Algebraic notation (chess)
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Algebraic notation (or AN) is a method for recording and describing the moves in a game of chess. It is now standard among all chess organizations and most books, magazines, and newspapers. In English-speaking countries, algebraic notation replaced the parallel method of descriptive notation, which became common in the 19th century and continued with sporadic use as recently as the 1980s or 1990s. European countries, except England, used algebraic notation before the period when descriptive notation was common.
Algebraic notation exists in various forms and languages, and is based on a system developed by Philipp Stamma. Stamma used the modern names of the squares, but he used p for pawn moves, and the original file of a piece (a through h) instead of the initial letter of the piece name. This article describes standard algebraic notation (SAN) required by FIDE.
- 1 Naming the squares
- 2 Naming the pieces
- 3 Notation for moves
- 4 Notation for a series of moves
- 5 Example
- 6 Piece names in various languages
- 7 Kindred notations
- 8 PGN for computer storage
- 9 Annotation symbols
- 10 See also
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Naming the squares
Each square of the chessboard is identified by a unique coordinate pair—a letter and a number. The vertical columns of squares (called files) from White's left (the queenside) to his right (the kingside) are labeled a through h. The horizontal rows of squares (called ranks) are numbered 1 to 8 starting from White's side of the board. Thus each square has a unique identification of file letter followed by rank number. (For example, White's king starts the game on square e1; Black's knight on b8 can move to open squares a6 or c6.)
Naming the pieces
Each piece type (other than pawns) is identified by an uppercase letter, usually the first letter in the name of the piece in whatever language is spoken by the player recording. English-speaking players use the letter K for king, Q for queen, R for rook, B for bishop, and N for knight (since K is already used). S (from the German Springer) was also used for the knight in the early days of algebraic notation, and is still used in chess problems (where N stands for the nightrider, a popular fairy chess piece).
Other languages may employ different letters, 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, resulting in figurine notation.
Pawns are not identified by uppercase letter, but rather by the absence of one. Distinguishing between pawns is not necessary for recording moves, since only one pawn can move to a given square. (Pawn captures are an exception and indicated differently as explained below.)
Notation for moves
Each move of a piece is indicated by the piece's uppercase 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 piece letter in the case of pawn moves). In some publications, the pieces are indicated by icons rather than by letters, for example: ♞c6. This is called figurine algebraic notation (FAN) and has the advantage of being language-independent.
Notation for captures
When a piece makes a capture, an "x" is inserted immediately before 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 to identify the pawn. For example, exd5 (pawn on the e-file captures the piece on d5). A colon (:) is sometimes used instead of "x", either in the same place the "x" would go (B:e5) or at the end (Be5:).
En passant captures are indicated by specifying the capturing pawn's file of departure, the "x", the destination square (not the square of the captured pawn), and (optionally) the suffix "e.p." indicating the capture was en passant. For example, exd6e.p.
Some texts, such as the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings, omit indication that any capture has been made. (For example, Be5 instead of Bxe5; ed6 instead of exd6 or exd6e.p.) When it is unambiguous to do so, a pawn capture is sometimes described by specifying only the files involved (exd or ed). These shortened forms are sometimes called minimal or abbreviated algebraic notation.
When two (or more) identical pieces can move to the same square, the moving piece is uniquely identified by specifying the piece's letter, followed by (in descending order of preference):
- the file of departure (if they differ); or
- the rank of departure (if the files are the same but the ranks differ); or
- both the file and rank (if neither alone is sufficient to identify the piece—which occurs only in rare cases where one or more pawns have promoted, resulting in a player having three or more identical pieces able to reach the same square).
For example, with knights on g1 and d2, either of which might move to f3, the move is specified as Ngf3 or Ndf3, as appropriate. With knights on g5 and g1, the moves are N5f3 or N1f3. As above, an "x" can be inserted to indicate a capture, for example: N5xf3. Another example: two rooks on d3 and h5, either one of which may move to d5. If the rook on d3 moves to d5, it is possible to disambiguate with either Rdd5 or R3d5, but the file takes precedence over the rank, so Rdd5 is correct. (And likewise if the move is a capture, Rdxd5 is correct.)
