Notation title


Throughout the years, some types of Chess notation or languages were developed in order to record the position of the pieces on the Chessboard or the moves being made during a Chess game. This is typically done by indicating the current piece and square location and where the piece is being moved to. It also enables us to review great Chess games played by actual Grandmasters and from other Chess players of the past, allowing you to go back over their games and learn from them. Also, learning Chess notation is a must to compose or study Chess problems and to be able to understand any kind of Chess book.

Piece symbols and letters used in Chess diagrams
w_king  b_king
K = King
w_queen  b_queen
Q = Queen
w_rook  b_rook
R = Rook
w_bishop  b_bishop
B = Bishop
w_knight  b_knight
N = Knight
w_pawn  b_pawn
(no letter)
K, Q, R, B, and N must always be written down in capital letters

Fig. 1

Other shorthand symbols used in Chess notation

Symbol Description
+ or ch Check
0-0 Kingside Castling
1-0 White won the game
½ -½ Game drawn
e.p. en passant move
! Good move
? Bad move
+/= Slight advantage for white
+/- Advantage for white
+- White decisive advantage
= Even position or draw
Symbol Description
# or ++ Checkmate
0-0-0 Queenside Castling
0-1 Black won the game
* Game in progress
x or : Capture
!! Very good move
?? Very bad move
=/+ Slight advantage for black
-/+ Advantage for black
-+ Black decisive advantage
Kt or N Knight

Fig. 2


Algebraic Notation System

Based on a system developed by Philipp Stamma, the Algebraic notation system uses the coordinates of the 8x8 square grid of the Chessboard and it is now the standard among most Chess players and organizations.  The first horizontal row of the white pieces is used for the denomination of all columns.  The squares of such columns are named from left to right with the letters: a, b, c, d, e, f, g, and h.  The first vertical column is used for the denomination of all ranks.  The squares of such ranks are named from down to up with the numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8, see Fig. 3. The diagram on Fig. 4 shows the unique numeration for all the squares on the Chessboard, and Fig. 5 illustrates the current coordinates position on the board of both white and black Kings.

Chessboard with coordinates

Chessboard with coordinates

Fig. 3

Algebraic numeration for all 64 squares

Algebraic numeration for all 64 squares

Fig. 4

White King is at c3 and black King is at f7

White King is at c3

Fig. 5


Short Algebraic Chess Notation

This is the most popular form of the Algebraic system which is also called Standard Algebraic notation. This type of notation omits to annotate the starting file and rank location of the piece being moved and instead, the piece name and destination square are only annotated, see Fig. 6. The letters naming the Chess pieces are always written in upper-case letters and the coordinates letters of the board are always written in lower-case. The letter ‘P’ for Pawn is never used and only the destination file and rank coordinates are recorded.

Ruy Lopez opening

Ruy Lopez opening

Fig. 6

Short Algebraic notation of the above position
1. e4  e5 2. Nf3  Nc6 3. Bb5   ...
Move White Description Black Description
1. e4 White moves Pawn to e4 e5 Black moves Pawn to e5
2. Nf3 White moves Knight to f3 Nc6 Black moves Knight to c6
3. Bb5 White moves Bishop to b5 ... ...

Long Algebraic Chess Notation

Although long Algebraic notation is no longer recognized by FIDE as of 1981, computer programs and some Chess players use this variant of fully expanded Algebraic notation because it has the benefit of clarity, particularly for players learning the game or less skilled. This notation is almost identical to short Algebraic but it has the advantage of recording where a piece comes from in addition to the one it moves to. A hyphen is added between the two, for example:  1. c2-c4 instead of short Algebraic 1. c4. Also, an “x” is used to annotate a capture: 12. Nf3xd4 versus short Algebraic: 12. Nd4 (or Nxd4).

