight columns. The squares are arranged in two alternating colors, white and black. Many different materials are used to make chessboards, so the lighter colored material is known as white and the darker material is known as black.

Parts of the board are known by special names:

  • Rank - the eight horizontal rows of the chess board are called ranks.

  • File - the eight vertical columns of the chess board are called files.

  • Diagonal - a straight line of squares of the same color running at an angle from one edge of the board to another edge is called a diagonal.

  • Center - the four squares found in the middle of the board are called the center.

Each individual square has a name so records of the moves of the game can be kept. Several naming systems exist, but algebraic notation is the most popular and is the official system. In this system, each square is named for the row and column in which it is found. The ranks (rows) are numbered from 1 to 8 beginning with white's side of the board and moving to black's side of the board. The files (columns) are labeled by lower case letters from a to h moving from left to right based on the white player's viewpoint. The square is named by the letter followed by the number. Thus the lower left hand square is known as a1. The naming structure can be seen in the following diagram:

Initial Setup

The chessboard is rotated so that there is a white square in the first row at the player's right side.

The pieces are placed on the white and black side of the board in the same manner. In the first row beginning at both outer edges and moving inward, place the rook (sometimes called the castle), the knight (sometimes called the horse) and the bishop. For the two remaining squares, place the queen on the square with the same color. Place the king on the final square. When completed, the same pieces face each other across the board. On the second row place a row of pawns. The finished board then looks like the diagram below.