Algebraic chess notation

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Chessboard notation

Algebraic chess notation is the method used today by all competition chess organizations and most books, magazines, and newspapers to record and describe the play of chess games. It replaced descriptive chess notation, although this notation can still be found in older literature.


Naming squares on the board

The notation begins by identifying each square of the chessboard with a unique coordinate. First, the files (that is, lines running parallel to the direction the players are facing) are labelled with lowercase letters a through h, from the left of the "white" player. So the "a" file is to white's left, and to black's right. Then the ranks (lines running horizontally between the players) are numbered from 1 to 8, starting from white's home rank. Thus, black's home rank is rank 8. 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 or c6 (or d7, if that square is vacant).

Naming the pieces

Each type of piece (other than pawns) is identified by an uppercase letter, usually the first letter in the name of that piece in whatever language 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, sometimes called "figurines".

Here are the piece abbreviations used in various languages:

king queen rook bishop knight
Dutch K D T L P
English K Q R B N
Esperanto R D T K Ĉ
Finnish K D T L R
French R D T F C
German K D T L S
Greek Ρ Β Π Α Ι
Icelandic K D H B R
Polish K H W G S
Spanish R D T A C

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 the coordinate of the destination square. For example Be5 (move a bishop to e5), Nf3 (move a knight to f3), c5 (move a pawn to c5--no initial in the case of pawn moves). In some publications, the pieces are indicated by graphical representations rather than by initials: for example, Template:Unicode.

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). The : after the move (Be5:) is also used for captures. En passant captures (see pawn) 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.

Disambiguating moves

If two identical pieces can move to the same square, the piece's initial is followed by: (1) if both pieces are on the same rank, the file of departure; (2) if both pieces are on the same file, the rank of departure. If pieces are on different ranks and files, method (1) is preferred. For example, with two knights on g1 and d2, either of which might move to f3, the move is indicated as Ngf3 or Ndf3, as appropriate. With two knights on g5 and g1, the moves are N5f3 or N1f3. As above, an x may be used to indicate a capture: for example, N5xf3. It may be necessary to identify a departing piece with both its file and its rank in unusual configurations (e.g. the player has three queens or three knights on the board).

Pawn Promotion

If a pawn moves to its last rank, achieving promotion, the piece chosen is indicated after the move, for example e1Q, b8B. Sometimes an "=" sign is used: f8=Q.


Castling is indicated by the special notations O-O or 0-0 (for kingside castling) and O-O-O or 0-0-0 (queenside). Optionally, it may be indicated by the king's move; for example, Kg1.

Check and checkmate

A move which places the opponent's king in check may have the notation "+" added. (Sometimes ch is used to indicate check.) Checkmate can likewise be indicated "#" (some use "++" instead, but the United States Chess Federation recommends "#").


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

2. Nf3 Nc6

3. Bc5 a6

(2) in text: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc5 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. Bc5 a6

See Sample chess game.

Similar notations


Chess games are often stored in computer files using Portable Game Notation (PGN), 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 full algebraic notation. In full algebraic notation, moves include both the starting and ending position separated by a hyphen. Examples include "e2-e4". Notations from algebraic notation are frequently used in long algebraic notation in such constructions as "Nb1-c3" or "Rd3xd7". This notation takes more space and thus is not as commonly used.

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.

Common shorthand notation

The following short-hand notations are frequently used to comment moves:

  • = or ≈ the two sides are equal in this position
  • or +/= white is slightly better (your web browser may not be able to display that properly)
  • or =/+ black is slightly better (your web browser may not be able to display that properly)
  • ± or +/- white has a clear advantage
  • or -/+ black has a clear advantage (your web browser may not be able to display that properly)
  • +- white is winning
  • -+ black is winning
  • ∞ position is unclear
  • ∞/= or =/∞ compensation for material deficit
  • ○ space
  • ↑ initiative
  • ↑↑ or ↻ development (your web browser may not be able to display that properly)
  • → attack
  • ⇄ counterplay (your web browser may not be able to display that properly)
  • 1-0 white won
  • 0-1 black won
  • - (or .5-.5) draw
  • ! 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
  • □ forced move
  • Δ with the idea:
  • ∇ aimed against:

Many other special-purpose symbols are used in reference works such as Chess Informant and Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings; for a full list, see the Šahovskog informatora web site (

For more on the use of question marks and exclamation marks see punctuation (chess).

See also

el:Αλγεβρική σκακιστική γραφή eo:sxaknotacio it:Notazione algebrica (scacchi) es:Notacin algebraica (ajedrez) pl:Szachowa notacja algebraiczna sl:algebrski šahovski zapis


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