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How to Read and Write Algebraic Chess Notation

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How to Read and Write Algebraic Chess Notation

You're going to quickly learn everything you need to know about reading and writing chess moves, called "chess notation". There's even an actual real-life "scoresheet" below that shows exactly how to write your moves in a chess tournament or chess club. This is the official recording document for recording chess moves. These scoresheets are used by the US Chess Federation, the official chess governing body in the United States.

Algebraic Chess Notation is today's universally accepted chess language. Though there are other styles, algebraic notation has been accepted as the standard by the international chess organization called FIDE. FIDE governs all world-class chess competitions.

Chess notation is easy to learn! You'll understand it like the experts in the next 10 minutes. Just continue reading and/or watch the special chess notation video included.

Why should I write down my chess moves?

There are many good reason's for writing down your chess moves. Chess notation enables you to record your games for playback later. That day you played a superb game of chess... wouldn't you like to be able to play through it later and show your friends? Recording the game with chess notation enables you to study, replay, or show the game later!

You can also read and play through games of great players to learn and improve your own chess game! There is a wealth of materials both in book and digital form allowing you to study the chess moves of great chess players.

Chess competitions actually require recording of moves from the beginning scholastic levels to chess championship levels. The reason for this is that the game can be followed and recreated to any position in case there is a dispute. There are also chess rules based on the number of moves played and these can only be applied if recording has taken place.

Many players like to record their chess games and later enter those games into chess database software which allows them to further study and analyse their game. The chess software will analyse and point out mistakes or places where they could have played much better moves. It's a great way to improve your chess play. It's almost a secret weapon since a remarkably small percentage of chessplayers utilize this concept of chess improvement - and the tools are right there!

Learn Chess Notation

To write chess notation you must indicate the piece and the square it's moving to. Notice how each piece is abbreviated with a single letter except the pawn! If no piece is named it's assumed that a pawn move is made. Notice also how the Knight is abbreviated with a "N" not "K"

Chess Notation Pieces

Algebraic Chess Notation Chessboard

In the following diagram I made the first move pawn to e4. The name of this move is simply "e4". (since the pawn's name is not written)

Algebraic Notation E4

Notice how this is shown on the sample scoresheet. By the way, this is an official chess scoresheet that is used in USCF rated chess tournaments. I've included it here for you to quickly get a concept of how this will appear when you actually record your games.

Chess Notation Scoresheet

Now black has made a pawn move... this is written as e5.
Next, White has replied with Nf3. Notice how the name of the piece is written as well as the name of the square.

Chess Notation - E5

Now, we're going to fast forward to some special moves. See in the next diagram how white has made a special move called castling kingside. This move is written as 0-0. If the King castles on the queenside (to the other direction on the chessboard) it would be written as 0-0-0.

Algebraic Chess Notation 0-0

In the next diagram, White is going to capture Black's pawn on d5. This move is called exd5. When a "capture" is made this is indicated with an x.

Algebraic Chess Notation - Pawn Capture

Next, White captures the Knight on c6. This move is written as Bxc6+. Notice the "+" sign. This represents "check" since Black's King is now in check.

Chess Notation - Piece Capture

White just moved d4. Black's next move exd3(ep), called en passant captures white's d4 pawn while moving his pawn to d3.

Algebraic Chess Notation - en passant

After several more moves, Black captures White's Bishop on c1 with dxc1=Q. That's about as complicated as it gets! This means pawn captures piece on c1 and promotes it to a Queen. Black could promote it to any other piece he chooses, but Queen's are nearly always the best choice.

Algebraic Chess Notation - Pawn Promotion

Chess Notation - Pawn Promotion

Next, notice how the next move is Raxc1. Note that either the rook on A1 OR F1 can capture the queen. This means that the "a" must be included to indicate which rook.

Chess Notation - Which Piece Moves

In this next position, black makes a winning move, d4++, pawn to d4 CHECKMATE!. By now you've probably guessed that this game was created as an illustration since White has made some very awful moves just asking for trouble...

Chess Notation Checkmate

That's all there is to know about chess notation! You've learned the notation standards plus how to indicate the special moves ... check (+), en passant (ep), castling (0-0 or 0-0-0), checkmate (++).

Now you can learn about annotation symbols which can be written at the end of a move to indicate whether that move was a good move or a bad move.

Chess Notation Annotation Symbols

You'll find that once you can read and write chess notation, your world is opened to a wide expanse of chess knowledge. Once you delve into this, you'll quickly become a better chessplayer and you'll be leagues ahead of your casual coffee-shop chess playing friends and just about everyone in your family!

In addition to writing the moves themselves, chess players will comment on the strengths and weakness of chess moves with chess move annotation symbols.

Here's a diagram of the symbols you'll most often see.

... Black move follows
! Good move
!! Excellent move
? Bad move
?? Terrible move (blunder)
!? Interesting move
?! Dubious move

Notice how some of these comments have been placed on the scoresheet shown above. Now you have a solid, practical introduction to chess notation, and a scoresheet that actually shows you how it should look in the real world.

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