How to Decide Who Goes First in Chess?

Chess is a popular competitive board game. When playing chess, the person who gets the white pieces traditionally makes the first move. The player with the black pieces decides how to respond. The player with the white pieces moves again, and so on.

There are many different ways to decide who goes first in chess. During casual OTB games, the players decide amongst themselves. When playing ranked online games, the system chooses them at random. During tournaments, the organizers decide.

Playing chess has numerous benefits. It can help you boost your creativity and problem-solving skills. So let’s learn how to play by going into more detail about how to decide who goes first in chess.

Why Does White Get to Go First?

Before 1880, there were no established rules about the player with the white pieces making the first move. It wasn’t until 1931 that FIDE would standardize the tradition that the player with the white pieces moves first.

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Chess as a game had to develop quite a bit before that rule came to be. Did you know that people used to play chess on uncheckered boards? Before the convention of white moving first existed, people standardized checkered chessboards.

When chess literature became popular, authors started placing the white pieces on the reader’s side. The black pieces were opponents from the reader’s perspective. This development eventually led to the tradition of white pieces moving first.

How Do We Determine Which Players Get the White Pieces?

In this section, we’ll discuss how to determine which player gets to play with the white pieces in detail. We hope you find this section helpful when you’re playing chess.

1. During On the Board Tournaments

According to Pandolfini’s Chess Complete by Bruce Pandolfini, during tournaments, it is up to the organizer to decide how to interpret the rules of which player gets the white pieces first.

Sometimes the person with the higher rating goes first, but the players always alternate using white and black pieces to keep things fair. The players are assigned the colors of their pieces per round by pairing sheets.

2. During Casual On the Board Play with Friends

When playing with a friend, it’s up to the two of you to decide who gets which colored pieces. Sometimes we can let chance decide by tossing coins or rolling dice. You can even practice with just one color to brush up on specific openings and defenses.

3. During Ranked Online Games with Strangers

These days, we can play chess online with people from anywhere in the world through websites and applications like or When playing ranked online games with strangers, the website or application will randomly decide whether or not you play as white.

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How Important is it to Have the First-move Advantage?

A chess game can end in one of three ways: white wins, black wins, or a draw. Is making the first move an advantage when you play chess? It is a hotly debated topic today, but most experts agree that white has a slight edge.

Statistically, the first-move advantage of white is less apparent in games between newbies compared to games between experts. Between beginners, it is easier to make the first mistake than to create a winning position with the first-move advantage.

It’s safe to say that playing with either color has its pros and cons. Let’s explore the advantages and disadvantages of playing chess with white pieces.

Pros of Making the First Move with White

Is it better to make the first move with white? Does the so-called first-move advantage sound good to you? Read on to find out.

1. You Can Decide Which Opening to Use.

As chess players, we have a wide variety of openings to choose from when playing as white. The most popular first moves are e4 and e5. By taking the initiative, you can bring the game to territory that is more familiar to you.

2.  You Have Better Odds.

Players who make the first move have slightly better odds of winning based on statistics.

3. You’re More Likely to Turn a Loss Into a Draw.

Even if you don’t win, you’re statistically more likely to scrape a draw from a possible loss than your opponent is. That scores you half a point and is at least better than zero.

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Cons of Making the First Move with White

What are the disadvantages of making the first move? Are there any? Would you rather respond to the first move as black? Find out more below.

1. Black Can Still Catch You Off-guard.

Let’s say you play e4 because you’re very familiar with the Italian Game, black can respond in such a way that makes it impossible to transpose to the Italian Game. If you’re too dependent on your favorite opening, this may cost you the game.

2. You’re Under More Pressure to Win Because of Your Perceived First-move Advantage.

The pressure may be internal or external, but expecting to win can be nerve-wracking. Anxiety can sometimes hinder players from performing at their best. In comparison, the player using black may feel more relaxed.

The Takeaway

So we decide who goes first in chess by figuring out which player is using the white pieces. White goes first because chess literature was easier to digest with white closer to the person reading the diagrams. It led to the long-standing tradition of white making the first move.

Deciding who goes first in chess depends on the type of game we’re playing. The rules are loose when it comes to casual games. When it comes to tournaments, the organizers uphold the rules. During online games with random people, the website or app decides randomly.

It doesn’t matter who goes first when you play chess. It’s good to play well with either black or white pieces. Now that you know how to decide who goes first in chess, it’s time for you to have fun playing it with friends or strangers from different continents.

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