What Do Chess Players Write Down? Simple Introduction To Chess Notations


You must’ve seen some chess videos from top events, and each time a player makes a move, they record the move. Why is that? Is it compulsory? What do chess players write down?

They write down chess notations to record each move, and it is a requirement in standard chess tournaments. So, what are chess notations?

Introduction to chess notations

Chess notations are a combination of symbols and alphanumeric characters that represent every move made on a chessboard.

Components of chess notations

fischer scoresheet vs spassky
Fischer’s scoresheeet vs Spassky. Image: Pinterest

Chess notations have three major components: Numbers, Letters, and Symbols.


Numbers represent the ranks in chess notations, and there are eight ranks numbered 1-8. Like the letters, the numbers represent the square one can place a piece.



Chess players write capital letters to represent a piece’s first consonant sound, not the first letter. The letters used to represent the pieces are

  • K for King
  • A for Queen
  • R for Rook
  • B for Bishop
  • N for Knight
Knights are notated with N because the King has snatched the K. Image: iStock

Pawns are not represented with any letter. Instead, the square they land on reflects their move. So, for instance, playing the king’s pawn by two squares in the opening is written as e4.


The small letters in chess notations also represent the files on a chessboard. As such, there are eight files lettered a-h. Each of these letters indicates the square pieces moved to—or moved FROM, in special cases.

Using a letter(file) to indicate where a piece moved from happens when a side, black or white, has an identical piece that can make the same move. Other than this instance, using a file to indicate where a piece moved from is not necessary.

One MUST use letters for pieces before letters for files.

Squares are named using alphanumerics with the letters coming before for numbers. For instance, a6, b4, g2, d1, etc.

Use these illustrations to boost your understanding
White has a rook on a1 and on a8, and there is no other piece on the file.
If the Rook on a1 moves to a4, we’ll have this notation “Ra1a4.”

What if they’re on the same rank? For instance, there’s a rook on a4 and another on h4.

If the Rook on a4 moves to d4, we’ll have “Rad4.”


x factor
The x symbol means “capture”

Symbols represent actions made by humans during play. Some symbols are:

  • =: This means checkmate.
  • +: This means check; when the king is under direct threat.
  • ++: This means double-check.
  • x: This means to capture.
  • 0-0: This means King-side castle
  • 0-0-0: This means Queen-side castle
  • =: This means promotion.


Mechanism of chess notations

If no action(symbols) was played

How a Knight moves. Video: ExpertVillage Leaf Group.

The piece’s letter comes first. That is, R, B, Q, etc.

The file comes next. That is a,b,c, etc.

The rank number comes next.

If there is another piece capable of moving to the square, you input the file’s letter before putting the name of the square.

For instance, “Rad1” means that “A Rook(R) From a(a-file) Moved To The d1 Square.”

What follows is the symbol if there was an action performed by the piece that was played.

If an action was played

chess game 1
A King capturing a Queen(action).
  • The piece’s letter comes first.
  • The symbol follows the piece’s letter.
  • The name of the file and rank (square name) follows.
  • If an identical piece can also perform that action, you will write the file where it moves from before the action symbol. For instance, “Rdxe2” means that the Rook from d captured the piece on e2.

Importance of chess notations

  • Chess players write notations help document the games for future reference, especially if one did not play the game on an electronic board. Even electronic boards have glitches sometimes.
  • Chess players write notations help prevent the game from being lost when an accident happens, and the pieces fall off the board.
  • Chess players write notations help to settle false claims made by deceitful players.
  • Chess notations help chess improvement by studying a personal game after it is played.

Advanced chess notations

Advanced chess notations are also called annotations which are used majorly by engines.
These annotations include;

  • ?? which means a blunder.
  • !! which means a brilliant move.
  • ? which means a mistake
  • And several others.



Notice that they were not recording their moves. Video: Magnus Carlsen

It’s okay not to record your moves when playing a fast time control like rapid, blitz, or bullet.

You’re not required to record your moves when playing online chess.

It’s okay to abandon your recording and focus on the game when you reach a blitz time range from a classical time control.

Was this helpful? Share it with a friend :)
Follow ChessForSharks on social media
  • 7 Reasons You Lose Your Chess Games

    This is just placeholder text. It's just here to fill up space until we have real copy.

    I am a button
  • join the conversation

    Leave the first comment

    Work With Us

    We help chess brands create engaging and converting content
    We help innovative Chess brands and influencers create content that sparks engagement and drives revenue
    Content WritingContent PromotionContent StrategyContent Optimization

    Subscribe to our Newsletter

    Google reCaptcha: Invalid site key.

    Call to action

    You may also like...

    Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

    Get notified once the ebook is live

    * indicates required