A Guide to Algebraic Chess Notation

A Guide to Algebraic Chess Notation

The Chess Pieces in Algebraic Notation

  • K - the King
  • Q - the Queen
  • R - a Rook
  • B - a Bishop
  • N - a Knight (as K is taken by the King)

Pawns were initially referred to as P, but are more commonly simply noted by their position, as explained below.

Movement of Piecesin Chess

In algebraic notation, it is sufficient to note only the type of piece and the square to which it has moved. So a Knight moving from c3 to e4 would be noted Ne4, a Bishop moving from d3 to e4 would be noted Be4, and so forth.

If there are two pieces which could make the same move, say two Knights or Rooks, then the file which the piece occupies prior to the move is added for clarity; so if there are Knights

positioned on c3 and g3, the c-Knight moving to e4 will be noted Nce4, while the g-Knight would be Nge4. If both Knights are on the same file, then the rank number is used instead; so Knights on g1 and g5 moving to f3 would read N1f3 and N5f3 respectively.

As noted above, pawns are generally referred to simply by their position, and so no prefix is required; when a pawn moves, simply note the square it moves to.

White's popular opening move of the pawn on e2 to e4 would thus be noted e4, the d-pawn making a similar move would be d4, and so forth.

Capturing Pieces in Chess

When a piece is taken, algebraic notation records the piece which has made the capture, the square they have occupied, and adds 'x' to denote that a piece has been taken.

So if for example a Knight on c3 took a pawn on e4, it would be noted Nxe4. If there are two Knights who could make this move, the file of the capturing Knight is added for clarity; Ncxe4. As in movement, if the Knights occupy the same file, then the rank number is used instead; N3xe4.

As with movement, pawns have no specific notation of their own and are referred to by the file they occupy. So a pawn on e4 taking a piece on d5 would read exd5.

Special Moves in Chess

There are a number of special moves in chess, which are notated as follows:

  • + - check (occasionally noted as )
  • # - checkmate (++ is also occasionally acceptable, as is ††)
  • 0-0 - castling on the Kingside; the King and his Rook swap places
  • 0-0-0 - castling on the Queenside; a rarer move, where the King and the Queen's Rook swap places
  • e.p. - a capture en passant, when a pawn uses its initial two-square move to escape capture by another pawn; the capturing pawn moves into the square the pawn would have occupied had it only moved one square. The notation would simply record the square the capturing pawn moved to, followed by e.p., say cxd4 e.p.

For pawn promotion, adding the letter of the piece that the pawn is promoted to the move to is generally sufficient - so a pawn moving from e7 to e8 and becoming a Queen would be notated as e8Q. It is also occasionally acceptable to add an 'equals' sign for clarification, which would read e8=Q.

Ending the Game

Many games do not end in a checkmate, and as such do not end with the # symbol; a game can also be ended by a player resigning, or due to time limits.

When White has won the game, the final move is followed by 1-0, and when Black is the victor the final note is 0-1. If the game is drawn or ends in stalemate, it is noted as ½-½, as in tournament play this would result in each player winning half a point.

These are the basic rules of algebraic chess notation, the fashion in which almost all major chess matches have been recorded.

By learning how to note the movement and capturing of pieces, as well as the various special moves available, a player can note how their own matches progress to study and eliminate mistakes, as well as going through many of history's great chess battles to see how the masters play.

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