When did this happen....?


When did the convention of having the white square at the bottom right hand cornner arise?

Many renaissance poaintings have the black one there - a mistake or there was no rule then? Thanks for info.


Good question!  Do you have a link to any of those Renaissance paintings with the black square in the bottom right corner?

Maybe some of our members can shed some light on this?



It looks like they're playing from the sides (in which case the board layout is correct).


I'm pretty sure it either,

A. Didnt matter because there was no alegbraic notation.


B. Was just incorrectly painted. Many many modern photos or vidoes of chess boards are set up wrong. Mostly just the non-chessers not knowing I bet.


i am the walrus


Originally, in chaturanga and shartanj, an unchequered board was used. During the Middle Ages chequered board started appearing, not because they were necessary but because they made calculating and visualizing easier.

While the early medieval chessboards were unchequered. Murray wrote, "Once the use of the coloured board became general it was possible to frame rules to govern the position of the board when placed for play. The diagrams in Alf. (Alfonso X) have invariably a white square to the player's right-hand side, but other problem MSS.and the drawings of games of chess which are to be found in early illuminated MSS. show that there was no uniformity of practice [the pages of the illuminated manuscripts were semi-transparent and so to allow the drawings on both sides, the board on each side was placed directly over the baord on the other side with the colors reversed, a practice no one seemed to have a problem with - batgirl ].  The modern convention or rule that each player must have the white square at his right-hand corner was certainly not established during the mediaeval period."
[additionally, "Lucena, after giving the rule 'rey banco en casa negro: y negro en casa blanca,' goes on to advise a player who preferred the black men and could not secure them, to give the board a half turn, and so to bring his white King on his Queen's left. Of corse, h1 is now black"   (thus clearly "white on right" wasn't a hard and fast rule even during the Renaissance period.- batgirl) ].

It seems, though it was gradual and progessed differently according to each area, that "White on Right" became almost universally accepted in the 16th century.  Even in Ströbeck, Germany where Courier Chess was played and the black square was traditionally on the right, around 1510 players there started playing with the h1 square white.  This seems to indicate that regular chess had already more or less codified-by-popular-use the practice.

Now-a-days when movies, plays, advertisements get the board wrong, it's simply a blunder.  Sideways board placement in works of art from the Renaissance "could" be a blunder, but probably just due to the fact that board placement hadn't been firmly established as of then.


Problem from Alfoso X's  "Libro de los Juegos," 1273

A chess problem from the Bonus Socius manuscript Ms.- France, late 1300s
Jacobus de Cessolis' "Ludo Scacchorum," 1300-1400
William Caxtons "Game and P laye of Chesse" 1474

"De Ludo Scachorum" by Luca Pacioli 1496

Guten Tag, Herr Herzebrocker. Wie geht es?


I try. I want to be a psychatrist.... but I'm not qualified.Wink


Thanks batgirl for that 'illumination'. [My reference to Bergman's 'The Seventh Seal' below which altho played in medieval times has the howler of showing the two board positions in reverse shots of the same game.]

I replied privately to a poster who wished to see an example, with mostly this:-

Google 'sofonisba anguissaola' to see her painting 'The Chess Game' or try the link

The many chess games depicted in Ingmar Bergman's films (including 'The Seventh Seal' which is based on chess having reverse shots of a single scene with alternate boards!!) have the chess board the wrong way plus at least one episode in the 'Simpsons'

In 'The Rockford Files' both father and son are supposed to be keen chess players but one episode I saw had them playing on the wrong board.

My question is - does no one on film/TV studios including all the actors, directors, film crew etc., etc. know how to plat chess?

kaynight wrote:

Saw chess sets for sale in Harrods, with boards and pieces set up wrong.

See my blog. BBC tv got it all wrong also:-

Chess Boxing on The BBC.

kaynight wrote:
Probably a wind up of the pseuds. All talented people do this. John Lennon made up his lyrics and laughed at the pseuds looking for hidden meanings.

Hi, kaynight,

        I'm gratified that somebody else realises Lennon was a pretentious p--t.

Herzebrocker wrote:

tyyox - it does not matter - even if you would have only one coloured squares on the board

Actually, that's not quite accurate.  It's not intrinsic but it does matter. Playing the game doesn't require colored squares.... in fact it dosen't even require a physical board.  But once you have colored squares, it becomes important that they be set up consistantly, not for the play (other than without a chequered board, the game is more confusing for most people) but for recording the game (and using ECO's etc.).  If the board  has a black square on h1, the convention of  "Queen on color" would put the Q on e1, not d1. Some convoluted alternate method might work, however.

