The chess board

Chess board

The chess board is made up of sixty-four squares arranged in eight rows and eight columns. There are two colors of squares, that change from light and dark from one square to the next.

The rows are labeled with numbers from the bottom of the board to the top, going from 1 to 8.  The columns are labeled with letters, going from left to right as a to h.  The letters are for the “files”, and the numbers are for the “ranks.”  You don’t have to worry about how the squares are labeled for now.  We’ll talk about that later in our page about notation.

So the board looks like this:

In diagrams like this, it’s usual to have White on the bottom and Black on the top.

When you set up a board, there’s always a light square in the lower right hand corner. Some people use the phrase “White on right” to help them remember this. Check this before setting up the pieces, or you won’t get the queen positioned correctly. Most folding boards have the crease running from left to right across the middle of the board, but some have it running from top to bottom. And wood or rollup boards don’t have a crease at all. Some boards have letters and numbers on the edges, and if they do the numbers are always on the side with the letters on the top or bottom (or both). But many boards don’t have such markings. You can’t count on anything but your own attention to be sure the board is positioned correctly.  So remember, “White on right.”

Boards are made out of many materials, from wood to stone, glass, paper, even metal.  If you’re buying a board for regular play, instead of a beautiful board and set intended for display, the best value is in the vinyl roll up boards, and that’s the board pictured above. This board is the standard for tournament use. It has squares that are 2 ¼” across that perfectly fit pieces with a 3 ½” high king, the standard sized set.  This board is available with letters and numbers on both sides, or only on one. It is inexpensive, easy to transport, and is virtually indestructible, which makes it ideal for kids. The square colors are typically buff and green, and it can also be found with brown squares, which are perfectly acceptable. It sometimes comes with red or blue squares, which many players find uncomfortable.  If you are playing a tournament game and your opponent sets up an unconventional board and/or pieces, you can request to play with your equipment if it is more standard.  A board like the one shown above cannot be refused as long as the pieces match it in size. This is the board that normally comes in compete tournament sets.

Boards vary drastically in price.  A paper board might be only a dollar, a vinyl roll up board between five and ten, and a high quality wood board can cost $100 or more, pieces not included. So get whichever type fits your style and budget. Here’s a link to a few equipment suppliers. The board in the picture is a vinyl roll up board suitable for tournament play, and in my opinion is the board you should get. They’re cheap and virtually indestructible.



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