Complete Guide On Chess Board Orientation

If you’re new to the wonderful world of chess, you’re probably already a little confused about some of its rules. To help, you can utilize a chessboard that has letters and numbers printed on it.

Complete Guide On Chess Board Orientation

But, once you get your head around these, chess will become so much clearer to you. 

It is vital that you understand the orientation of a chessboard.

But, doing so right off the bat is not the easiest way to go about it. One way to never go wrong is to use a chessboard that has numbers and letters. 

By using a chessboard with notation, you can learn what rank each piece is and designate the file for every square. 

When sitting at your chessboard, the letters will appear horizontally along the back rank, whereas the numbers appear vertically on either side of files A and H. 

Today, we are going to explain how to orientate your chessboard successfully with the use of letters and numbers in relation to the ranks and files.

We will also discuss the notation used in combination with various names given to the chess pieces.

Understanding Chess Board Orientation

One of the best ways to ensure the correct orientation of a chessboard is to use one with letters and numbers. 

This is because it feels more natural to sit with the board’s square A1 situated in the bottom left-hand corner if you’re playing white.

If you are on the other side of the board, the H8 corner should be on your bottom left side. 

If you remember these positions, setting up a chessboard with letters and numbers becomes much easier. 

But, what if your chessboard has no notation? Well, you can use the tried and tested rule used over centuries – the black square should be in the bottom left corner.

The set up of having the white pieces placed on the 1 and 2 ranks may not be a rule “set in stone,” but it typically makes the most sense. 

Files And Ranks On Chessboard

For novice chess players, the terms files and ranks may be a little alien. Let’s clear that up:

  • Files represent letters
  • Ranks represent numbers

Ranks are the numbers that run up and down the chessboard, from one to eight. 

Number one is the back rank for white pieces, whereas eight is the black rank for black chess pieces. 

Ranks two and seven are where the eight pawns on either side are placed before a game begins. 

Notation Of Chessboard 

Using a chessboard with numbers and letters can be very beneficial to your game. Even more beneficial is when you employ algebraic notation in your chess game, too.

Of course, experienced chess players do not need to play with numbers and letters on their boards. This is because they have spent many hundreds of hours playing the game and learning the square coordinates they need to record.

Having letters and numbers present on your chessboard is usually required until you have played chess for many hours. These allow you to identify the square coordinates and learn them over time. 

Complete Guide On Chess Board Orientation (1)

Some chess boards come with a full notation for further assistance. However, in most cases, chess coaches and teachers will simply use stickers or place a template over the board to help beginner chess players. 

Whichever method a chess teacher uses, the notation will be seen on every square on the board. Therefore, the chess player can see how it relates to how different chess moves are recorded using algebraic notation. 

Here’s an example – say the White King is placed on E1. Usually the most popular space for the White’s opening move, the King’s pawn moves two squares forward to E4. 

Recording chess moves is not always as easy because there is no abbreviation given to pawns.

Confusing, right? Well, with a few hours of using a chessboard that has notation, you will soon get to grips with the board’s orientation. 

We recommend writing various moves down to understand the board better. Study the notations to understand the numbers and letters better. Do this, and you will learn chess much more quickly. 

There are a host of online tools and chess theory books to help if required. 

Once you understand the basic rules, chess is easy to learn! And, best of all, it will only take up an hour or so of your time. 

Chess Notation: Explained

Chess notation essentially describes each and every move with the piece’s names and square to where it moves to.

Other than the pawn, each chess piece has a distinct letter abbreviation. So, if a chess piece is not named, the player assumes that it’s a pawn move.

It’s also important to note that a Knight is signified by the letter “N” rather than “K,” as “K” is used for the King. 

Let’s pretend we’re playing a game of chess to understand chess notation better.

Say we move the first pawn to e4. Therefore, this move’s name is “e4.” This is because the pawn’s name is not notated.

Next, black makes a pawn move, which is written as e5.

Then, the white replies with Nf3. Here, the chess piece’s name is notated, as well as the square’s name. 

Let’s jump forward and play some special moves.

In our imaginary chess game, the white makes a special move known as a castling Kingside, notated as 0-0. If the player castles the King on the Queenside (opposite side on the chessboard), this would then be notated as 0-0-0.

