# Mastering Chess Notation: Tips and Tricks for Accurate Recording

Chess notation is a crucial aspect of the game, allowing players to record and understand moves effectively.

In this article, we explore the ins and outs of chess notation, focusing on the importance of algebraic notation, how to use it, and how to read and interpret it.

We also discuss other types of chess notation, such as descriptive and coordinate notation, and provide tips on how to record notation during a chess game.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player, mastering chess notation is essential for improving your game.

Contents

## Key Takeaways:

## What Is Chess Notation?

Chess notation is a method of universally recording chess moves. **Algebraic notation** is the most common similar to typewriter coordinates. **Descriptive notation** was used until the mid-20th century but fell into disuse with the advent of algebraic notation. **Transposition notation** simplifies notation under the transition of one system to another, but it is practically never used as the two systems use nearly identical principles. Transposition is used mainly backwards to translate an older algebraic into descriptive notation. To allow for international play, the **World Chess Federation (FIDE)** adopted algebraic notation for recording moves in 1980.

The FIDE officially defines chess notation as a notation for recording chess moves on paper. Notation gives both players the ability to later review their games, including to assess what they did right and what they did wrong. Piece moves are denoted by the one or two-letter symbol for a piece, followed by the destination square. Whereas in descriptive notation the file containing the destination square is always interpreted as from the perspective of the player playing and notating black, in algebraic notation each player can use the same notation to record the same game. Furthermore, in algebraic notation, even the center rank of the board is notated differently for the two players. For white, the e-file for example is denoted as e1 through e8. For black this is reversed and e8 becomes the center position with the center being named.

## Why Is Chess Notation Important?

Chess notation is important as it records the moves of a game, allows for game review to improve strategy, functions as a **communication tool** between players and commentators, and helps in solving chess puzzles. Recordkeeping allows original or historic moves to be reproduced and examined, creating a sense of rigorous **permanence and precision** to the game. Lastly, notation serves a fundamental educational service, as learning notation is an important foundational step toward mastering the complexities of the game of chess.

## How To Use Algebraic Notation?

First thing is for the player whose turn it is to move to orient his or herself correctly. The counting starts from the lower left corner of the player and goes towards the right side of the player. Columns are noted using lower case letters from **a** to **h** from left to right, and rows are noted using numbers from **1 to 8** from the bottom to the top. **e4** is the square name of the point in the middle of the board which is four squares up and over from white’s perspective. e2- or a position which is equidistant from the upper and bottom sides of the board and 2 units to the right of the left side from white’s perspective.

### Understanding the Chess Board

Notation is simply a way of recording moves that have been played. This means **point of view**, **title of the piece**, **move as from-to**, and **capturing opponent’s piece** are very important. An understanding of how the chess board is laid out is the first step in how to notate in chess. This includes understanding how ranks, files, diagonals, and squares are numbered and named. A basic, working knowledge of the board’s location names coupled with vigilance for each respective move played will greatly help with recording a game.Identifying the Squares

The **horizontal rows in chess** are referred to as **files** and the **vertical rows** are referred to as **ranks**. The files are labeled from **A-H**, while the ranks are labeled from **1-8**.

Chess notation can be used to refer to the board not only by pieces’ positions but also by the naming convention of the files and ranks. In a game, if you talk about **moving the rook to b6**, the piece is on the **b file and rank 6** of the board.

A benefit of this is that it makes it clear where the player moved if notating a game. **Rooks A1, A8**, and **H1, H8** are the most common starting positions for White’s Rooks (as Black’s back row mirrors White’s starting row). But in the event of **castling**, the **H1** Rook moves to the **F1**, and the **A1** Rook moves to the **C1**.

For **Black**, their initial position of the Rooks is opposite, with the **H file** Rook on the opposite side of the board from **White’s**. Ultimately, the benefit of using file and rank naming notations is that it provides a clear and constant reference point for any piece’s location.

