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Chess Notation - The Language of Chess!

  • erik
  • | Jun 24, 2007

Chess notation is a convenient way to keep track of games, so that you can replay them to study tactics, understand mistakes, or impress your friends. You can purchase a scorebook like this one to take notation, but it is also possible to get started with regular lined paper. Try out chess notation in your next game--you'll find that nothing is more satisfying than that well-placed exclamation mark after the move that wins you the game.

Algebraic Notation

The simplest and most common form of chess notation is called Algebraic Notation. It labels the grid of the chess board with letters and numbers

In this diagram, the white king is on square c3 and the black king is on square h5.

Rank (or row) 1 is the end of the board where white begins; black begins at rank 8. The files (or columns) are lettered from white's left to right.

Additionally, capital letters are used for pieces as follows: 

K: King
Q: Queen
R: Rook
B: Bishop
N: Knight
P: Pawn (although, by convention, P is usually omitted from notation)

How to Write a Move

To write a move, give the name of the piece and the square to which it moves. If a piece is captured, we include the symbol x for "captures" before the destination square.

For example, in this game, white's first move is Nc3: knight to square c3. Black responds with f5 (remember, the P is omitted). White plays e4 and black captures the pawn, fxe4, f captures e4. The file f replaces the name of the pawn, since P is omitted. White recaptures, Nxe4. The rest of the game is written as

...         Nf6

Nxf6+    gxf6


 + is the sign for check, and # is the sign for checkmate.

Special Symbols

x: captures
0-0: kingside castle
0-0-0: queenside castle
+: check
#: checkmate
!: good move
?: poor move
more !s and ?s can be added for emphasis.

Avoiding Ambiguity

Rd1 is not enough to define this move--which rook? In situations where regular notation is ambiguous, add an extra letter or number to specify the origin of the piece that moves. Here, Rad1, rook from file a to square d1, solves the problem. When a pawn makes a capture, always include the originating file, as in fxe4 and gxf6 above.



Other Notations

Most players today use Algebraic Notation, but there are a few variants:

Long Algebraic Notation gives the square of origin as well as the destination square for each move.

Descriptive Notation, an older system, names the files of the chess board for pieces. For example, the c file is called the QB, or queen's bishop's file. The ranks are written from each player's perspective. White's QB3 is black's QB6.


  • 5 weeks ago


    thank u erik

  • 5 months ago


    Please explain to me how i can automatically set all my chess games with the Algebraic notation? Ive tried so many times when I go to my settings but it refuses to allow me to set it up that way. Thank you to anyone who that could help me, Chanda Lear

  • 6 months ago


    very informative

  • 10 months ago


     Sorry I have a question.
    What do the numbers in the column "Draw" in the standings?

  • 11 months ago



  • 11 months ago


    nice one

  • 21 months ago


    Thank you!

    Good information...

  • 2 years ago


    Thank you for explaining :)

  • 2 years ago




  • 4 years ago


    Very useful.  Linking back to this from my blog.  Thank you!

  • 4 years ago


    Chess notation is a wonderful invention -- a time machine that allows us to enjoy chess games of all eras, even those played hundreds of years ago.

  • 7 years ago


    A question on FEN notation:  Chessiq explained how to record a position, but is there no way in the FEN notation to indicate whether black or white has the move?  This information would seem to be a relevant attribute of the position...


  • 7 years ago


    I started writing chess notation when I was 24. It helped me study many books and when I was almost 26, I won my first chess tournament..! I encourage all to learn chess notation.

  • 8 years ago


    ++ was used for mate in descriptive notation, but in algebraic notation it means double check, not checkmate.
  • 8 years ago


    actually, i referenced them here: "more !s and ?s can be added for emphasis."
  • 8 years ago


    erik forgot ??: blunder, ?!: doubtful move and !?: intersting move.
  • 8 years ago


    I agree with Andy. Algebraic Notation is the only way to go.
  • 8 years ago


    I have seen ++ used for checkmate. Yahoo chess uses that, and I am sure I've seen it in a few other places too. Whether they are using it correctly or incorrectly, I really don't know.


    And while I am here, I would like to state for the record that I think Descriptive Notation stinks. Smile


  • 8 years ago


    Nice post!

    You want more work? Would you please write something on how to play Chess. I am less techie... I have linked to wikipedia at my blog for how the pieces move, but I would like to change it so that those links point here. Please shoot me an email when you do it. (I hope you have not done it already - that I just needed to look! :-) )


    Don1, (comment#2 above) you wanted FEN notation. Here is a quick summary:

    a) All White pieces are represented by Capital Letters, R N B Q K P (for Rook, Knight, Bishop, King, and Pawn respectively).

    b) All Black pieces are represented by small letters, r n b q k p

    c) Spaces between pieces are represented by numbers: 1 for an empty square, 4 for four unoccupied squares, and 8 for a row that has no piece on it.

    d) You start from the 8th rank/row going down to the first.

    e) Last but not least, you separate ranks by a forward slash (/). 

    Let's look at a couple of diagrams with there respective FEN notations:

    1. The starting position.


    This means that all Black pieces are in their initial position: pieces and then pawns. After that you have 4 unoccupied ranks/rows represented by the 8/8/8/8 and then you have a who row of White Pawns, and then White Pieces in their initial/starting positions.


    2. After Fischer Makes His First Move 



    This is saying all Black pieces are in their initial position. Then you have 2 empty rows. Then you have 4 unoccupied squares, then you have a pawn, and then you have 3 empty squares. On the next rank, all 8 squares are empty. On the next rank, you have 4 White Pawns, one empty square, followed by 3 White Pawns. Lastly, on the last row, all White Pieces are in their initial square. 

    3. What kind of Opening is this? Whose move is it?




    This is saying that on the 8th rank, there is a Black rook, knight(next to it), 1 empty square, queen, king next to it, 2 empty squares, and then a black rook. On the 7th rank, there is ... I will let you finish this one for me!

    ***** I should just point out that the FEN Notation is mostly used to record a position. Let's say if you adjourn a position and you would like to pack your chess set and come back to it later. Using it to record a chess game would be... ;-)  

    Let me know if you have any questions. 

  • 8 years ago


    tHANK YOU !
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