I think I've already asked this question earlier. No answers were received and I was told my question makes no sense at all. I disagree though. I think it has good sense and is pretty clear.

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Imagine two players who decided to play a chess game. They arranged the initial position. The white squares h1 and a8 are at the respective player's right—that's totally correct. Queens occupy squares of their respective colors—that's nice, too. However, the white pieces occupy ranks 8 and 7, and black pieces occupy ranks 1 and 2.

My question is: if it's a serious tournament game, would it still be considered valid? I.e. no penalties from the arbiter, game fully played until checkmate or resignation, and score submitted.

  • 2
    Assuming "fully played" involves white's pawns moving up the board and black's moving down, as seen in the pic, then yeah, the spurious markings on the board would be of no interest. If, on the other hand, 1. Nf6 Nf3 2. g8=Q, then the players were not playing from the prescribed starting position and instead were playing a "from position" variant that is likely not valid for the given tournament. Jun 23, 2021 at 16:55

4 Answers 4


Yes, the game is valid. The official rules don't say anything about coordinates alongside the board; as far as the rules are concerned, they don't exist.

A similar case, where the board is rotated by 90 degrees (which causes each square to have the wrong color), is mentioned:

7.2.2 If during a game it is found that the chessboard has been placed contrary to Article 2.1, the game shall continue but the position reached must be transferred to a correctly placed chessboard.

but even then the game is still valid.

  • 3
    Out of curiosity, would this also apply to a game mirrored across the files? E.g. One in which both king/queen pairs have been swapped? (Note both, obviously it'd be different if only one pair was swapped.) In theory, there should be no difference, except all of the starting positions you might've memorized would be mirrored and that might throw some people off. Jun 23, 2021 at 20:56
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    @DarrelHoffman I guess 7.2.1 applies: the position was incorrect and the game is invalid in that case.
    – Glorfindel
    Jun 23, 2021 at 21:15
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    I'm just thinking that if you had the board rotated 90 degrees, and you remembered "queen goes on her own color", but not "white queen is left of king, black queen is right of king from their players' perspectives", this is not an unreasonable mistake to make. And it's morphologically identical to a proper game, just mirrored. Someone would have to reverse all the file letters if the moves were being recorded, but otherwise it'd be not too big of a deal. Once you got into midgame, it would hardly matter anymore. But I guess you have to draw the line somewhere... Jun 24, 2021 at 20:47
  • Once as a child, I was in a winning position when the school's crotchety old chess teacher came over and noticed we had flipped the board as in this question. He declared "Number 1 is for White, number 8 is for Black!", cleared the board and made us start over. I feel some solace knowing he was wrong to do so. Jun 26, 2021 at 0:49

Your question really boils down to this: what if you played a chess game exactly according to the rules in every way, but you gave the squares funny labels? Maybe they're labelled 0-63, or with roman numerals, or... . Obviously that's a silly question. You're fooling yourself by having this funny process that seems to coincidentally and unexpectedly place every piece in the exact spot it should be, and by saying "but what if we also make a big deal of writing those funny labels on the board ahead of time?" But deep down this is the same as asking "if you play a game of battleship but say all the pieces are airplanes, is it still battleship?"

  • 8
    You sunk my B-52! Jun 24, 2021 at 2:53
  • 3
    @RobertColumbia There are many more planes at the bottom of the sea than submarines lost in the sky! Jun 25, 2021 at 15:07
  • My recent version of battleship has a couple of airplanes in addition to the normal complement of sea craft.
    – Michael
    Jun 25, 2021 at 16:45

The play of the game obviously doesn't depend on the square markings; it depends on the piece moves and the captures and threats due to those moves. As long as the pieces are oriented correctly relative to one another, it wouldn't even matter to game play if the board has different colored squares (that is, you could play chess perfectly well, with a little care relative to bishop and queen moves, on a sheet of graph paper).

For record keeping purposes, it would be trivial to correct the move record in the above situation to the correct board orientation (i.e. white on ranks 1 and 2), by reversing the order of ranks and columns -- it could be done programmatically in a spreadsheet, for instance. It isn't necessary in order to analyze the game, however, as it will be obvious to anyone reading the record how the board was set up (King's pawn can't start from d7 in a normal setup) and how the moves progressed.

If this matters at all, it's due to an artificial requirement specific to tournament play -- which is to say, it isn't really about chess, as such; rather, it's about chess tournaments.

  • There is the potential of inconsistent move recording: Player may just write down many moves such as 1. e4 c5 blindly, but at dome later stages be fooled, e.g., when moving their queen to a5 they see it stand next to a "4" mark (while still blindly knowing it is on "a") and be tricked into writing down Qa4 instead of Qa5 (and both may be valid moves) Jun 24, 2021 at 6:36
  • 1
    @HagenvonEitzen And this is most likely why the tournament rules require transferring the position to a correctly oriented board when the error is discovered. Meanwhile, if you record moves the way I learned to do (in the 1970s), "Queen's Pawn to Queen 4" -- there's no confusion.
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 24, 2021 at 11:13
  • @ZeissIkon: No kidding! I still have to convert all references by the current recording notation into the traditional notation; yet watching Magnus on Youtube it's clear he thinks entirely by the current notation standard. Jun 24, 2021 at 14:57
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    @ForgetIwaseverhere I can understand why the change was made -- the notation is far more compact and there's never a "which pawn took rook?" question (which can happen the old way if someone thinks its obvious and it isn't).
    – Zeiss Ikon
    Jun 24, 2021 at 16:11

You surely deserve to get several answers this time!

The question shows the only way of misplacing the pieces on the chessboard where the rules let the game be played through. It is so because the rotation shown preserves square colors, and square colors are deemed relevant.

Chessboards used in tournaments often provide labels for ranks and files, many other chessboards don't. The rules do not mention or mandate any labels. The rules define the positions irrespective of how the chessboard labels them. The labels are supposed to provide help with writing down the moves. The rules mandate writing down the moves, but not any such aids on the chessboard or anywhere else.

In the position shown in the question, there's a white queen on d1. That d1 square is labelled as e8, but that doesn't make it e8 as far as the rules go. It is d1 because it's at the side of the table where the white player sits and because it is the fourth file counting from their left hand side.

An arbiter who observes that a player is using a notation system other than the algebraic (e.g., a rotated algebraic system in which the d1 square is consistently notated as e8) should warn the player of the requirement to call the squares the way the rules call them, rather than the way the rotated chessboard labels them; with the penalty being that the non-standard notation cannot be used as evidence if the state of the game ends up disputed later. Other than that, the arbiter will let the players go on playing with with the chessboard rotated by 180 degrees.

If there's no requirement to write down moves (e.g., in a blitz tournament), then it's unlikely that anyone would even notice that the labels are off, and if they did, nothing would follow from the fact.

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