Algebraic chess notation

Algebraic chess notation

Algebraic chess notation is used to record and describe the moves in a game of chess. It is now standard among all chess organizations and most books, magazines, and newspapers. In English speaking countries, it replaced the parallel system of descriptive chess notation, which became common in the 19th century, and was sporadically used as recently as the 1980s or 1990s. European countries, except England, used algebraic notation before the period when descriptive notation was common. [Howard Staunton, "The Chess-Player's Handbook" (London: H.G. Bonh, 1847), pp.500-503.]

Algebraic notation was developed by Philipp Stamma. It exists in various forms and languages, as will be described below.

Naming squares on the board

Each square of the chessboard is identified with a unique pair of a letter and a number. The vertical "files" are labeled a through h, from White's left (i.e. the queenside) to his right. Similarly, the horizontal "ranks" are numbered from 1 to 8, starting from White's home rank. Each square of the board, then, is uniquely identified by its file letter and rank number. The white king, for example, starts the game on square e1. The black knight on b8 can move to a6 and c6. Chess notations are a way to determine any unique point on the board.

Naming the pieces

Each type of piece (other than pawns) is identified by an uppercaseletter, usually the first letter in the name of that piece in whateverlanguage is spoken by the player recording.English-speaking players use K for king,Q for queen, R for rook,B for bishop and N for knight (since K is already used). S was also used for the knight in the early days of algebraic notation, from the German "Springer" (this is still used in chess problems, where N stands for the popular fairy chess piece, the nightrider).

Players may use different letters in other languages.For example, French players use F for bishop (from "fou").In chess literature written for an international audience, the language-specific letters are replaced by universal icons for the pieces, producing Figurine notation.

Pawns are not indicated by a letter, but by the absence of such a letter—it is not necessary to distinguish between pawns for normal moves, as only one pawn can move to any one square (captures are indicated differently; see below).

Notation for moves

Each move of a piece is indicated by the piece's letter, plus thecoordinate of the destination square.For example Be5 (move a bishop to e5), Nf3 (movea knight to f3), c5 (move a pawn to c5—no initialin the case of pawn moves).In some publications, the pieces are indicated by graphicalrepresentations rather than by initials: for example, unicode|♞c6. This is called figurine algebraic notation or FAN and has the advantage of being language independent.

Notation for captures

When a piece makes a capture, an x is inserted between the initial and the destination square. For example, Bxe5 (bishop captures the piece on e5). When a pawn makes a capture, the "file" from which the pawn departed is used in place of a piece initial. For example, exd5 (pawn on the e-file captures the piece on d5). Sometimes when it is unambiguous, a pawn capture is indicated only by the files, e.g. exd, ed5 or ed.

A colon (:) is sometimes used instead of an x, either in the same place the "x" would go (B:e5) or after the move (Be5:). "En passant" captures are specified by the capturing pawn's file of departure, the x, and the square to which it moves (not the location of the captured pawn), optionally followed by the notation "e.p." It is never "necessary" to specify that a capture was "en passant" because a capture from the same file but not "en passant" would have a different destination square. Within the SAN (Standard Algebraic Notation) standard, the "x" capture indication is always required while the "e.p." en passant move suffix indication is always forbidden.

Some texts, such as the "Encyclopedia of Chess Openings", omit indications that a capture has been made.

Disambiguating moves

If two (or more) identical pieces can move to the same square, the piece'sinitial is followed by (in descending order of preference):
# the file of departure if they differ;
# the rank of departure if the files are the same but the ranks differ;
# Both the rank and file if neither alone uniquely defines the piece (after a pawn promotion, if three or more of the same piece are able to reach the square).

For example, with two knights on g1 and d2, either ofwhich might move to f3, the move is indicated as Ngf3or Ndf3, as appropriate.With two knights on g5 and g1, the moves are N5f3or N1f3.As above, an x may be used to indicate a capture: for example,N5xf3.

Pawn promotion

If a pawn moves to its last rank, achieving promotion, the piecechosen is indicated after the move, for example e1Q, b8B.Sometimes an "=" sign or parentheses are used: f8=Q or f8(Q), but neither is a FIDE standard. (The "=" sign is in fact used to represent the offer of a draw.)In Portable Game Notation (PGN), pawn promotion is always indicated by a suffixed "=" and the piece chosen.Pawn promotions can also be found with a "/" symbol in older books. For example f8/Q could be used to explain a promotion of a Queen.


