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[Chess] The Board & Starting Position

category: Miscellaneous | course: Chess | difficulty:
1. Stages of a Game


A chess board is a collection of squares, 8 columns and 8 rows. That means 8 x 8 = 64 fields to play on. Do not mistake it for a checkers board – that is 10 by 10.

The rows are numbered 1 to 8, and the columns given the letters a to h. This has no influence at all on a game – it’s just for saving a board position or recording a chess match. The columns are usually called files.

The squares alternate (both horizontally and vertically) between black and white (or another contrasting colour combination), which is known as the checkers pattern. Not only does this help distinguish the individual squares, it can also play a huge role in your tactics – it’s useful to know what colour of squares a piece can and cannot reach.

In the image, the starting position for black and white is shown. This is the setup at the start of every game. To remember the order of the queen and king, know this: the queen always starts on a field with the same colour as itself. So white queen on white square, black queen on black square.

When you get into (advanced) tactics, it’s useful to know the different parts of a board:

  • Queenside: the four columns at the side where the queen starts the game.
  • Kingside: the four columns at the side where the king starts the game.
  • Backline: the last row of the board, where the kings start. Sometimes also used for the last two rows of the board.
  • Centre (or center): the middle rows of the board, numbers 3 to 6. The four squares in the centre of the whole board are generally regarded as the most important ones in the whole game. You want to control them, and never let go.

What are they useful for then? There’s a lot of space on a board, and you only have limited pieces. Therefore, it’s good to make a decision and either make your queenside very strong, or your kingside. On top of that, pieces at the backline are usually very safe (behind an army of pawns and other pieces), and pieces at the centre have the most attacking options!

Stages of a Game

A distinction is made between three parts:

  • Opening: White starts. Both players are building their defence, making room for pieces, setting up solid structures. Maybe they will attack a pawn or threaten a piece every now and then, but nothing big. A lot of standard openings are known by professional chess players, and it usually depends on the opponent what they choose to use.
  • Middle game: Both sides have their basic setup done. This is the longest, and where the most interesting things happen. There are lot of options here; playing defensive, offensive, improving positional play, slowly but steadily moving pawns forward, etcetera.
  • End game: A lot of pieces have been removed, and the defensive structures destroyed. Both players are left with a handful of pieces, and one of them usually has a clear advantage (more pieces, a better position, etcetera). If that player is smart, he wins the game in maybe ten or twenty moves. If he isn’t smart, or he is too careful, the opponent may turn the odds by a very good move (which is possible, because the game is so open).

Now it’s finally time to get to know all the pieces and their capabilities!

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