When a pawn moves to the last rank and promotes, the piece promoted to is indicated at the end of the move notation, for example: e8Q (promoting to queen). Sometimes an equals sign or parentheses are used: e8=Q or e8(Q), but neither format is a FIDE standard. In FIDE Laws of Chess, an equals sign with parentheses, "(=)", is used to write the offer of a draw on the scoresheet next to a move, but this is not part of algebraic notation. In Portable Game Notation (PGN), pawn promotion is always indicated using the equals sign format (e8=Q).
In older books, pawn promotions can be found using a forward slash: e8/Q.
Check and checkmate
A move that places the opponent's king in check usually has the symbol "+" appended. Or sometimes a dagger (†) is used, or the abbreviation "ch". Double check is commonly indicated the same as check, but is sometimes represented specially as "dbl ch", or in older books as "++". The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings omits any indication of check.
Checkmate at the completion of moves can be represented by the symbol "# " (some use "++" instead, but the USCF recommends "# "). Or the word mate is commonly used. Occasionally the double dagger (‡) is seen. Checkmate is also represented by "≠" by Apple Inc.
End of game
The notation 1–0 at the completion of moves indicates that White won, 0–1 indicates that Black won, and ½–½ indicates a draw.
Often there is no indication regarding how a player won or lost (other than checkmate, see above), so simply 1–0 or 0–1 may be written to show that one player resigned or lost due to time control. Sometimes direct information is given by the words White resigns or Black resigns, but this is not considered part of the notation, rather a return to the surrounding narrative text.
Notation for a series of moves
A game or series of moves is generally written in one of two ways.
- In two columns, as White/Black pairs, preceded by the move number and a period:
- 1. e4 e5
- 2. Nf3 Nc6
- 3. Bb5 a6
- As horizontal text:
- 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6
- 1. e4 e5 2. Nf3
- White attacks the black e-pawn.
- 2... Nc6
- Black defends and develops simultaneously.
- 3. Bb5
- White plays the Ruy Lopez.
- 3... a6
- Black elects Morphy's Defence.
An example of a full game in algebraic notation follows. The game is Kasparov versus the World, played over the internet by Garry Kasparov (as White) against the rest of the world (playing Black), with the World Team's moves being chosen by popular vote under the guidance of a team of grandmasters. The game demonstrates several of the notations and symbols described above.
- 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. c4 Nc6 6. Nc3 Nf6 7. 0-0 g6 8. d4 cxd4 9. Nxd4 Bg7 10. Nde2 Qe6!? (a novelty suggested by Irina Krush and considered a turning point for the World Team) 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 (see diagram) 32. g3 fxg3 33. fxg3 b4 (the World Team did not trust 33...Bxg3 34.h6 Be5 35.h7 Bg7 36.Rf8 b4 37.h8=Q Bxh8 38.Rxh8) 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 (46...b1=Q? 47.Rxb1 Kxb1 48.Kxd4 and White will win) 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
