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Chess Notation for a Beginner

  • #1

    Hey everyone, recently I have become very involved in chess, trying to understand openings and famous games as well as tactics and such. About 2 weeks ago I rented a book from my local library about chess basics, things like outposts and good and bad bishops; however, the notation looks like alien language to me! I have learned the notation rules but trying to visualize the moves in the book is almost impossible for me. Maybe it's just because I'm a beginner, but is there any way to train my mind to be able to visualize things like Qg4 faster? Thanks for anyone's help!

  • #2

    Is the book written by Jeremy Silman? 

    As tips on learning notation, it'll come through practice.  Just keep thinking of the files a-h and ranks 1-8, like a grid.  In time try to memorize the colors of the squares so it's like second nature (e4 white)(d5 white)(d5 dark)(f7 white)(c5 dark), etc.

    Then learn the imporant diagonals, like the d1-h5 white diagonal the White queen sits on in the starting position; the d8-h4 dark diagonal of the Black queen; f1-a6 white diagonal of the White King's bishop, etc.

    You'll get the hang of it in no time, then you should teach yourself descriptive notation (P-K4, etc) so you can read classic chess books.



  • #3

    Thanks for the informative response Becky! I never thought about memorizing the colors, it seems that should help.

  • #4

    Yes memorizing the colors is a great help, especially since a lot of the play involves weakening or strengthening particular-color squares.

    Another thing, when you read your chess book, try to play along in real time on a real chess board and look at the moves physically.



  • #5

    A few things:

    The first letter of every move is the piece (except for if the pawn is moving!

    Bishop: B

    Knight: N

    Rook: R

    Queen: Q

    King: K

    Pawn: (no name)

    If you find 'x' in a move that is: hits ...

    - = moves to.

    Sometimes, like on Chess.com they shorten the notation, example:


    Shoald be: Nb5xd6

    # at the end of a move means 'mate.'

    And for pawn promotion: h7-h8Q - The Q at the end means promo. to Queen, h7-h8N = promotion to Knight.

  • #6

    I think that's only practise which helps. As a little exercise: If you play a game against a friend without time presure, write down the moves you played during the game. To actively use the notation helps to familarize with it. And you kill two birds with one stone: If you've got your game in writing you can use it for an anaylysis later on to learn from your mistakes and improve your chess.

    If you study with your book just take a chessboard and set up the positions. I've got one without the notation so I'm forced to count the files and ranks myself. It's all about familiarising yourself actively with the notation of the chess board and after a while you'll be able to visualise the notated moves without a board in front of you.

    Just my two cents. 

  • #7

    "And for pawn promotion: h7-h8Q - The Q at the end means promo. to Queen, h7-h8N = promotion to Knight." - LCT10 (Sorry I don't know how to quote XD) I actually didn't know this! Thanks for the info.

  • #8

    Oh and another thing, you have to learn the punctuation, which are the annotator's shorthand for his opinion on the moves and/or position, like:

    !!, !, !?, ?!, ?, ??, +-, +=, =, =+, -+, etc...

  • #9
    Cuffley wrote:

    Oh and another thing, you have to learn the punctuation, which are the annotator's shorthand for his opinion on the moves and/or position, like:

    !!, !, !?, ?!, ?, ??, +-, +=, =, =+, -+, etc...

    Figured out the quote system lol. Can you explain everything after ??. I'm pretty sure the exclamation and question marks.

  • #10

    I just cut and pasted this from the internet but I think it's accurate:

    • = – Even position: White and Black have more or less equal chances.
    • +/= (=/+) – Slight advantage: White (Black) has slightly better chances.
    • +/− (−/+) – Advantage: White (Black) has much better chances. It is also written as ± for White advantage, ∓ for Black advantage; the other similar symbols can be written in this style as well.
    • +− (−+) – Decisive advantage: White (Black) has a clear advantage.



  • #11

    Chess coorinates are read the same as a graph. The x-axis always comes before the y-axis.

    As you continue to play chess you'll start to memorize individual squares automatically. Soon you'll be able to tell what color a square is without even looking at the board. But it takes a little time.

  • #12

    These are a few drills you could try.

    + Look for articles on this site that have lots of games (like this one), click through the moves without looking at the notation and then vocalize the moves as they are made. "Pawn to e4. Pawn to e5. Knight to f3" and so on...

    + Do the same thing, but look at the notation and before you click and try to visualize what the board will look like after the move. Once you get better, try to see ahead two or three moves at a time.

    + Get 64 file cards and write the names of all the squares on them. (a1, a2, and so on.) Take out your chessboard, draw a card at random and try to find the indicated square as fast as possible. Physically touch the square and say the coordinates as you do so.

    + Look at any chess diagram and read out the position aloud as fast as possible. ("White King on g1, white pawns on a2, b3, c4...")

    + Some people have already suggested memorizing the color of the various squares. I've never tried it, but some people who did said it really helped their board vision.

    Do these drills for a few minutes every day for a week or two and see whether it helps you. Always remember: Precision before speed. And don't forget to do it from Black's point of view every now and then.

    If you don't like any of these, try searching for things like "chess board vision" or "chess visualization drills" online and see what you can find. There's a ton of exercises and drills out there.

    Good luck!

  • #13

    HappyUngulate, Very very useful drills, hopefully I can use them in routine and visualize. Thank you!

  • #14

    As useful as all of this might be, it seems a little complicated for a beginner, I would just print out a picture of a chess board with the ranks and files labeled, and hang it on the wall close to where I study the chess books.

  • #15

    Kazutadashi, one thing to remember that no one here has yet mentioned: The squares are THE SAME no matter which side of the board you're looking at. For instance, it you're white, your king is sitting on e1 and your king's rook is sitting on h1. If you're black, your king is sitting on e8, and your king's rook is sitting on h8. That's why it's SO important, if you're using a board with the coordinates printed on it, to make sure that h1 is in white's lower right hand corner.

  • #16

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