### Using the Algebraic System

The algebraic system is a newer method of notating chess that has surpassed the English descriptive notation in popularity. It is simpler to use because it requires the player to write the piece’s identification letter and then its destination square. It is the most commonly used system in print, and FIG (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), the international chess organization recognizes it with universal standardization.

Algebraic notation records the game board as an array of **64 squares**, each of which is referred to by a letter (a through h) and number (1 through 8) to designate. These letters refer to files, while numbers refer to ranks. The algebraic system uses markers to signify special events during the game, such as brackets to indicate a **check** (*[+]*), question marks to indicate a dubious (*[?]*) or bad (*[??]*) move, enlistments of the remaining pieces, or some code-like symbols.

One piece of notation unique to chess is the **castling notation**. Though it is a more complex system than the descriptive method of notating, it is similarly easily manageable by players writing it and is significantly less confusing for spectators. As the descriptive notation method is no longer taught to new or regional players, it is a skill of diminishing utility. The growth of the algebraic method has made it the most commonly used form, even in older archives.

## How To Record Moves Using Algebraic Notation?

Write the piece type, in the case of a pawn an ’empty character designator is added’ (either a hyphen **–** or an empty pair of a file and rank **fx1**) and then the destination cell on the move’s target square. Capture is denoted with **x** before a square and check by adding ‘+’ (plus) or ‘#’ (heavy checkmate symbol) after a move. The following game from the **2020 Candidates Tournament** shows how to use these basic notations:

### Notating Moves of Pieces

In standard character notation, each of the chess pieces is indicated by a unique character. Players can use any character notation that they prefer as long as it indicates which piece is moving and the move’s resulting square. For example, a player taking **Kb1** with a bishop **exd3** would notate **Bxe3** in standard character form or **Lxe3** in Long Algebraic. Players of multiple nationalities tend to use a variety of variations, but Long Algebraic Notation with the use of **KQRBN** is a simple base.

### Notating Captures and Checks

When a piece captures an opponent’s piece, write an ‘x’ after the notation of the piece that did the capturing, followed by the designation of the piece that was captured. Some examples of this are the following scenarios of piece captures and their notations.

- …Nd5xe7 because the Knight at D file is capturing Pawn on E file.
- …Qb6xf2 because the Queen is capturing the Pawn on F file from the 2 file of the board.

Check is noted with the addition of a ‘+’ sign at the end of the notation. Double check is written with two plus signs ‘+’. If the move leads to the opponent being put in checkmate, write ‘#’ after the notation.

### Notating Castling and En Passant

Chess notations allow for documenting special moves like castling and **en passant**. During castling, both the king and the rook are displayed on the same rank. In queen’s side (long) castling, the king and rook move together to the left and land on the queen’s and knight’s sides, respectively. On square **E1** after queen’s side castling illustrated in this example. In king’s side (short) castling there is no ambiguity because it only happens to one side of the board, where the king and rook are on file A1 and H1, respectively, before castling.

## How To Read and Understand Algebraic Notation?

You read **Algebraic Notation** in chess by first recognizing the **rank** and **file** names and positions on the chessboard. You then translate movements in a notation such as *e2* by using the chessboard as a coordinate system, moving directional positions either forwards, backwards, left, right, or diagonally.

### Understanding the Starting Position

The starting position for any **algebraic chess notation** (FEN) reading is **8 r n b q k b n r**‘s for the black side and **8 R N B Q K B N R** for the white side on the top row (a-rank). The following row (7th rank) should read **8 p p p p p p p p** on the black side and **8 P P P P P P P P** on the white side. This then finishes with the description of the chessboard. Understanding the starting point helps to notate from day one, as it is the position you always refer back to.

### Interpreting the Moves

The moves of the pieces during a game are **notated** as a simple **direct coordinate system**. Use a **grid on the chessboard**, or use the name of the squares themselves. A move like **Nh3** is signaling that the **Knight** has moved to the h file, and is in the **third rank**. When both piece names are identical, the name of the pawn should be specified in the notation – for instance **Nbd7**.