Piece names in various languages
The table contains names for all the pieces as well as the words for chess, check, and checkmate in several languages:
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|figurine||♔ ♚||♕ ♛||♖ ♜||♗ ♝||♘ ♞||♙ ♟||...||+||#|
|Afrikaans||K Koning||D Dame (lady)||T Toring (tower)||L Loper (runner)||R Ruiter (rider)||(P) Pion||Skaak||Skaak||Skaakmat|
|Albanian||M Mbreti||Msh Mbretëresha (queen)||Ku Kulla (tower)||O Oficeri (officer)||Ka Kali (horse)||(U) Ushtari (soldier)||Shahu||Shah||Shah mat|
malik : king
wazïr : vizier
rukhkh / ṭābiya : fortress/castle
fīl : elephant
ħiṣān : horse
baidaq : pawn / `askarī : soldier
|Basque||E Erregea||D Dama||G Gaztelua||A Alfila||Z Zaldula||(P) Peoia||Xake||Xake||Xake mate|
|Belarusian||К кароль||Вз візыр||Лд ладзьдзя||А афіцэр||В вершнік||(Л) латнік||Шахматы||Шах||Мат|
|Bulgarian||Ц цар (king)||Д дама (lady)||Т топ (cannon)||О офицер (officer)||К кон (horse)||(П) пешка||Шахмат/Шах||Шах||(Шах и) мат|
|Catalan||R rei||D dama/reina (lady/queen)||T torre (tower)||A alfil||C cavall (horse)||(P) peó||Escacs||Escac/Xec||Escac i mat|
|Czech||K král (king)||D dáma (lady)||V věž (tower)||S střelec (shooter)||J jezdec (rider)||(P) pěšec (foot soldier)||Šachy||Šach||Mat|
|Danish||K konge (king)||D dronning (queen)||T tårn (tower)||L løber (runner)||S springer (jumper)||(B) bonde (peasant)||Skak||Skak||Skakmat|
|Dutch||K koning (king)||D dame/koningin (lady/queen)||T toren/kasteel (tower/castle)||L loper/raadsheer (runner/counsellor)||P paard (horse)||(pi) pion||Schaken||Schaak||Mat/Schaakmat|
|English||K king||Q queen||R rook||B bishop||N/Kt knight||(P) pawn||Chess||Check||Checkmate|
|Esperanto||R reĝo (king)||D damo (lady)||T turo (tower)||K kuriero (courier)||Ĉ ĉevalo (horse)||(P) peono||Ŝako||Ŝak||Ŝakmato|
|Estonian||K kuningas (king)||L lipp||V vanker||O oda||R ratsu||(E) ettur||Male||Tuli||Matt|
|Finnish||K kuningas (king)||D daami/kuningatar (lady/queen)||T torni (tower)||L lähetti (messenger)||R ratsu (horse)||(S) sotilas (soldier)||Shakki||Shakki||Matti/Shakkimatti|
|French||R roi (king)||D dame (lady)||T tour (tower)||F fou (jester)||C cavalier (rider)||(P) pion||Échecs||Échec||Échec et mat|
|German||K König (king)||D Dame (lady)||T Turm (tower)||L Läufer (runner)||S Springer/Pferd (jumper/horse)||(B) Bauer (peasant)||Schach||Schach||Matt/Schachmatt|
|Greek||Ρ βασιλιάς||Β βασίλισσα||Π πύργος||Α αξιωματικός||Ι ίππος||(Σ) πιόνι||Σκάκι||Σαχ||Mάτ|
|Hebrew||מ מלך||מה מלכה||צ צריח||ר רץ||פ פרש||רגלי||שחמט||שח||מט|
|Hungarian||K király (king)||V vezér/királynõ (commander/queen)||B bástya (bastion)||F futó (runner)||H huszár/ló (hussar/horse)||(Gy) gyalog/paraszt (footman/peasant)||Sakk||Sakk||Matt|
|Icelandic||K kóngur (king)||D drottning (queen)||H hrókur||B biskup (bishop)||R riddari (knight)||(P) peð||Skák||Skák||Skák og mát|
|Indonesian||R raja (king)||M menteri (minister/vizier)||B benteng (castle/fortress)||G gajah (elephant)||K kuda (horse)||(P) pion||Catur||Skak||Skak mati|
|Irish||R rí (king)||B banríon (queen)||C caiseal (bulwark)||E easpag (bishop)||D ridire (knight)||(F) fichillín/ceithearnach||Ficheall||Sáinn||Marbhsháinn|
