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Algebraic Notation

Chess Move Record

In order to record and communicate chess moves, several written notations are widely used in books and by the players themselves. The most popular modern notation is called the Algebraic System. It is called this because of the unique way it identifies each square of an 8 by 8 matrix chess board. Each column or file is labeled with a letter. Each row or rank is labeled with a number.

Nearly all good chess players record all the moves of all their serious games. They record the moves in order to reconstruct the game at a later date for analysis or to resolve a dispute. You too should begin recording the moves of your serious games. Your game record is the most important tool you can use to improve your playing skill.

The Chess Board Matrix
The Chess Board Matrix

The board is labeled according to the Algebraic System. The squares b4, d5, and h3 are identified. The labels are the same from both Black and white perspectives. The near-right square for white is h1. The near-right square for Black is a8. Note that a file's lower case letter label always comes first in any square's identification.

With a little practice you should have no trouble identifying any square of a chess board from white or Black's side of the board.


You should learn the following symbols:

  • K = King
  • Q = Queen
  • R = Rook
  • B = Bishop
  • N = kNight
  • x = capture (This symbol is often omitted when recording pawn capture moves. The formal notation of cxd5 means the pawn on c4 captures the piece on d5. This is often shortened to cxd or further to just cd. Usually, this short hand notation is unambiguous. However, I do not recommend omitting any part of the formal notation.)
  • + = check
  • ++ = doublecheck
  • # = checkmate
  • O-O = castles short on the king's side (Often shortened to OO.)
  • O-O-O = castles long on the queen's side (Often shortened to OOO.)
Comment Shorthand Notation

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

  • = both sides are considered equal here
  • +/= white is slightly better
  • =/+ black is slightly better
  • +/- white has a clear advantage
  • -/+ black has a clear advantage
  • 1-0 white won
  • 0-1 black won
  • .5-.5 draw
  • ! an excellent move
  • ? a blunder
  • !? an interesting move that may not be best
  • ?! a dubious move, but not easily refuted
A Short Game

The following game illustrates how moves are recorded using the Algebraic System. Note that lengthy comments are usually enclosed in parentheses, braces, brackets, or are just on a line by themselves. Note also that a header is frequently use to record additional information about the game.

[Event "ICC 4 15 03/26/95"]
[Site "aics"]
[Date "1995.03.26"]
[White "JAZZit"]
[Black "WoodPusher"]
[WhiteElo "1571"]
[BlackElo "1646"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "King's Indian: 5.Nf3"]

1. d4 Nf6

After 1. ... Nf6
After 1. ... Nf6

The board position after the first move. When only a square is stated like d4 in the above first move, a pawn is assumed to be the piece moved to that square.

2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 Bg7 4. e4 d6 5. Nf3 O-O 6. Bd3 Bg4 7. h3 Bxf3 8. gxf3 c5 9. d5 Nbd7 10. f4 e6 11. dxe6 fxe6 12. Be3 a6 13. Qf3 d5 14. e5

After 14. e5
After 14. e5

The board position after white's 14th move.

14... Nxe5

A speculative effort to open the center of the board while white is uncastled.

15. fxe5 Ne4 16. Qg4 Qb6 17. Na4?

A serious blunder. White should castle long.

17... Qb4+ 18. Ke2 Rxf2+ 19. Bxf2 Qd2+ {White resigns} 0-1

20... Qxf2 is mate next.

The Position After White Resigns
The Position After White Resigns

The final board position. White will be mated next.

For further information about algebraic notation, please refer to the standard: Portable Game Notation Specification and Implementation Guide.

... they have all one language; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.