### Recognizing Special Notations

Special notations are annotations in chess that describe movements (such as castling), captures (such as en passant), draws, stalemates, checks, or checkmates carried out under special circumstances. Special notations are used to describe scenarios that can occur in games, but not all games. This is why it is helpful to have an understanding of these special notations and know how they are used.

## What Are Other Types of Chess Notation?

Descriptions of other types of chess notation are as follows:

**Algebraic notation:**Used in descriptive notation and replaced it.**St. George’s notation:**used on the front lines of World War I and by people frequently dealing with German documents. Defunct and replaced by algebraic notation.**Coordinate notation:**vastly unused but found in such texts as FIDE-approved Document A. For example, top space starts at zero zero and is a1 and bottom right finishes at h8.**Text notation:**any words used to describe an entire match. Examples include “**White plays d4 and Black plays Pxg5. White plays Nxh7+ and wins the black queen. after a lot of play White mates in eleventy-five.**” (Arasalan Nekoogar) and “**When the players have opened their king’s and queen’s files, … the game is one of counter-attacking pieces.**(Owen 1852) Text notation was originally the way all matches were verbally notated.**Descriptive notation:**replaced by algebraic notation and is no longer FIDE-approved. The last major chess book written in descriptive notation was**Browne’s Exeitshing Chess**.

### Descriptive Notation

##### Descriptive notation (DN)

is a format of horizontal rows that indicates the vertical rank by using abbreviations for a side’s pieces as well as identifying the file by removing the a-h letter and instead using the name of the piece square. It was used from the 12th century when chess came to Europe until the 5th edition of **USCf’s Official Rules of Chess** in 1991 which standardized the use of Algebraic Notation in the US. It is still in use in some recorded games of Hare and Hounds, Chaturanga, Shatranj, and Xiangqi.

In DN, each rank is labeled. The white player’s Rooks are designated KKt (for King Knights) and QR (for Queen Rooks) respectively. The Pawns are designated with no symbol by which they are identified. The King is “King”. The Queen is “Queen.” The Bishop is “Bishop”. The Knight is “Knight.” The file of departure is indicated after the piece’s name. If it has moved from its original square, there is a capture, or the mover chooses to denote the move in another way other than with the usual symbol.

A parenthesis is always put about the destination’s square. Any move north or south that is not forward is referred to as “back”. All captures are indicated with an “x” before and after the destination’s square, followed by the captured piece if not a Pawn, which can be identified by the file of departure only. King-side Castling is @-@. Queen’s side Castling is @—@`

A hint of the board’s notations and this style can be seen in the seconds 5-7 of this Wahoo Game’s How-to video.

### Coordinate Notation

In **coordinate notation**, the **x-axis** and **y-axis** grid of the board is labeled from 1 to 8 for both axes. The square of the board is then described using coordinates according to these axes. The **a1 square** thus corresponds to the **1,1 position on our x and y axes**.

The unique system of coordinate notation is described in the **FIDE handbook** as being ideal for both computerized displays and the recording of games. It is usually used by arbiters in large international competitions who are recording many games at once. For example, in notation, instead of saying the **White King moves to g5 square** one would say the **White King moves to 7,2 square**.

Squares are referenced according to their **x-coordinate followed by their y-coordinate**. Coordinate notation has a potential for confusion because the squares are labeled differently for white and black. For the purposes of coordinate notation, the **a1 square has an x-coordinate of 1**, rather than 8. This is similar to the difference between modern and old algebra where the modern system uses the x-axis for positive numbers.

### Figurine Notation

Figurine notation was developed in Germany by the National Bureau of the International Union for Chess Education (FIDE). It is used today on scoresheets at international and official FIDE tournaments. In this system, not all pieces are represented, but queens, rooks, knights, and bishops get represented. In FAN, or figurine algebraic notation, White’s pieces are in italics and all but pawns get capital letters. Black’s are in regular font and pawns are represented by nothing, with the sole exception of en passant captures.

