Naming squares on the board
Each square of the chessboard is identified with a unique pair of a letter and a number. The vertical files are labeled a through h, from White's left (i.e. the queenside) to his right. Similarly, the horizontal ranks are numbered from 1 to 8, starting from White's home rank. Each square of the board, then, is uniquely identified by its file letter and rank number. The white king, for example, starts the game on square e1. The black knight on b8 can move to a6 and c6. Chess notations are a way to determine any unique point on the board.
Naming the pieces
Each type of piece (other than pawns) is identified by an uppercase letter, usually the first letter in the name of that piece in whatever language is spoken by the player recording. English-speaking players use K for king, Q for queen, R for rook, B for bishop and N for knight (since K is already used). S was also used for the knight in the early days of algebraic notation, from the German Springer (this is still used in chess problems, where N stands for the popular fairy chess piece, the nightrider).
Players may use different letters in other languages. For example, French players use F for bishop (from fou). In chess literature written for an international audience, the language-specific letters are replaced by universal icons for the pieces, producing figurine notation.
Pawns are not indicated by a letter, but by the absence of such a letter—it is not necessary to distinguish between pawns for normal moves, as only one pawn can move to any one square (captures are indicated differently; see below).
Notation for moves
Each move of a piece is indicated by the piece's letter, plus the coordinate of the destination square. For example Be5 (move a bishop to e5), Nf3 (move a knight to f3), c5 (move a pawn to c5—no initial in the case of pawn moves). In some publications, the pieces are indicated by graphical representations rather than by initials: for example, ?c6. This is called figurine algebraic notation or FAN and has the advantage of being language-independent.
Notation for captures
When a piece makes a capture, an x is inserted between the initial and the destination square. For example, Bxe5 (bishop captures the piece on e5). When a pawn makes a capture, the file from which the pawn departed is used in place of a piece initial. For example, exd5 (pawn on the e-file captures the piece on d5). The x is often omitted: ed5. A colon (:) is sometimes used instead of an x, either in the same place the x would go (B:e5) or after the move (Be5:). When it is unambiguous, a pawn capture is often indicated only by the files: exd or ed.
En passant captures are specified by the capturing pawn's file of departure, the x, and the square to which it moves (not the location of the captured pawn), followed by the a suffix of "e.p." to indicate an en passant capture.
Some texts, such as the Encyclopedia of Chess Openings, omit indications that a capture has been made.
If two (or more) identical pieces can move to the same square, the piece's initial is followed by (in descending order of preference):
- the file of departure if they differ;
- the rank of departure if the files are the same but the ranks differ;
- Both the rank and file if neither alone uniquely defines the piece (after a pawn promotion, if three or more of the same piece are able to reach the square).
For example, with two knights on g1 and d2, either of which might move to f3, the move is indicated as Ngf3 or Ndf3, as appropriate. With two knights on g5 and g1, the moves are N5f3 or N1f3. As above, an x may be used to indicate a capture: for example, N5xf3.
If a pawn moves to its last rank, achieving promotion, the piece chosen is indicated after the move, for example e1Q, b8B. Sometimes an "=" sign or parentheses are used: f8=N or a1 (R), but neither is a FIDE standard. (An "=" is written on the scoresheet next to the move to indicate an offer of a draw, but this is not part of algebraic notation.) In Portable Game Notation (PGN), pawn promotion is always indicated by a suffixed "=" and the piece chosen. Pawn promotions can also be found with a "/" symbol in older books. For example g8/Q could be used to indicate promotion to a Queen.
Castling is indicated by the special notations 0-0 for kingside castling and 0-0-0 for queenside. Note that while the FIDE Handbook, appendix E-13 uses the digit zero, PGN requires O-O and O-O-O instead, using an upper-case letter O.
Check and checkmate
A move which places the opponent's king in check usually has the notation "+" added. Some use a dagger: "†". (Sometimes ch is used to indicate check.) Double check is sometimes represented "++". Checkmate can likewise be indicated "#" (some use "++" instead, but the United States Chess Federation recommends "#"). Sometimes the double dagger ("‡") is used. The word 'mate' written at the end of the notation is also acceptable. The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings does not indicate check.
End of game
The notation 1-0 at the end of the moves indicates that white won, 0-1 indicates that black won, and ½-½ indicates a draw. Often there is no special indication of how a player won (other than checkmate, see above), so simply "1-0" or "0-1" may be written to show that one player resigned or lost because of time control. Sometimes the word "Resigns" (or "White resigns" or "Black resigns" as appropriate) is used to show this.
Notation for a series of moves
Lists of moves are generally written in one of two ways.
(1) written in two columns, as a white/black pair, preceded by the move number and a period:
- 1. e4 e5 (meaning that White moves a pawn to e4, then Black moves a pawn to e5)
- 2. Nf3 Nc6
- 3. Bb5 a6
(2) in text: 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6.
Moves may be interspersed with text. When the score resumes with a Black move, an ellipsis (…) takes the place of the White move, for example:
- 1. e4 e5
- 2. Nf3
- Black now defends their pawn
- 3. Bb5
- Black threatens White's bishop on b5
An ellipsis is also used when a score starts with a Black move (when the score is not of a complete game but starts from a given position). However, helpmates usually use an opposite convention; Black moves first by default and White moves are indicated with an ellipsis if no Black move precedes.
An example of a full game in algebraic notation follows. This is Kasparov versus the World, a game played by Garry Kasparov (as white) over the internet against the rest of the world (playing black), with the World's moves being chosen by popular vote under the guidance of a team of grandmasters. This game demonstrates many of the notations described above.
1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. c4 Nc6 6. Nc3 Nf6 7. O-O g6 8. d4 cxd4 9. Nxd4 Bg7 10. Nde2 Qe6 11. Nd5 Qxe4 12. Nc7+ Kd7 13. Nxa8 Qxc4 14. Nb6+ axb6 15. Nc3 Ra8 16. a4 Ne4 17. Nxe4 Qxe4 18. Qb3 f5 19. Bg5 Qb4 20. Qf7 Be5 21. h3 Rxa4 22. Rxa4 Qxa4 23. Qxh7 Bxb2 24. Qxg6 Qe4 25. Qf7 Bd4 26. Qb3 f4 27. Qf7 Be5 28. h4 b5 29. h5 Qc4 30. Qf5+ Qe6 31. Qxe6+ Kxe6 32. g3 fxg3 33. fxg3 b4 34. Bf4 Bd4+ 35. Kh1 b3 36. g4 Kd5 37. g5 e6 38. h6 Ne7 39. Rd1 e5 40. Be3 Kc4 41. Bxd4 exd4 42. Kg2 b2 43. Kf3 Kc3 44. h7 Ng6 45. Ke4 Kc2 46. Rh1 d3 47. Kf5 b1=Q 48. Rxb1 Kxb1 49. Kxg6 d2 50. h8=Q d1=Q 51. Qh7 b5 52. Kf6+ Kb2 53. Qh2+ Ka1 54. Qf4 b4 55. Qxb4 Qf3+ 56. Kg7 d5 57. Qd4+ Kb1 58. g6 Qe4 59. Qg1+ Kb2 60. Qf2+ Kc1 61. Kf6 d4 62. g7 1-0