|Italian||R re (king)||D donna (lady)||T torre (tower)||A alfiere||C cavallo (horse)||(P) pedone||Scacchi||Scacco||Scacco matto|
|Japanese||K キング (kingu)||Q クイーン (kuīn)||R ルーク (rūku)||B ビショップ (bishoppu)||N ナイト (naito)||(P) ポーン (pōn)||チェス (chesu)||王手/
|Korean||K 킹 (king)||Q 퀸 (kwin)||R 룩 (rug)||B 비숍 (bi syob)||N 나이트 (na i teu)||(P) 폰 (pon)||체스 (ce seu)||체크 (ce keu)||체크메이트 (ce keu me i teu)|
|Latin||R rex||G regina||T turris||E episcopus||Q eques||(P) pedes||Scacci||Scaccus||Mattus|
|Latvian||K karalis||D dāma||T tornis||L laidnis||Z zirgs||(B) bandinieks||Šahs||Šahs||Šahs un mats|
|Lithuanian||K karalius||V valdovė||B bokštas||R rikis||Ž žirgas||(P) pėstininkas||Šachmatai||Šach||Matas|
|Luxembourgish||K kinnek||D damm||T tuerm (tower)||L leefer (runner)||P päerd (horse)||(B) bauer (farmer)||Schach||Schach||Schachmatt|
kalal / padayali
|Mongolian||Н ноён (lord)||Б бэрс (ferz)||т тэрэг (chariot)||Т тэмээ (camel)||М морь (rider)||(Х) хүү (paige)||Шатар||шаг, дуг, цод||мад|
|Norwegian||K konge||D dronning||T tårn||L løper||S springer||(B) bonde||Sjakk||Sjakk||Sjakkmatt|
|Persian||ش شاه||و وزیر||ق/ر قلعه/رخ||ف فیل||ا اسب||س سرباز||شطرنج||کیش||مات|
|Polish||K król||H hetman||W wieża||G goniec||S skoczek||(P) pion||szachy||szach||mat (szach-mat / szach i mat)|
|Portuguese||R rei (king)||D dama/rainha (lady/queen)||T torre (tower)||B bispo (bishop)||C cavalo (horse)||(P) peão||Xadrez||Xeque||Xeque-mate|
|Romanian||R rege||D regină||T turn||N nebun||C cal||(P) pion||Şah||Şah||Mat|
|Russian||Кр король (king)
|Ф ферзь/королева (from Persian vizier/queen)
|Л ладья/тура (boat/siege tower)
|С слон/офицер (elephant/officer)
|К конь (horse)
|Serbo-Croatian||К/K краљ / kralj||Д/D краљицa / kraljica||Т/T топ / top||Л/L ловац / lovac||С/S скaкaч / skakač||(П) пjешак / pješak||Шах / Šah||Шах / Šah||Мат / Mat|
|Northern Sotho||К Kgoši||Kg Kgošigadi||N Ntlosebô/Moshate||Mp Mopišopo||M Mogale||S Seitšhireletšo||Chess||Check||Checkmate|
|Sicilian||R re||D riggina||T turru||A alferu||S scecchu||(P) pidinu||Scacchi|
|Slovak||K kráľ||D dáma||V veža||S strelec||J jazdec||(P) pešiak||Šach||Šach||Mat/Šachmat|
|Slovene||K kralj||D dama||T trdnjava||L lovec||S skakač||(P) kmet||Šah||Šah||Mat/Šahmat|
|Spanish||R rey (king)||D dama/reina (lady/queen)||T torre (tower)||A alfil (elephant, in Arabic)||C caballo (horse)||(P) peón||Ajedrez||Jaque||Jaque mate|
|Swedish||K kung||D dam/drottning (lady/queen)||T torn (tower)||L löpare (runner)||S springare/häst (horse)||(B) bonde (peasant)||Schack||Schack||Schack matt|
|B அமைச்சர் / மந்திரி
amaicchar / manthiri
|(P) காலாள் / சிப்பாய்
kālāḷ / cippāy
|ต เม็ด (ตรี/มนตรี)
(met (trī/montrī), counselor)
|Turkish||Ş/K şah/kral||V vezir||K kale||F fil||A at||(P) er/piyon||Satranç||Şah||Mat|
|Ukrainian||Kр король||Ф ферзь||T тура||C слон||K кінь||(П) пішак||Шахи||Шах||Мат|
|Vietnamese||V Vua||H Hậu||X Xe||T Tượng||M Mã||_ Tốt||Cờ vua||Chiếu||Chiếu bí/Chiếu hết|
|Welsh||T teyrn/brenin||B brenhines||C castell||E esgob||M marchog||(G) gwerinwr||Gwyddbwyll||Siach||Siachmat|
Besides the FIDE standard (or short) algebraic notation (SAN) already described, several similar systems are in use for their own particular advantages.
