Chess Rules: Wrongly Positioned Board/Pieces

By: Nathaniel_Fernandes | Posted: September 5, 2020 | Updated: 7/16/2021
This entry is part 6 of 5 in the series Chess Rules


  • Tips to setup the board correctly:
    • Light square in right corner
    • The Queen goes on her color 
    • ABC’s: A Bishop goes on the C-file (and corresponding f-file)
    • White’s pieces are on rows 1 and 2 & Black’s are on 7 and 8.
  • If you notice your board is wrongly positioned after you start, always call the Tournament Director before changing the position.
  • Pause the clock when the TD is there (so you don’t waste anyone’s time)

Every once in a while you will be playing a chess game and notice you set up the board wrong (oops!). If you’re just playing a friendly game, there’s little harm done. But … what if it’s a tournament game? 

Do you fix the problem mid-game? Restart the game? Flip the board over and run out of the playing hall???? Don’t panic! Everyone accidentally incorrectly sets up the board incorrectly once in a while.

First things first, pause your clock and call the tournament director to your board by calmly raising your hand. Even if you have memorized the USCF rule 11F and 11G and know exactly what to do, you can’t start messing with the position without letting the TD know otherwise you could be accused of cheating.

Official USCF Rule

To save you some reading, I have summarized the below rules here:

  1. If the board is misplaced, the current position is exactly transferred to a different, correctly-oriented board.
    • I.e. the board might have a black square in the right corner or White’s pieces on the 8th rank not 1st.
  2. If the pieces are misplaced (i.e. Bishops & Knights flipped or Black moved first)
    • Before Black’s 10th move: The players start a new game but their current clock times remain.
    • After Black’s 10th move: The game continues.

In case you’re interested, here are the official rules the Tournament Director will follow from the US Chess Federation’s Official Rules of Chess, 7th ed.

“If, before the completion of Black’s 10th move, it is found that the initial position of the pieces was incorrect, or that
the game began with the colors reversed, then the game shall be annulled and a new game played. However, the
players shall begin the new game with their clocks still reflecting the elapsed time each player used in the annulled
game; however, move counters on clocks that have them may be readjusted. If the error is discovered after the
completion of Black’s 10th move, the game shall continue.

Section 11F

“If, during a game, it is found that the board has been placed contrary to 2C, Placement, which requires a white
square in the nearer corner to the right of each player, then the position reached shall be transferred to a board
correctly placed and the game continued.”

Section 11G

How to Set Up the Pieces

It’s important to avoid setting up the board incorrectly as much as possible. The following section is from “Basics of the Board” where you can learn about the board, notation, and how to set-up the pieces properly.

Setup the Pieces

At the start of the game, each player has 16 pieces consisting of 8 pawns in front of  2 Rooks, 2 Knights, 2 Bishops, and 1 King and Queen. [Learn more about the pieces]

Correctly setup chessboard
Correctly setup chessboard

Common Mistakes to AVOID:

  • People flip the position of the King and Queen
  • Flip the position of the Knight and Bishop
  • People put White’s pieces on rows 7 & 8.

Tips to set up the board correctly:

  • White’s pieces go on rows 1 and 2 and Black’s pieces are on 7 and 8.
  • The Queen goes on her color (i.e. the White Queen goes on the light d1 square)
  • Ensure a light square is in the bottom right corner.
  • ABC’s: A Bishop goes on the C-file (and corresponding f-file)


That’s pretty much it! I hope you enjoyed it.

Have you ever set up the board incorrectly in a “high stakes” game? What did you do? Leave your stories in the chat below.

Cover Photo Credit

Image by Magic Creative from Pixabay

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