Now, imagine white has captured black’s pawn on square d5. This would be written as exd5. If there is a capture, an “x” should be written. 

And now, white captures a Knight on c6 using the Bishop. For this move, Bxc6+ is written down. The “+” symbol represents “check” as the Black King would now be in check. 

White decides to move their pawn to d4. So, black responds with an exd3(ep) move. This is a special move known as “en passant.” Here, black captures the d4 pawn as it passes and moves their pawn to d3.

Fast-forward several moves and we find that black has captured white’s Bishop on c1 with a dxc1=Q move. And, this is about as complex as the game of chess can be.

The pawn has captured a piece on c1, promoting it to a Queen

Black, on the other hand, can promote it to any piece they choose. However, Queens are usually the best option. In some very rare circumstances, a player has the ability to boost their pawn to King status with checkmate. 

The next play on the board is Rax1. Here, the rook on A1 or F1 would be able to capture the Queen. Therefore, the “a” has to be included to show what rook has been played.

The next position sees black make a winning move. This is d4++, pawn to d4, and Checkmate! 

Although our example is not a real game, it perfectly shows moves illustrations. Yes, some questionable moves have been made but it’s a good way to get to grips with Algebraic Chess Notation. 

From this, you have found out about notation standards and ways to indicate special moves such as:

  • Check (+)
  • Checkmate (++)
  • Castling (0-0 or 0-0-0)
  • En passant (ep)

You can start learning about annotating chess matches to further your chess knowledge. This allows you to analyze a game in notation form, so others can see the annotator’s opinions on certain moves made in a chess game. 

After A Game Is Over

Once a chess game has been completed, the result is also marked by a notation.

If white wins, it is notated as “1-0.”

When black wins, it is notated as “0-1.”

If it is a draw, it is notated as “½-½.”

Special cases – There are also a few unique cases for algebraic notation. Some positions will allow two of the same chess pieces, like two knights, to move to the same square.

If this is possible, you should still write down the piece abbreviation. However, you then need to add the file that the chess piece was on before writing the square. 

For instance, if both knights move to a d2 square, but were on f3 before, the move would be notated as “Nfd2.” If the Knight is on b2 and moves to d2, the notation would then be “Nbd2.”

Chess Annotation Abbreviations And Symbols

Once you have learned to read and write chess notation, your chess knowledge will just grow and grow. Your chess game will improve as a result of this, allowing you to advance further than many of your chess buddies.

As well as writing down the movies, many chess players also make notes on the strengths and weaknesses of certain chess movies using annotation symbols. 

Here are a few of these symbols:

  • Black’s move – “…”
  • Excellent move – “!!”
  • Good move – “!”
  • Interesting move – “!?”
  • Bad move – “?”
  • Awful move – “??”
  • Questionable move – “?!”

Introduce yourself to chess notation and annotation and you will soon be ready to take notes on games with more confidence than ever before. 

Chess Terms You Need To Know

If you are new to chess, you may be unfamiliar with many of the chess terms. Here’s a quick rundown of these terms to get yourself acquainted with them better:

  • King – The most important piece on a chess board and can not be taken off the board. The aim is to capture your opponent’s King.
  • Queen – Not as important as the King but the most powerful piece. Can move to more squares than any other and can move horizontally, vertically, and diagonally. 
  • Rook – Powerful pieces that can sweep a board in just one move. Can move horizontally and vertically.
  • Bishop – Two bishops per player but one can only travel diagonally on white squares and the other on black squares.
  • Knight – Can jump over other pieces and move in an “L” shape (two squares vertically and one square horizontally).
  • Pawn – A foot soldier that only moves one space at a time (but at the beginning, it can move two spaces). Can’t go backward.
  • Check – An attack on the King but a move the King can escape from.
  • Checkmate – An attack on the King in which your opponent can not escape.
  • Stalemate – If the player to move is not in check but can not move, it’s a draw.
  • Capture – Taking an opponent’s piece from the board.

In Summary

It’s important to learn chess notation and chess orientation to play correctly and give yourself the best chance of winning. 

Yes, it’s confusing at first, but with some practice, you’ll soon get the hang of it.

Good luck in your next Chess game!

Jenna Ostria
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