Historically, chequered board allowed for the relative placement of the King and Queen.

Interesting enough, Staunton, during the codification process in the second half of the 19th century, wrote:
"The uniform position of the Board during play is only required by established usage. The game would proceed exactly as it does now, if the opposite practice were adopted in this respect. It is, in a measure, necessary to have some fixed rule for the position of the Board, because the action of the Queen, the Bishops, and the Knights would be, as it were, reversed, by adopting sometimes one position and sometimes the other, and such a practice would interfere with the definite position of the King and Queen. This would prove to be a cause of confusion and mere mechanical difficulty, which ought to be as much as possible excluded from a game of pure skill. For this reason, it is customary to adopt a certain position in all games, and that provided in the text is the one universally established. It is this position of the Board which occasions the King to occupy a square of an opposite, and the Queen of the same colour, as its own. 'Rex alter in albo, servat regina colorem' (this is from Cessolis and means "the Black King on white, the Queen keeps her color")."

According to Bill Wall:

  In 2001: A Space Odyssey, HAL announces mate in two moves, but it was wrong (the computer cheating).
  Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls had chess with lots of mistakes in it.
Chaindance (1990) jad several scenes with chess and the board set up wrong (white to the left instead of right)
  Dtrty Pretty Things (2002) has the chess board set up wrong
  Justice (1999) has the chess board set up wrong
  Knights of South Bronx had a few chess mistakes
  Life as a House (2001) has the board set up wrong
  The board is set up wrong in The Seventh Seal (1957).
  The board was set up wrong om Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.
  The board is set up wrong in The Blade Runner.
  The position is wrong in From Russia With Love (1963).
  There are chess mistakes in Bad Company (2002).
  Checkmate was announced in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, but there is no checkmate.
  Other movies that have the board set up wrong include: The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971), Austin Powers II (1999, The Avengers (1998), Black and White (1999), Checkmate (2003), Dirty Pretty Things (2002), Golden Boy (1939), Justice (1999), Life As a House (2001), Pennies From Heaven (1936), Shaft (2000), and The Seventh Seal (1957), The Ghost Ship (1943), Magnificent Doll (1946), Patrie (1946), The Lady From Shanghai (1948), Merry Andrew (1958), What's New, Pussycat (1965), Time After Time (1979), The History of the World Part I (1981), Chaindance (1990), Dead Beat (1994), The Takeover (1995), Justice (1999), and Shaft (2000), The Actors (2003), Time After Time (1979), Charlie Chan in the Chinese Cat (1944), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), and Checkmating (2004).


The list of movie chess board errors missed 'The Simpsons'.

My query is - how come all those many people on the movie sets never point out the errors? All don't know? As there is a 50% chance of getting it right or wrong how come it seems they get it wrong more than 50%? 

And the reverse shots in The Seventh Seal having it right and wrong? What were they thinking or was it a clever, pertinent symbolic point being made? Death and the living in separate dimensions? Never read a critic who said so though.


I reckon a good prepared player could beat Kasparov if the board was the wrong way - it would confuse him to make mistakes I'd hope!


I don't watch films or TV but I would think there is a level of care (high or low) they give to each aspect of production and a certain amount of money budgeted in accordance.  I doubt actors and most other employees concern themselves with the esoteric aspects of the production sets, and there must be many esoteric aspects, such as whether that lamp is appropriate for the time frame, etc.  I'm sure there are films that include boxing but show improper training methods.  Chess details are very esoteric and confusing even to some experienced players.  So, the levels of care about these details probably vary greatly from film to film and tv show to tv show.  I suspect in films, about chess or chessplayers and with an appropriate budget, hire a chess consultant to make sure everything is accurate.  While it's probably true that among the employees and actors, there must be chessplayers, whether these players know the rules, have a say it the set, notice such things or even care is questionble.  Chess in films and tv shows seems to be more symbolic than anything.  Chess is used a symbol of an extremely intellectual activity (possibly to infer something about the characters)... and that's their focus, on the symblolism not on the details.

Mr. Wall's collection above seems like a lot, but I have no idea how many films and tv shows have chess boards with the correct set-up.  The above may be a small number percentage-wise.   I suspect if Humphrey Bogart, William Windom or John Wayne were in a film with a chess board, it was set up correctly. 


There's a whole article on Tim Krabbe's site about the mistakes in Space Odyssey. There are more than just the incorect mate announcement. There are notation mistakes as well.

Iposted this in 2007 (! g)

Kubrik apparently was a keen and competent player, and the mistakes were probaly deliberate.