Using Chess Notation

The Chess merit badge for Scouts BSA has requirements related to using chess notation and recording chess games. If you are not familiar with chess notation, this might seem a little daunting, but it really is pretty easy to learn.

Using chess notation, all of the moves in a game can be recorded on a score sheet. This allows players to go back and analyze a game. Chess notation is also important if you read any books about chess. You can download a very simple score sheet here: Simple Chess Score Sheet

First, you need to understand algebraic notation for the board. Each space on the board is represented by a number and a letter. So if you start by setting up the board as shown in the diagram on the lower right, then you can use the diagram to name each space.  For example, the space where the white king begins the game is always e1.

Chess Notation

Next, you need a way to identify the pieces:

  • K = King
  • Q = Queen
  • R = Rook
  • B = Bishop
  • N = Knight

Pawns are indicated by the absence of a letter. So Nb3 would indicate that you moved a knight to space b3.  If you moved a pawn to d4, that would simply be indicated by d4. Since there is no letter, you know it is a pawn.

Use an x to indicate a capture. Qxe5 means that the queen captured the piece which was at e5.  When a pawn captures another piece, the notation is a little different. fxe6 means that the pawn which was in file (column) f captured the piece at e6.

More advanced players might be familiar with the en passant capture. In this case, the notation is a little different again. En passant captures are notated by specifying the capturing pawn’s file of departure, the x, the destination square (not the square of the captured pawn), and the suffix e.p. indicating the capture was en passant. For example, exd6e.p.

When a pawn reaches the opposite end of the board and is promoted to another piece, the letter for the piece is added. For example, d8Q indicates that a pawn advanced to space d8 and was promoted to a queen.

0-0 indicates a kingside castling and 0-0-0 indicates a queenside castling. Like en passant, castling might not be familiar to beginners, but advanced players will use it.

Check is indicated by adding a +. For example, Qb4+ indicates that the queen moved to space b4 and the king was placed in check. Double check is indicated by adding ++. Double check is when check is caused by two pieces at the same time. Checkmate is indicated by #.

Use 1-0 to indicate that white won the game. 0-1 indicates that black won. 1/2-1/2 indicates a draw. The indication of who won does not necessarily follow a checkmate. One of the players may have resigned.

If any of the moves you are recording are ambiguous, you add additional information to indicate either the file (column) the piece started on, the rank (row) the piece started on, or both.  For example, with knights on g1 and d2, either of which might move to f3, the move is specified as Ngf3 or Ndf3, depending on which knight you moved.

You know you have done a good job using chess notation if you have a score sheet and you can replay the game from start to finish without any confusion.

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