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Learn Chess Notation

Why is it important to know chess notation? Because it helps you read chess books and analyze your own games. And if you want to improve, it is important to know it.
Although it is relatively easy to learn the chess notation, you need to keep practicing and remember that it takes a few tries to master it. And don't give up, it will become easier!

To practice your chess notation, you can check out the Chess Games page.

Below we start with the basics. Basically, we are trying to write a sentence, for example- on move 5, the White Bishop captures on d4. In chess notation, we use a simple type of shorthand and the way we write is 5.Bxd4
So, let's begin the step-by-step process:

Here we have the start-up position. In order to be able to write the notation correctly, we have to have to set up the White pieces on the first rank and the White pawns on the second rank, and the Black pieces on the eight rank and the Black pawns on the seventh rank.

Start up position
A chess board is a perfect square- 8 by 8, and that is a total of 64 squares- 32 light and 32 dark.
Ranks are rows that go horizontally across the board, they are numbered, from 1-8. (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8).
Files are columns and they are lettered, from a-h (a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h).
Diagonals- are slanted lines that go across the board. They are light and , dark.
  Chess board basics  

A square is a combination of a letter and a number. An example of a square is c1. Can you find it?
The longest dark diagonal goes from a1 to h8. Can you name all the squares within this diagonal?
The longest light diagonal goes from h1 to a8. Can you name all the squares between h1 and a8?
The four most central squares are d4, d5, e4, e5.

Learning tip: learning the squares helps you visualize the board better, so learn the color of the squares, starting with the corners, then the longest dark diagonal, then the longest light diagonal, and the central squares. Then, practice guessing the color of the squares blindfold- without looking at the board.

  Chess notation  
The rest of the notation

K = King
Q = Queen
R = Rook
B = Bishop
N = Knight
x = capture
+ = check
++ = doublecheck
# = checkmate
O-O = castles short on the King's side
O-O-O = castles long on the Queen's side

NOTE: There is no letter we use for the Pawn. For example, if you want to record that on move 3 for Black the d4 moves to d3, you would write it as 3...d3

So, now let's write our first sentence in chess notation:

On move 15 for White, the Queen captures on a4. Answer: 15.Qxa4

Pretty easy, right?

Exceptions and examples

Sometimes, we have more than one piece than can move to a certain square. In this case, we need to write the starting square and the landing square, in order to maintain clarity.
Notice how both rooks can we move to e8.
So , this is how we write it down

Example: On move 21 for Black, the Rook from b8 moves to e8. Answer: 21...Rbe8.

Two rook notation

Examples of chess syntax:

1. d4 Nf6 (First move for White is Pawn to d4, then first move for Black is Knight to f6)

2. Nxe5-fxe5 (on the second move of a certain position, second move for White is Knight captures on e5,
then second move for Black is the pawn on f6 captures on e5)

Pawn captures:
8.gxf3-exf3 (on move eight, White pawn captures on f3, then the Black pawn captures on f3)

Pawn promotion:
21...d8= Q (on move 21 for Black,the black pawn lands on d8 and turns into a queen).
54.f1=N+ (on move 54 for White, the white pawn lands on f1, turns into a Knight and checks)

En Passant (In passing):
16...exd3 e.p. (on move 16 for Black, the pawn from e4 captures the White Pawn on d4 via en passant and lands on d3)

Bb4+ Bishop lands on b4 and checks the King

Notation for analysis
Notation used for analysis:

= both sides are equal
+/= 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
1/2 draw
! an excellent move
!! an extremely good move
? a bad move
?? a blunder
!? an interesting move
?! a dubious move

Games are recorded on a score sheet. Here is an example of a recorded game.

Enclosed is an example of a chess score sheet with the notation. A 2-move checkmate. Click here or on the icon below to view and print.

  Scoresheet with notation 2 move checkmate

Exercise: On your chess board, replay this game.

And now it is time to practice writing your own moves. Download an empty score sheet and start writing down the moves! Click here to print out a score sheet
. Have fun!