A Survey of Chess Notation Types

Have you ever seen those strange letters and numbers listed in chess books and chess news articles? You were looking at chess notation. Chess notation is the written language of the game used to record matches fully. They are also used in instruction on how to play chess in books and tutorials.

Chess notation come in three basic forms, namely: Algebraic Notation, Descriptive Notation and Forsyth Notation. Let us look at each in turn.

Algebraic Notation

This chess notation type is the standard method of recording games. The vertical lines or files are named after letters of the alphabet, a-h with a starting at the queen's side and h at the king's side. Horizontal lines are numbered 1-8 with 1 at white's back rank and 8 as black's back rank.

8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 A B C D E F G H


K - King, Q - Queen, R - Rook, N - Knight, B - Bishop, O-O - Castle Short, O-O-O - Castle Long, + - Check, # or ++ - Checkmate

The square b1, therefore, refers to a white knight's home square. A move of e7-e5 refers to the black king's pawn advancing by two squares.

There two variations of the Algebraic Notation type: full and abbreviated. In the full notation, both the source square and arrival square are indicated; in the abbreviated version, only the latter is given. An exception to this is when two chessmen of the same kind can move to the same square; then the starting file or rank of the moving man is shown. s Full Abbreviated 3. a2-a3 a3 7. Bc1-e3 Be3 8. Qd1xg4 Qxg4

Descriptive Notation

The Descriptive Notation type will strike new players as easier to use than the Algebraic Notation. Here the locators are relative to the player's viewpoint. The files are the same for black and white, but the ranks run in opposite directions.

Each file is named after the piece in it and the monarch ruling that side. As you know, one side of the board is the king's side; the other is the queen's side. The file with the knights in it is the QN or QKN or queen's knight file. But the ranks differ so that white's QN3 is black's QN6.

For instance, white's KR2 refers to h7 in Algebraic Notation and to black's KR7.

1 8 2 - Black's ranks 7 3 6 4 5 5 4 6 White's ranks - 3 7 2 8 1 QR QN QB Q K KB KN KR

Forsythe Notation

The Forsyth Notation gives a quick review of chess board positions. Each rank is written from left to right (queen's side to king's side) and all chessmen are shown including pawns (which are omitted in standard notation).

A line of


means three blank squares on the queen's side followed by a white bishop, immediately followed by a black knight, two more blank squares and a white pawn. This is only a partial notation; there must be eighth segments separated by slashes to describe the whole board which has eight ranks.

Symbols (white uppercase, black lowercase)

P, p Pawn R, r Rook B, b Bishop N, n Knight Q, q Queen K, k king / End of line # Any number means empty squares

To be able to record and review games in these various chess notations is a vital part of your chess education. You will notice different books and tutorials use different methods, so it is well you become acquainted with all of them. Besides, it's a nice way to impress your family and friends!

posted by