## How To Record Notation During a Chess Game?

There is quite a bit of work that goes into **recording game notation**. This includes the physical process of writing or typing while keeping track of the game at intervals and also varied instructive functions of recording. Keeping notation in chess refers to verbalizing moves as they are played. Many tournament players keep notation using the **algebraic notation** system to satisfy minimum requirements.

Recording chess notation is required to determine if **draw by stalemate or fifty move rule** is reached after the required moves are made. It is helpful to controversial situations. To get a resolution over matters in such situations, an arbiter will ask the officials to show when and how the initial position happened. A chess player needs to record his moves at a time control, meaning, when they have spent a particular amount of time (**fifty moves**, or lose on time).

Notation can be handwritten or input into a **database** during the game. Handwritten notation can be entered into a database afterwards. This is a more ancient way of keeping notation and has fallen out of widespread practice. One of the main reasons for maintaining physical notations is to keep the memory of the games alive by reviewing them regularly.

### Using a Scoresheet

In over-the-board **live chess** as well as **over-the-board tournament** games, which are thoroughly referenced in this writing about how to notate in chess, a scoresheet is used to record the moves by both players along with specific information required for tournament play. The components of a scoresheet used in live chess games notated at various stages during the game are as follows.

The great majority of scoresheets are of the **algebraic notation (AN)** or **long algebraic notation (LAN)** type, although **English notation (EN)** is still popular in some countries and is still used in England for certain games.

### Using a Chess Notation Book

Chess notation books are books that show games and the moves they use. These books are more for study and practice and provide the reader with a deeper understanding of game patterns. By having printed chess moves in front of you, you can better understand how more experienced players make their game-changing moves. Some popular regimens like the **Foxwoods Method by Jeremy Silman, the Aagaard homing in method by Jacob Aagaard, and My System by Aron Nimzovich are believed to be quite beneficial for beginners.**

### Using a Chess Notation App

If you want to skip taking physical notation and interact with notation in the most advanced way, mobile **chess notation apps** are a good place to start. Chess notation apps on smartphones and tablets keep track of all your moves automatically and you can add variations to each move, play with or against a chess engine in an interactive way, and back up all your game files to replay games for research or training use at another time. They are also clutter-free, eliminating extraneous information from being included in the notated score.

However, on the negative side as people rely more and more on mobile technology, there is some concern from the chess community over notating as a basic chess skill being lost. Proponents of this position argue that taking notation by hand forces one to remember the game in a different way that aids in analysis and progress, and that without notation chess is reduced to a purely digital recreation with less soul.

Some of the best-apps for keeping notation include:

**LCZero**– an open-source neural network notation application.**Chess Studio in Play Store**– Chess Studio is designed to make use of the widely used PGN (Portable Game Notation) format that many feeds and viewers use, and conducts automatic PGN file conversion when games are complete.**Chess Studio for iOS**– A similar app with a different user interface and system designed specifically for iPhone.

## Frequently Asked Questions

### What is chess notation?

Chess notation is a method of recording and describing the moves in a game of chess using a combination of letters and numbers.

### Why is chess notation important?

Chess notation allows players to replay and analyze their games, as well as share them with others for study and improvement.

### How do I read chess notation?

Each move in chess notation consists of the piece abbreviation followed by the square it moves to. For example, Nf3 means the knight moves to the f3 square.

### What is the difference between algebraic and descriptive chess notation?

Algebraic notation is the standard way of recording chess moves, using letters and numbers to represent pieces and squares. Descriptive notation is an older system that uses abbreviations and symbols to describe moves.

### How do I record castling and pawn promotions in chess notation?

Castling is recorded as 0-0 for kingside and 0-0-0 for queenside. Pawn promotions are indicated by the letter of the promoted piece, followed by an equals sign and the square it promotes to. For example, c8=Q means a pawn on c8 promotes to a queen on the c8 square.

### Is there a specific format or style for chess notation?

There is no set standard for chess notation, but it is generally accepted to use capital letters for pieces and lowercase for squares, with no spaces between moves. Some players also include annotations or comments in their notation.