I have used e.g. the game of paper, stone and scissors. Is there another method which determines who has white or black? If so, what is the method?

  • 2
    This doesn't seem to be a question about chess (anymore than it could apply to any boardgame, or even a sports match). However, if you want to determine who has White and who Black, simply put a pawn of each color in your hands, and let your opponent guess.
    – Glorfindel
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 13:02
  • @Glorfindel i wanted to ask that. I edited
    – ra1ned
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 13:06
  • 1
    Just use any un-biased random method that has a boolean outcome.
    – gented
    Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 20:18

4 Answers 4


White always moves first. To determine who plays white in a friendly game, you can:

  • Toss a coin
  • Roll a dice
  • Play an even number of games, alternating sides
  • Play rock-paper-scissors
  • One player takes a white pawn and black pawn, and secretly places one in each hand. The other player picks the hand and therefore the colour to play
  • Use any other agreed method

In tournament play, who plays which colour is determined by the organisers and you should be informed of which colour to play before each game. If you are unsure, ask an arbiter or an organiser for clarification.

Please note that the initiative is a specific chess term defined below:

Initiative in a chess position belongs to the player who can make threats that cannot be ignored.

Source: Wikipedia

  • 6
    I only experienced the pawn-in-hand method. Commented Dec 13, 2016 at 13:04

Another way is to bet for black in an armageddon setup (draw means win by black).

For example, white will have say 60 min. Players bet for the time allowance of black. Whoever offers least amount plays black with that amount of time.

  • This doesn't appear to answer the question.
    – Herb
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 6:23
  • @HerbWolfe OP asked about ways to determine who plays white/black and this answers that
    – jf328
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 8:24
  • I'm not familiar with this method, it looks odd to me. Do you have a source or reference?
    – Herb
    Commented Dec 14, 2016 at 13:46
  • Just to clarify, this is to determine who gets black/white in an Armageddon game only. Or are you saying that the outcome of this Armageddon game will determine the colour for the real (non-Armageddon) game? Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 8:58
  • @HerbWolfe this is about a way to decide who plays white in a casual setup. So whatever way you two agree and enjoy works. I'm not saying it is used in any serious tournament (although it is actually used in a televised Chinese chess tournament)
    – jf328
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 10:20

The chess set I have here in front of me the pieces are both in black bags so someone picks one bag and that is what they play. I just realized this.

  • Pawn hand - you hold a white pawn in one hand and black pawn in the other. Your opponent picks a hand, and the color of the pawn he gets is the color he plays.

  • Flipping a coin.

  • Randomly generating a number x in a set of n numbers. If x is a number in the first half of the set, you go first. Else, your opponent goes first.

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