Note: All chessboard examples assume a standard orientation of the board with the white pieces on the bottom and the black pieces at the top.

A chessboard is made up of 64 squares, arranged in 8 rows (called ranks) and 8 columns (called files). The squares alternate between light and dark squares. The board orientation is established using the "White is right" rule, meaning the square in the lower right corner of the board must be a light-colored square.

In addition to the horizontal ranks and vertical files, a series of squares on a chessboard can also be identified as diagonals.

Individual squares on a chessboard are identified through a coordinate system in which the rows (ranks) are numbered 1 thru 8, with the 1st rank on the bottom and the 8th rank at the top. Similarly, the columns (files) are lettered a thru h, with the left-most file being a and the right-most file being h. These coordinates are used in commentary and analysis of chess games using algebraic notation.

Dividing the chessboard vertically into two equal halves, the left side of the board is referred to as the queenside and the right side of the board as the kingside. The queenside comprises files a thru d and refers to the location of the starting squares of the queens. The kingside includes files e thru h and is based on the starting squares of the kings.

The four squares in the middle of the board (d4,d5,e4,e5) are called the center squares. The center squares factor prominently into chess strategy.

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