The notation of a game of chess

There are tens of thousands of books about chess and since the 19th century numerous journals which report of chess tournaments or publish annotated games. So an easily internationally understandable form of recording chess moves is required The way of recording a chess game in writing is referred to as the notation. In tournament chess the players are both required to write down the moves of their game on so-called scoresheets.

To note down chess games we use the coordinates of the chess board

Each square is called after its file and rank. The files go from 'a' to 'h', the ranks from '1' to '8'.

The simplest way to note down a game is called long notation. It works as follows:

    • Pawn moves are simply recorded by giving the starting and finishing squares, e.g. 1. d2-d4
    • The pairs of moves are numbered in sequence and in front of each pair there is the move number, e.g. 2. c2-c4 e7-e6.
    • For the sake of clarity moves with pieces other than pawns start with a letter signifying which piece is moving, e.g. 3. Nb1-c3 Bf8-e7. These abbreviations are K, Q, R, B, N.
    • Instead of a hyphen captures ar denoted by an "x", e.g. 8. Bg5xf6
    • Optionally checks can be recorded with a plus sign, e.g. 3. Bf1-b5+
    • For a mating move the hash sign is used, e.g. 23. Bd6-e7#
    • Short or kingside castling is 7. 0-0, long or queenside castling 9. 0-0-0
    • For promotions the abbreviation for the piece chosen is placed at the end of the move, e.g. 38. e7xf8Q+
    • The result is abbreviated as follows. White wins: 1-0, Draw: 1/2-1/2, Black wins: 0-1

In today’s chess books. magazines and on the Internet one almost exclusively finds the more compact short notation. In it the starting square is left out because it is obvious. So, 1.e4 instead of 1. e2-e4 and 8.Bxf6 in place of 8. Bg5xf6. If two pieces of the same type can reach the target square, a letter is added for a file from which the designated one comes or a number for a rank, in order to clear up the ambiguity. Example 6.Nbd2, if two knights can move to the d2-square and you mean the knight from the b-file. Or 12.R3d4, if there are two rooks in the d-file which can both go to d4 and the rook on the third rank is the one intended to go there.
Example of the notation of a game of chess on a scoresheet:


Playing through a game of chess from the notation

The following game is one of the most famous encounters in the history of chess. White sacrifices the queen, both rooks and bishops in order to deliver mate. In the interest of a more resilient defence one would advise Black not to accept every sacrifice but that does not detract from the beauty of the final mate.

Click on the    below the board to play through the game one move at a time. You can also click on any move in the notation to go directly to that part of the game.

[Event "London 'Immortal  Game'"] [Site "London"] [Date "1851.06.21"] [Round "?"] [White "Anderssen, Adolf"] [Black "Kieseritzky, Lionel Adalbert BF"] [Result "1-0"] [ECO "C33"] [PlyCount "45"] [EventDate "1851.06.21"] [EventType "game"] [EventRounds "1"] [EventCountry "ENG"] 1. e4 e5 2. f4 exf4 3. Bc4 Qh4+ 4. Kf1 b5 5. Bxb5 Nf6 6. Nf3 Qh6 7. d3 Nh5 8. Nh4 Qg5 9. Nf5 c6 10. g4 Nf6 11. Rg1 cxb5 12. h4 Qg6 13. h5 Qg5 14. Qf3 Ng8 15. Bxf4 Qf6 16. Nc3 Bc5 17. Nd5 Qxb2 18. Bd6 Bxg1 19. e5 Qxa1+ 20. Ke2 Na6 21. Nxg7+ Kd8 22. Qf6+ Nxf6 23. Be7# 1-0