Chess Board Numbers & Letters (Orientation, Notation & Buying)

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In chess, it is important to know the orientation of a chess board. While there is one simple rule to make sure you never get this wrong, a chess board with numbers and letters is going to make it even easier.

Chess boards with notation have both numbers and letters on them which designate the rank and file for each square. As you sit at the board the letters appear horizontally across the back rank and the numbers vertically on each side of the A and H files.

This article will explain fully how to orientate your chess board based on the numbers and letters associated with the files and ranks, before explaining the chess board notation that is used in conjunction with chess piece abbreviations for the algebraic notation in chess.

Chess Board Orientation

If you are using a chess board with numbers and letters, it is very easy to ensure the orientation of the board is correct as it would feel natural to be facing the board with Square A1 in the bottom left corner.

This of course works for you if you are playing white, should you be on the ‘other’ side of the board, you should ensure the H8 corner is on your bottom left.

Remembering those positions makes a chess board with letters and numbers easy to set up, but if you don’t have a chess board with notation, then you can always use the old rule of having a black square in the bottom left corner. That way you’ll never go wrong.

While it is not a hard and fast rule that the white pieces go on the 1 and 2 ranks, it kind of makes sense and is generally the case.

Chess Board Files and Ranks, by Numbers and Letters

  • Ranks = Number
  • Files = Letter

Ranks are numbered and run up and down the board from 1 through to 8.

1 is the back rank for white pieces, 8 being the back rank for black pieces

Ranks 2 and 7 are where the eight pawns os each side are lined up for the beginning of the game

Check out the full chess board set up guide for more information on chess piece starting positions

Correct starting positions for chess board

Chess Board Notation.

There are benefits to using a chess board with numbers and letters when also employing algebraic notation in chess.

Until you have played and practiced for many hours, having the numbers and letters on the perimeter of the board can be helpful in quickly identifying the square coordinates that you have to record.

In some cases, you can get chess boards with the full notation to assist even further, although more commonly chess teachers and coaches may just use stickers or have a layover template of chess board notation to help.

It would leave the board looking something like this.

Here you can see the notation of every square on the chess board and how it relates to how chess moves are recorded in algebraic notation.

Algebraic Notation in chess featured image

For example, the White King begins on e1, and often the most popular, some would say best, opening move for white is the Kings Pawns to move two squares forward to e4.

You’ll often see the answer to the question which is the best opening simply answered with ‘e4’ and this is how the move would be recorded, as the pawn’s final position is what is recorded.

Recording moves is not as simple as that as there is no piece abbreviation given to pawns as it is understood, so please do read the algebraic notation guide.

The simple instructions will not only help you learn how to write moves down but understanding the chess board numbers and letters will help you learn chess much quicker in being able to use more online tools, analyze games and read chess theory more easily.

Chess is easy to learn when you understand these simple rules, and they only take an hour or so to learn.

is it easy to learn chess featured image

3 Chess Boards with Numbers and Letters You Can Buy

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Roll Up Chess Board with Numbers and Letters

This is a classic club chess board, which is made of vinyl, is super portable and wipe clean. It features the letters and numbers discussed here and is the cheapest option of owning a chess board with notation, making it a perfect practice board for both your game and recording moves of the chess pieces.


  • Square Size: 2.25″
  • Overall Dimensions: 20″ Square
  • Thickness: .080″
  • Material: Vinyl with cloth backing
  • Alpha-numeric notation on ends of rank and file

Click Here for more Details

Wegiel Handmade Jowisz Tournament Chess Set

Looking more like a traditional chess board this wooden set from Wegiel is a budget option, but also includes the pieces, which store handily within the board itself.

Numbers and letters are featured

  • The board measures 16 x 2 x 15.8 inches (40.7 x 5 x 40 centimeters);
  • each square measures 1.6 x 1.6 inches (4 x 4 centimeters);
  • when folded, the board is held securely shut with 2 brass clasps
  • Handcrafted chessmen are felt bottom, weighted, and are made from hornbeam and sycamore wood;
  • the king measures 3.4 inches (8.5 centimeters)
  • the queen measures 2.8 inches (7.1 centimeters)
  • the pawn measures 1.5 inches (3.7 centimeters)

This is actually a good value chess set in the right dimensions and weighted well for play

See Current Price on Amazon

The Jarilo, Unique Wooden Chess Set

This is a lovely-looking chess board with white inlays of the numbers and letters on the ranks and files. To complement the chess board with notation there are some lovely-looking pieces including two-tone Kings and Queens for your chess games.

This is a large chess board sitting at around 20″ x 20″

The King stands 4.33″ tall. This is a deluxe set and worthy of play or display

See Current Price on Amazon

Numbers and Letters When Playing Online

Any concerns about getting the orientation of the board correct and knowing the numbers and letters on a chessboard are non-existent when playing chess online or on a chess app.

The board is set up correctly for you, the numbers and letters are displayed along with the ranks and files, and when you make a move it is recorded in algebraic notation too.

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