There are several different methods to record chess game moves. Some systems are more popular than others, and some have been abandoned. The result should be the same, an accurate record of a chess game. There may be other systems, but these are the major systems still in use. All require piece and square identification, start position and end position.

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Chess notation is used to record tournament games. These games can be replayed, studied and published. Recording casual games allows the developing chess player to study the game later.

Algebraic Notation

This is the most common, and used to record chess moves in international over the board tournaments. It is based on the alphanumeric square identification. It is the most widely used form for recording chess games. Chess computers use the algebraic system.Credit: Public Domain

A chess board is always set up with a white square on the lower right corner of the white pieces. With the board in this position, each column has a letter. The letter a starts on the left column of the white pieces and continues to the h on the right hand white square. From the white side, the rows are numbered 1 through 8. Black uses the same numbers. The white king starts on e1 and the white queen on d1. The black king starts on e8 and queen d8. Pieces are noted by their first letter. King is K, queen is Q and Knight is the phonetic N. Books sometimes use international figurines for the pieces instead of letters. The black and white icons are the shape of the piece.

Algebraic long form reads as such: 1. Pe2-e4  Pe7-e5 2. Ng1-f3 Credit: Public Domain Nb8-C6 3. Bf1-b6  etc. There is a short form. 1. Pe4  Pe5 2. Nf3  Nc6 3. Bb6 etc. In the short form, the P designation can be eliminated. Castling is O-O on the kingside, and O-O-O on the queenside.

International Correspondence Notation

This is used for correspondence chess where the moves are mailed on postcards, or emailed over the internet. In this system, each square also has a number. The left corner square from the white side is numbered 11. The column is number 11 – 18. The next square is numbered

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21 and the column is 21-28. Each column is 10 more than the previous. An example would be: 1. 5153 5856      2. 7163 2836 3. 6125 etc. Castling is noted by the kings moves such as 5171, 5131, 5878 or 5838.

Descriptive, or English Notation

Descriptive notation was popular in the United States until the early 1970s. At that time notation gradually changed to algebraic because international publications used it. The United States Chess Federation (USCF) magazine Chess Life and Review started publishing some games in descriptive and some in algebraic to make the switch gradual.

Descriptive describes the piece and square it moves to. The description is the same for both sides. The column designates the piece and the column the square. For example; K1, K2 to K8. This indicates the king square, the square in front of the king and K8 is the opposing king’s square.  For both white and black, the king is on K1, queen on Q1, bishop on B1 etc. 1. P-K4 P-K4      2. N-KB3, N-QB3 3. B-QN5 etc. With this system, the minor pieces have to be noted if they are moving to the king or queen side of the board. Castling is the same as algebraic; O-O or O-O-O.

Credit: Public Domain

Descriptive fell out of favor because international publications were using figurine algebraic notation. It is worth knowing as some older chess books with good chess information use it. They can be picked up at used book stores, flea markets and garage sales cheap. The moves are the same, only the notation changes.