What are the different chess notation styles?

Answered by Randy McIntyre

Chess notation is a way to record and communicate moves and positions in a game. There are three main styles of chess notation: algebraic, descriptive, and numeric. Each notation style has its own unique characteristics and is used by different chess organizations, players, and publications.

1. Algebraic Notation:
Algebraic notation is the most widely used and recognized system for recording chess games. It uses a combination of letters and numbers to represent the moves made on the chessboard. In this system, each square on the board is assigned a unique coordinate, with the files labeled from a to h (left to right) and the ranks numbered from 1 to 8 (bottom to top).

– Moves are recorded by specifying the piece type and the destination square. For example, if a pawn moves from e2 to e4, it is written as “e4”.
– Captures are indicated by using the “x” symbol between the piece and the destination square. For example, if a knight captures a piece on d5, it is written as “Nxd5”.
– Castling is represented by the king’s move, with “O-O” denoting kingside castling and “O-O-O” denoting queenside castling.
– Promotions are shown by appending the promoted piece after the destination square. For example, if a pawn promotes to a queen on h8, it is written as “h8=Q”.

2. Descriptive Notation:
Descriptive notation was commonly used in the past but has largely been replaced by algebraic notation. It refers to squares on the board using descriptive terms based on the initial position of the pieces.

– Files are labeled based on the pieces initially occupying them. For example, the files are denoted as “King’s Rook file” (KR), “Queen’s Knight file” (QN), etc.
– Ranks are numbered from 1 to 8, but they are referred to differently depending on the player’s perspective. For example, the first rank is called the “King’s side” for White and the “Queen’s side” for Black.
– Moves are described by the initial and final positions of the piece being moved. For example, 1.e4 in algebraic notation is written as “P-K4” in descriptive notation.
– Captures are indicated by using the “x” symbol, and promotions are indicated by appending the promoted piece.

3. Numeric Notation:
Numeric notation is a simplified system used in chess puzzles and studies. It represents moves using numbers instead of letters and coordinates. Each square on the board is assigned a number from 1 to 64, starting from a1 and ending at h8.

– Moves are recorded by specifying the square number of the starting and ending positions. For example, if a pawn moves from square 52 to 36, it is written as “5236”.
– Captures and promotions are indicated in the same way as in algebraic notation.

Other variations and systems exist, but these three notations are the most commonly used and recognized. Algebraic notation is the standard for official chess games, while descriptive notation is rarely used nowadays. Numeric notation is mainly used in specific chess puzzles and studies.

Personally, I have predominantly used algebraic notation throughout my chess journey. It is intuitive, easy to understand, and widely accepted. However, I have come across older chess books and publications that still use descriptive notation, which required some adjustment and familiarity with the specific terminology. understanding and being able to read different chess notations is essential for studying classic games, analyzing positions, and communicating with fellow chess enthusiasts.