Chess Terms


When learning chess, the most important component to start with is the board. The chessboard is not as simple as it seems! Here is what you need to know about the chessboard:

The Chessboard

The chessboard is an 8x8 grid of alternating colored squares. Half of the 64 squares are called light squares, while the others are known as dark squares. When setting up a chessboard, you should always have a light square on the lower right (like the h1-square in the image below).

The Chessboard chess board the board
The chessboard.

Square Name

Have you ever wondered how people can play blindfold chess? Well, one of the reasons they can do this (aside from talent, skill, experience, and mastery) is because they know the name of every square on the chessboard. 

Every square on a chessboard has an alphanumeric name (or coordinate). We can locate the name of each square very easily! How do we do this? First, we locate the file of the square, and then it's rank.


Files are the names of each vertical row (or column) on the board. Each file has an alphabetical assignment (a through h). Highlighted below you will see the e-file.

The Chessboard chess board the board e-file
The chessboard with the e-file highlighted.


Ranks are the names of each horizontal row on the board. Each rank has a numerical assignment (1 through 8). Highlighted below you will see the fourth rank.

The Chessboard chess board the board fourth rank 4th rank
The chessboard with the fourth rank highlighted.

The name of any given square can be identified by locating the file it is on and then the rank. In the diagram below we will see the e4-square highlighted. We know it is e4 because it is located on the e-file and on the fourth rank:

The chessboard with the e4-square highlighted.


Now for a test! What square is highlighted?

The Chessboard chess board the board d-file
What square is this?

First, we find the file. This square is on the d-file.

The Chessboard chess board the board d-file
The d-file!

Secondly, we find the rank. This square is on the fifth rank.

The Chessboard chess board the board fifth rank 5th rank
The fifth rank!

So, if we draw an arrow from the d-file to the fifth rank, we can determine that the square is? You got it! That is the d5-square!


You now know the dimensions of a chessboard and the number of squares on a chessboard. You can also identify the name of any square—one of the first steps to playing a blindfold game or even just writing down the moves of a game. Enjoy!

Watch the Video Lesson

Reading an article is a fantastic way to learn the material, but watching a video lesson can be just as helpful! Check out the short video lesson below to reinforce the concepts with great detail. Try it out!

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