Chess Notation

Here is an overview of the chess notation needed to understand my articles. Notation is how players record their games; it is very helpful for revisiting a game, to see what to do differently.

First, each piece has its own, unique symbol, so we know which piece we are talking about.

King – K

Queen – Q

Bishop – B

Knight – N, because the king gets the K

Rook – R

Pawn – doesn’t get a symbol… I don’t know why

The squares are named by a letter and number system. The board is set up like grid, with the letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h along the bottom, and numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 along the sides. The square are named by the intersection of the letter and number, with the letter first. For example, the top left square is a8, because it’s in the a column, and the 8th rank.

Pieces get a capital letter, the squares get a lowercase letter to avoid confusion.

You might be wondering how to tell if a pawn moves if it doesn’t get a letter. To say a pawn moved, simply write the square name it moved to, like e4. This tells us that a pawn moved to the square e4.

Here are some example of pieces moving to squares. Can you tell where they moved to on your own board? Bf5. Kh8. Nc2.

If you want to capture a piece, use an “x” in between the piece symbol and the square name. For example, Nxh5 tells us that a knight moved to the square h5, and captured the piece that was already there.

To put a king in check use a “+” symbol after the square name. So Qh2+ means that a queen moved to h2, and put the opponent’s king in check. Of course, Qxh2+ means that a queen captured a piece on h2 and put the king in check.

One last thing. If you read books on chess strategy, you may notice notation is typically written like this: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 Nf6.  How do you know what’s happening??

Well look at it one step at a time. The number one tells you it’s the first move of the game. Who goes first? White always go first. So the 1. e4 means white moved a pawn to e4. Then it’s black’s turn, right? Since white can’t move twice in a row, you know e5 means that black moved a pawn to e5. Just work slowly and it’s easy to figure out.

Sometimes, a book will break up the move to illustrate a point.  In this case, 3… Nf6 means it’s black’s third move, and he moved a knight to f6. They do this to prevent repeating white’s moves, which could lead to confusion.

I hope this helps. The only way to get really good at notation is to use it or read it, so practice if you get a chance; it improves your ability to understand chess dramatically.

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