Figurine algebraic notation
Figurine algebraic notation (or FAN) is a widely used variation of algebraic notation which substitutes a piece symbol for the letter representing a piece, for example: ♞c6 in place of Nc6. (Pawns are omitted.) This enables moves to be read independent of language.
The Unicode Miscellaneous Symbols set includes all the symbols necessary for FAN. In order to display or print these symbols, one has to have one or more fonts with good Unicode support installed on the computer, that the Web page, or word processor document, etc., uses.
Long algebraic notation
Some computer programs (and people) use a variant of algebraic chess notation termed long algebraic notation or fully expanded algebraic notation. In long algebraic notation, moves specify both the starting and ending squares separated by a hyphen, for example: e2-e4 or Nb1-c3. Captures are still indicated using "x": Rd3xd7.
The long notation takes more space and thus is not as commonly used. However, it has the advantage of clarity, particularly for less-skilled players or players learning the game. Some books using primarily short algebraic notation use the long notation instead of the disambiguation forms described earlier.
In international correspondence chess the use of algebraic notation may cause confusion, since different languages employ different names (and therefore different letters) for the pieces; hence the standard for transmitting moves in this form of chess is ICCF numeric notation.
PGN for computer storage
Chess games are often stored in computer files using Portable Game Notation (PGN), which uses algebraic chess notation as well as additional markings to codify a game. As mentioned, PGN requires uppercase letter O to represent castling (e.g. O-O), while the FIDE Handbook uses digit zero (0-0).
Though not technically a part of algebraic notation, the following are some common symbols frequently used by annotators to give evaluative comment on a move:
- ! (a particularly good—and usually surprising—move)
- !! (an excellent move)
- ? (a bad move)
- ?? (a blunder)
- !? (an interesting move that may not be best)
- ?! (a dubious move – one which may turn out to be bad)
- □ (the only move)
- TN or N (a theoretical novelty)
- = (equality in the position)
- +/= (white is slightly better)
- =/+ (black is slightly better)
- +/- (clear white advantage)
- -/+ (clear black advantage)
The symbol chosen is simply appended to the end of the move notation, for example: 1.d4 e5?!
For Position evaluation symbols visit
- Staunton, Howard (1847). The Chess-Player's Handbook. London: Henry G. Bonh. pp. 500–503.
- Davidson, Henry (1981). A Short History of Chess. David McKay. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-0679145509.
- FIDE Handbook
- FIDE Laws of Chess
- Schiller, Eric (2003). Official Rules of Chess (2nd ed.). Cardoza. p. 25. ISBN 978-1580420921.
- FIDE Handbook, appendix C.13
- Sources for this section include Wikipedia articles in various languages. Note that the symbol for pawn is not used in algebraic notation. Archived 2009-10-25.
- "Test for Unicode support in Web browsers".
- Standard: Portable Game Notation Specification and Implementation Guide http://www.saremba.de/chessgml/standards/pgn/pgn-complete.htm
|The Wikibook Chess has a page on the topic of: Notating The Game|
|Look up algebraic notation or Appendix:Algebraic notation in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|