Castling is indicated by the special notations 0-0 for kingside castling and 0-0-0 for queenside. Note that while the [ FIDE Handbook, appendix E-13] uses the digit zero, PGN requires O-O and O-O-O instead, using an upper-case letter O.

Check and checkmate

A move which places the opponent's king in check usually has the notation "+" added. Some use the dagger: "†". (Sometimes "ch" is used to indicate check.) Double check is sometimes represented "++". Checkmate can likewise be indicated "#" (some use "++" instead, but the United States Chess Federation recommends "#"). Sometimes the double dagger ("‡") is used. The word 'mate' written at the end of the notation is also acceptable. The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings does not indicate check.

End of game

The notation 1-0 at the end of the moves indicates that white won, 0-1 indicates that black won, and ½-½ indicates a draw. Often there is no special indication of "how" a player won (other than checkmate, see above), so simply "1-0" or "0-1" may be written to show that one player resigned or lost because of time control. Sometimes the word "Resigns" (or "White resigns" or "Black resigns" as appropriate) is used to show this.


Moves are generally written in one of two ways.

(1) written in two columns, as a white/black pair, preceded by the move number and a period:

:1. e4 e5 (meaning that white moves a Pawn to e4, then black moves a Pawn to e5):2. Nf3 Nc6:3. Bb5 a6

(2) in text: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6.

Moves may be interspersed with text. When the score resumes with a black move, an ellipsis (…) takes the place of the white move, for example:

:1. e4 e5:2. Nf3:Black now defends his pawn"':2. ... Nc6:3. Bb5:Black threatens White's bishop on b5"':3. ...a6An ellipsis is also used when a score "starts" with a Black move (when the score is not of a complete game but starts from a given position). However, helpmates usually use an opposite convention; Black moves first by default and "White" moves are indicated with an ellipsis if no Black move precedes.

Naming the pieces in various languages

Here are names for all the pieces as well as the words for "chess", "check", and "checkmate" in several languages: [Sources for this section include [ this page] and Wikipedia articles in various languages. Note that the symbol for pawn is not used in algebraic notation.]

imilar notations


Chess games are often stored in computer files using Portable Game Notation (PGN), [Standard: Portable Game Notation Specification and Implementation Guide] which uses algebraic chess notation as well as additional markings to describe a game.

Long algebraic notation

Some computer programs (and people) use a variant of algebraic chess notation, termed "long algebraic notation" or "fully expanded algebraic notation". In fully expanded algebraic notation, moves include both the starting and ending squares separated by a hyphen: for example, "e2-e4" or "Nb1-c3". Captures are indicated with "x" instead of a hyphen: "Rd3xd7". This notation takes more space and thus is not as commonly used. However, it has the advantage of clarity, particularly for less skilled players or players learning the game.

Some books using primarily short algebraic notation use the long notation instead of the disambiguation forms. Long algebraic notation was no longer recognized by FIDE as of 1981. [citation
last=Golombek | first=Harry |author-link=Harry Golombek
year=1977 | title=Golombek's Encyclopedia of Chess
publisher=Crown Publishing
isbn=0-517-53146-1 | page=216

Numeric notation

In international correspondence chess the use of algebraic notation may cause confusion, since different languages have different names (and therefore different initials) for the pieces; hence the standard for transmitting moves in this form of chess is ICCF numeric notation.

Figurine Algebraic Notation

"Figurine Algebraic Notation" (FAN) is a widely-used variation of algebraic notation which replaces the letter that stands for a piece by its symbol, i.e. unicode|♞c6 instead of Nc6. This enables the moves to be read independent of language. The Unicode Miscellaneous Symbols set includes all of the symbols necessary for FAN. In order to display or print these symbols, one has to have a one or more fonts with good Unicode support installed on the computer, and the document (Web page, word processor document, etc.) must use one of these fonts. cite web
title=Test for Unicode support in Web browsers

Common shorthand notation

The following short-hand notations are frequently used to comment moves:
*! a good move
*!! an excellent move
*? a mistake
*?? a blunder
*!? an interesting move that may not be best
*?! a dubious move, but not easily refuted
*Unicode|□ only move
*TN a theoretical novelty

and many others.

See also

*Chess notation
*Descriptive chess notation


External links

* [ FIDE rules on algebraic notation] (see appendix E)
* [ notation website]

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