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Algebraic Chess Notation

In the last few decades, because of the confusion inherent in descriptive chess notation, algebraic notation was developed. The main advantage of algebraic notation is that every space on the chess board has one, and only one, absolute name. Thus, the square where the white queen begins the game is d1, not Q1 or Q8 as it would be in descriptive notation (depending on which side of the board you are sitting).

algebraic chess notation illustrated
Algebraic notation is easy to grasp. It is actually a bit like playing the game "Battle Ship". Every square is named for the rank (row) and file (column) in which it is positioned. The column is always a letter (a-h begining on the white left side and moving to the black side). The row is always a number (1-8 begining on the white side and moving to the back rank of black). You can see the system in our diagram at left. It is easy to find the name of any square, first by tracing the column down (or up if you are black) and then tracing the row across. In algebraic notation, the letter is always first and the number last.

Algebraic notation, then, is much more precise than descriptive notation in labelling moves. Some computer programs record the move as the space the piece is moving from followed by a dash and then the space moved to. For example, if the king's pawn were to move two squares on the first move, it could be recorded 1. Pe2-e4. This has a pawn moving from e2 to e4. But to make notation quicker and easier, in practice the "P" is left off from pawn moves. Also, to make things quicker, a move can be designated simply by the place it is going to, as generally, there is only one piece of a particular type that can make the specified move.

The pieces are generally designated by a letter (though in books they are often icons of the pieces themselves). K = King, Q = Queen, R = Rook, B = Bishop, N = Knight. Moves to capture are designated with an "x", as in Qxf7. This indicates that the white queen has taken the piece at f7.

If a pawn gets promoted, a Q is placed behind the move as in h8Q. There are other simple designations. A "+" behind a move indicates a check. The castling maneuver is described as "0-0" for a kingside castle. While "0-0-0" is designated for a queenside castle (the "0"s remind you of the number of spaces that the rook must move to complete the castle maneuver. The less used en passant maneuver is designated with e.p.

If you are planning on tournament play at some future date, this is the system to learn as it is endorsed by the FIDE (the international Chess Federation).

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