English Opening

English Opening

Fig. 7

Long Algebraic notation of the above position
1. c2-c4  e7-e5 2. Nb1-c3  d7-d6 3. Ng1-f3  Bc8-g4
Move White Description Black Description
1. c2-c4 White moves Pawn to c4 e7-e5 Black moves Pawn to e5
2. Nb1-c3 White moves Knight to c3 d7-d6 Black moves Pawn to d6
3. Ng1-f3 White moves Knight to f3 Bc8-g4 Black moves Bishop to g4

Figurine Algebraic Chess Notation

Another Algebraic notation variation which is gaining popularity, is called Figurine Algebraic Notation. Twelve pictorial representations or symbols to represent the pieces are used  instead of letters: six for the white pieces and six for the black pieces (Fig. 8). It was first used by Count Robiano in 1846 and was called ‘notation parlante’. By changing the letters to small pictures representing the pieces, we can have an international language understood by all Chess players worldwide. This method has mostly been popularized by newspapers and other periodicals in Chess published articles and games.

Figurine piece symbols

wKing12 wQueen12 wRook12 wBishop12 wKnight12 wPawn12
bKing12 bQueen12 bRook12 bBishop12 bKnight12 bPawn12

Fig. 8


Giuoco Piano

Giuoco Piano

Fig. 9

Figurine Algebraic notation of the above position
1. e4 e5 2. wKnight12_2 f3  bKnight12c6 3. wBishop12_2c4  bBishop12c5
Move White Description Black Description
1. e4 White moves Pawn to e4 e5 Black moves Pawn to e5
2. wKnight12_2 f3 White moves Knight to f3 bKnight12c6 Black moves Knight to c6
3. wBishop12_2c4 White moves Bishop to c4 bBishop12c5 Black moves Bishop to c5

Descriptive Chess Notation

This type of Descriptive notation (also called English notation), was once the most popular notation in English and Spanish speaking countries until at least the late 70’s and is still used by some older players. Although Descriptive notation is no longer as popular as Algebraic notation, it is very useful to learn it because there are hundreds of old books from past Chess players using this Descriptive system. Rather than using letters for the columns, the board is divided into King-side and Queen-side squares, see fig. 10. Numbers are used for the ranks but each player starts from 1 to 8 from his relative position. Thus, the Algebraic move 1. e4 e5 is equal to 1. P-K4 P-K4 in Descriptive notation and is represented by the move number (1.), the piece’s name (P), a hyphen (-), and the destination square (K4). Unlike Algebraic notation, Descriptive notation always uses the letter ‘P’ to name Pawns.

Descriptive numeration for all 64 squares

Descriptive numeration for all 64 squares

Fig. 10


Gruenfeld Defense

Gruenfeld Defense

Fig. 11

Descriptive notation of the above position
1. P-Q4  N-KB3 2. P-QB4  P-KN3 3. N-QB3  P-Q4
Move White Description Black Description
1. P-Q4 White moves Pawn to d4 N-KB3 Black moves Knight to f6
2. P-QB4 White moves Pawn to c4 P-KN3 Black moves Pawn to g6
3. N-QB3 White moves Knight to c3 P-Q4 Black moves Pawn to d5

Forsyth-Edwards Notation

The Forsyth-Edwards Notation (FEN for short), is the standard notation or method for describing Chess positions or a particular board position of a Chess game. It was created in 1883 by newspaper journalist David Forsyth from Scotland and slightly extended later by an American computer scientist Steven J. Edwards for use in computer Chess software. The main purpose of FEN notation files is to provide all the information required to restart a game from a desired Chess position.

Typical FEN string showing the Chessboard initial position:

FEN initial position


Fig. 12

A FEN string is made up of 6 fields:

FEN fields

FEN strings contain separators between fields using blank spaces:

FEN spaces

Field #1: Chess pieces setup:

This field number 1 is comprised of 8 strings or sections of letters and numbers separated by slashes ( / ):

FEN sections

Each string or section represents a rank or a row of 8 squares of the Chess board running from left to right and starting from the uppermost section of the board (black pieces). Every rank is filled up with letters taken from the standard English names: “P”= Pawn, “N”= Knight, “B”= Bishop, “R”= Rook, “Q”= Queen, “K”= King, and numbers from 1 to 8. White pieces are identified by uppercase letters (PNBRQK) and black pieces by lowercase letters (pnbrqk). Adjacent or contiguous empty squares are identified with a single digit number (1 to 8), e.g.: a whole empty row of 8 squares should be represented by an “/8/”, not as “/1/1/1/1/1/1/1/1/” and this also applies to any other lower amount of contiguous empty squares in a row.

