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|Notation is the key to publishing chess games.|
Chess notation gives us the means to record chess games, to publish them, and to discuss specific positions on the chess board.
Algebraic notation is the most common notation in use. For the rows of the chess board it assigns the numbers '1' through '8' starting from the White side. For the columns of the board it uses the letters 'a' through 'h', left to right from the White side. The square at the intersection of a column and a row is identified by the letter for the column and the number for the row.
Here's a diagram showing the two character notation for each square on the board.
The square in the lower left is 'a1', while the square in the upper right is 'h8'. Note that the board is usually displayed with White at the bottom and Black at the top.
The pieces are identified by a single letter -- 'P' for Pawn, 'N' for Knight, 'R' for Rook, 'B' for Bishop, 'Q' for Queen, and 'K' for King. The letters are self-explanatory, except for the Knight, where 'N' avoids confusion with the King.
A move is a combination of the moving piece plus the square to which it is moving. The move 'Qe4' means that a Queen is moving to the square e4. By convention, the letter for the Pawn is always omitted. The move 'e4' means that a Pawn is moving to the square e4.
Figurine notation is a variant of algebraic notation where symbols are used to identify the piece being moved. Games published using figurine notation can be understood by anyone in any language.
The geometry of the chess board
Notation also allows us to speak generically about certain geometrical qualities of the board. Here are a few common examples.
Some moves require special notation.
A few other conventions are optional.
This may all sound complicated, but it's really rather simple. Here is a partial game score showing the use of algebraic notation.
Almost all chess literature published today uses algebraic notation, but this was not always true. Many older books and magazines used descriptive notation, which makes it worth knowing.
There are two main differences between algebraic and descriptive notation. The first difference is that the files are named according to the piece on that file in the initial position. The second difference is that the squares have different notations from the White and Black sides. Here's a diagram.
In this diagram, the names of the squares as they are known from the White side are in BOLD type, and from the Black side are in NORMAL type. The square in the lower left is 'QR1' for White and 'QR8' for Black, where 'QR' means the 'Queen's Rook'. The square in the upper right is 'KR8' for White and 'KR1' for Black, where 'KR' means the 'King's Rook'.
As in algebraic notation, the move is a combination of the moving piece plus the square to which it is moving, separated by a dash ('-'). The move 'Q-K4' means that a Queen is moving to the square K4; 'Q-KR4' means that a Queen is moving to the square KR4. In the second example, if there is no possibility that the Queen can move to QR4, 'Q-R4' is sufficient. In older literature, 'Kt' is often used instead of 'N' to denote the Knight.
Descriptive notation is usually less compact than algebraic notation, but it does have a few advantages. For example, it is easier to refer to the symmetric qualities of the board. The phrase 'Rook's file' refers to both the 'QR' and 'KR' files. The phrase '7th rank' refers to the 7th rank for both White and Black from their respective sides of the board.
Here is a partial game score using descriptive notation.