Know Your Chess Symbols

Know Your Chess Symbols

NM eltenedor
Jun 22, 2017, 11:55 PM |



I've been teaching my students how to annotate their games, and along with it, the symbols for annotation. These symbols are extremely useful for not only describing a move, but the evaluation of a position -- whether it be after a possible line of play that could have occurred in the game but didn't, or after an actual move played. I came across a discussion and noticed that these symbols are not that easy to come by, which is why I repost my find from here.

These symbols allow you to condense sentences of analysis into only a few characters, and thus are extremely useful and efficient "chess shorthand." In opening books, where a myriad of lines are presented and conservation of characters is essential, these symbols are often used. It helps to know your lingo!

In an era where many of us derive much of our chess education from our trusty chess engines, emphasis is placed on numeric evaluations of a position (perhaps verging on silicon worship of which even Caissa might disapprove!). But such numbers can only tell us so much; qualitative evaluation in addition to the quantitative is invaluable and cannot be disregarded. It's a pity that this art has been largely lost, especially among younger players. I learned the symbols to annotate my games when I first got serious about chess, at the turn of the millennium in high school, and have appreciated them ever since.

The good thing is that the symbols are easy to memorize. Try using them in analysis of your own games, or of games of GMs that you look up to. Analysis of games is critical to your chess improvement, and these symbols only faciliate and enrich that endeavor. It'll also allow you to dig into the knowledge of old books and quickly grasp what they're talking about (the modern, lazier version of Fischer's learning Russian for his studies).

What's your favorite chess symbol?

Thanks to for the useful cheat sheet!