The following image is an alternate way of visualizing the board with the above FEN file:

FEN board

Fig. 13

Field #2: Active player or color:

The field #2 represents the active color or to indicate which player moves next. Letter “w” means white moves next, letter “b” means black moves next.

FEN active

Field #3: Castling availability:

Field #3 (KQkq) indicates castling options for both colors and can have one or more letters: “K” (white can castle Kingside), “Q” (white can castle Queenside), “k” (black can castle Kingside), and “q” (black can castle Queenside). If neither side can castle, this is “-”.

FEN castling

Table below shows all possible options for field #3:


White and black can castle either side


White can castle either side, black kingside


White can castle either side, black queenside


White can castle kingside, black can castle either side


White and black can castle kingside


White can castle kingside, black can castle queenside
KQ White can castle either side, black is not allowed to castle
K White can castle kingside, black is not allowed to castle
Qkq White can castle queenside, black can castle either side
Qk White can castle queenside, black can castle kingside
Qq White and black can castle queenside
Q White can castle queenside, black is not allowed to castle
kq Black can castle either side, white is not allowed to castle
k Black can castle kingside, white is not allowed to castle
q Black can castle queenside, white is not allowed to castle
- Neither side is allowed to castle

Field #4: En passant:

Field #4  targets the en passant square in algebraic notation and is the position “behind” the Pawn if it has just made a two-square move. If there is no en passant target square, this is annotated as “-”. Should be recorded regardless of whether there is a Pawn in position to make an en passant capture.

FEN en-passant

Field #5: Halfmove clock:

This field shows the number of half-moves since the last Pawn advance or capture. It is used to determine if a draw can be claimed under the fifty-move rule.

FEN half move


Field #6: Fullmove number:

The number of the full moves or a complete move pair. It starts at 1 and it is incremented after black’s move.

FEN fullmoves


Chess Score Sheet

Regardless of the Chess notation a player chooses or likes, he should have the means to write down his Chess moves and games. In Chess tournaments, players are required to record the moves in a Chess score sheet. This effectively allows players and officials to visually follow and recreate all moves made during a game in case there is a discrepancy or a dispute such as an illegal move, three-fold repetition, fifty-move rule, etc. Another good reason for writing down your Chess games is that enables you to replay your moves later for further study and analysis by pointing out mistakes and improving your Chess. Fig. 14 below shows a copy of the original score sheet from “The Game of the Century” played between Byrne and Fischer on the Rosenwald Memorial of 1956 written in Descriptive notation.

Score sheet / Byrne vs. Fischer

Score sheet

Fig. 14

Click here to download a printable Chess Score Sheet


More about Chess Notation

Promotion is annotated in Algebraic notation using an equal sign, e.g., d8=Q. In Descriptive notation there are several accepted ways of doing so: with parentheses: P-K8(Q), or a slash: P-K8/Q, or with an equal sign: P-K8=Q.

In Descriptive, the move 1. KP-K4 ... can always be written as 1. P-K4 ... since only that Pawn can move to K4. The normal full designation for the piece or a file can be shortened to just the last part providing this does not produce ambiguity.

When annotating moves during a game, the move number is written first, followed by the white move and then the black move. When white or black makes a move and the sequence needs to be interrupted to embed a follow up or a commentary, an ellipsis (...) should be placed to denote it: Algebraic Notation - 12. Bxd6 ... (for white) or 12. ... Ne5 (for black), and in Descriptive notation - 12. BxQ6 ... (white) or 12. ... N-K4 (black).

In both Algebraic and Descriptive notation, when a player has the option to capture a piece with two own pieces, e.g., with two Knights, an extra character should be added to avoid confusion: Algebraic - Nfxd4 (if both Knights are on rank 3) or N6xd4 (if both Knights are on c column), and in Descriptive notation - N(K)xP and N(6)xP respectively.

The Board The Pieces The King The Queen The Rook The Bishop

The Knight

The Pawn

Check Checkmate Draws Notation

back      up      forward

Home  |  Chess Gallery  |  Chess Poster  |  Contact us  |  Español