The first step to playing a game of chess is setting up the board. This page explains how to correctly set up a chess board for a game of standard chess.
About the Board
A chess board has 64 squares. Half of them are light and half of them are dark. The rows are called ranks and the columns are called files. In algebraic notation, the ranks are labeled 1 through 8, and the files are labeled a through h, like so:
Turn the Board the Right Way
Before putting the pieces on the chess board, make sure that the bottom-right square (from both players' perspective) is a light square, like this:
|← Light on the right
Put the Pieces in Their Starting Positions
Now that the board is in the correct orientation with light on the right (as explained above), it's time to put the pieces in their starting positions.
The white player sits behind rank 1, and the black player sits behind rank 8. The white pawns are placed along rank 2, and the black pawns are placed along rank 7, like so:
The remaining white pieces will be placed on rank 1, and the remaining black pieces will be placed on rank 8.
The rooks are placed on the corners. The white rooks start on a1 and h1, while the black rooks start on a8 and h8.
The knights start next to the rooks. The white knights start on b1 and g1, while the black knights start on b8 and g8.
The bishops go next to the knights. The white bishops start on c1 and f1, while the black bishops start on c8 and f8.
The starting positions of the pieces so far have been mirrored for both players. The king and queen are different, however. The queens are both placed on the d file. Note that the queen is placed on the square that is the same color as she is: the black queen is on a dark square while the white queen is on a light square. In other words, put the queen on her color.
Finally, the king goes beside the queen. Both kings are placed on the e file.