Chess Notations – Learn Algebraic notation

The English language helps us communicate better worldwide. In music, sheet music is a language that helps retain classical music through centuries. In the same way, there is a language of chess that helps us replay the games played centuries ago and also to communicate the chess games better. This post will teach you the language of chess so that you can start playing chess and studying chess literature without even the need of a chessboard.

Naming the moves

In the previous post, you learned how to identify the name of the squares. Now when the name of the piece is combined with the name of the square, you get a move. It is as simple as that.

Names of the pieces

  • K = King
  • Q = Queen
  • R = Rook
  • B = Bishop
  • N = Knight
  • Pawn doesn’t need a special name as we shall see.

Example of move

Check out the above two diagrams.

  • White moved his pawn from e2 to e4. Thus the move is called e2-e4, or in even shorter form simply e4
  • Black moved his knight from b8 to c6. Thus the move is called Nb8-c6, or in even shorter form simply Nc6 (note that N is for knight)

 Take this exercise of identifying the moves and writing them down.

Exercise: identify and write down the moves marked with green and red arrows.

Naming the special moves

Check, capture and promotion are three special moves that have added features to their annotation.

Check out the three images above:

  • In the first image, white has just moved his bishop to b5 giving check to black king. So that move is called Bb5+. (+ added behind means giving check to opponent king)
  • In position-2, if Black captures the b4 pawn with his C6 knight, the move is called Nxb4. (x is added in-between to indicate that capture has been made.) Furthermore, if black captures the b4 pawn with his f8 bishop, the move is called Bxb4+. (Note that black bishop also gave a check to white king)
  •  In position-3, If black moves the pawn on h2 to h1 and promotes to queen, it is called h1=Q. (= is added in between to indicate that pawn promotion is done.) Furthermore if white moves a7 pawn to a8 and promotes to queen, it will be called a8=Q+, (note that white queen on promotion also gave a check to black king on d5)

A checkmate is indicated with #. For example Qg7#

Commonly used special annotations

You have learned the basics of annotating a chess game. You can already go ahead to read a chess book. But it is good to also learn some commonly used special annotations. You will find them in every chess book. All of these notations are used behind the moves to add further judgement to the move. Check out the image below.


Sample of annotation, how a chess game is written

It will help to read a short game that is annotated to better understand the language of chess. The white moves are written on the left side and the black ones on the right side. Check out this chess game added below and read carefully the notations which are written on the right side of the board.

[pgn url=”” game=0]


So you are ready to take up any chess literature and study it for yourself. The more you read, the more squares and pieces will fit into your head. Then you will be able to play chess blindfolded, without the need for a chessboard. Take up short chess games and write down their moves for practice. When you understand the moves better, you understand chess patterns in a better way.

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Harikrishnan A

I am an International Fide Rated player with 10+ years of experience. Played many International Chess Tournaments and Commonwealth games.

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