What is notation in chess? (a quick and thorough guide)

What are the coordinates?

What do Bd2, Kg1, Ne4, Rxd8, Qe6+ and h6 have in common?

No, it’s not some war code telling you when to strike…

They are all chess moves!

To answer the question “What is notation in chess?”, we will have to look at some basics first, then get into the “advanced” stuff. I say “advanced”, because really, it’s not advanced at all! Just a tad more advanced than what we will look at first. You will learn everything in one go – just read through the article! 😉

Before we get started: If you’re new to chess or still unsure of certain rules, feel free to have a look at my guide on how to play chess.



Let’s start at the core:

We need to know what to call each square on the board. In come the coordinates! Luckily you just needed to pay attention in maths at school, and you know all you need to know!

…and even if you didn’t (school can be a grind, I know…), I’m sure you will master this in no time!

So, let’s have a look at a chess board without the pieces on it. Even though the designers of different boards may use slightly different colors, the essence is always the same:

Empty chess board

We have 32 white squares, and 32 black squares. In your bottom left corner, you always have a black square, and all adjacent squares always consist of the opposite color.

Now we put the coordinates on, that is the numbers and letters. The numbers show which rank a square is on, while the letter shows the file. So, the aforementioned black square in the bottom left corner, will be a1 for White and h8 for Black.

This means that White always start on the 1st and 2nd rank, while Black always starts on the 7th and 8th rank, like this:

Chess board with coordinatesShowing how to tell the coordinates of different squares

Ok…but what do I do with the coordinates?

With the formalities out of the way, we are ready to use this newly acquired information!

When you do notation in chess, it’s actually as easy as this:

  • You need to know which piece you’re moving, and
  • You write down the square it moves to, and if applicable
  • You need to write their action (this only applies if you capture a piece, give a check, and so on)

That’s it – easy as it comes!

Now we just need to know two things:

1. What the pieces are called when we’re supposed to put down our little “code” on the notation sheet. Luckily, this is also very logical and easy:

    • The king is abbreviated “K”
    • The queen is abbreviated “Q”
    • The rook is abbreviated “R”
    • The bishop is abbreviated “B”
    • The knight is abbreviated “N” → Simply because the K is already taken by the king
    • The pawn doesn’t use an abbreviation. Here you just put down the square it moves to.

2. What special letters/symbols we use in chess:

    • Capturing a piece is shown by the letter “x”
    • Castling king-side is written “0-0”
    • Castling queen-side is written “0-0-0”
    • Giving a check is shown with a “+”
    • Checkmate is written “#”
    • Promoting a pawn is written as the pawn move followed by the letter of the piece it promotes to.

Note 1:

→ When a piece captures, you write “piece initial + x + square it goes to”, e.g. Qxe4.

Note 2:

→ When a pawn captures, you write “the file the pawn starts on + x + square it goes to”, e.g. dxe4.


1-0, ½-½ or 0-1 + signatures

Finally, you have reached the end of the game, and you need to show how it ended. As one point is being divided between the two contestants of the game, we have three options:

  • If White won, we write “1-0”
  • If the players drew, we write “½ – ½“
  • If Black won, we write “0-1”

And below the result, both players put up their signatures!


Let’s add it all up → A game showing this!

Now we have looked at how we write down a chess game, and it’s only fitting to show how this all works with a video I created just for this purpose. Online they will write down every move automatically for you, but in real-time you will obviously have to do this yourself.

I hope you enjoy the video, and feel free to pause it any time to have a closer look at what actually happened.



Finally, I hope you enjoyed the read and the video, and that you learnt something today. If you have any questions, just drop them below, and I will make sure to reply asap.

Good luck in your next chess game,



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