Coronado Chess Club

Choose your move carefully in chess as in life. -unknown


Taking notation is easy. It is easier than learning how the pieces move, and far easier than actually figuring out where your pieces will move to. With time and practice, you can notate your games and read notation of other games easily.


We use a system called "Short Algebraic Notation," or, "Standard Algebraic Notation," to quickly record the moves of a game. It is abbreviated SAN.


Short Algebraic Notation can be broken down into 7 basic steps, and a last step.

1. Which piece is moving?
2. Is the move capturing a piece?
3. Where is it moving to?


3A. Is there two pieces of the same type that could reach the destination square?
4. Castling!
5. Is there a pawn promotion occurring?
6. Does a move deliver check?
7. Does a move deliver checkmate?
8. What is the final score?




1. What piece is moving?
The first thing we need to do is identify which piece is moving. The pieces (except pawns) are all given capital-letter abbreviations.


The abbreviations are:

K = King
Q = Queen

R = Rook 
B = Bishop 
N = kNight (It is an N because the King already took the K. He is the King, after all!)


If no letter is given for the piece, it is a pawn. Instead, only the square that the pawn moves to is recorded unless a capture occurs. (This will be explained in greater detail below. For now, just understand that pawns do not have a letter abbreviation.)


2. Is a capture occurring?
If a capture occurs, the letter "x" in lowercase is added after the piece name. A capture by a Queen would begin Qx__. A Bishop capturing any piece would begin Bx__.

Pawns are an exception. For pawns, you identify which file the pawn started on that made the capture. (See below for graphic examples and what a file is.) One brief example: If a pawn that starts on the e file captures any piece on the d-file, the notation would begin exd_.


A last note about en passant pawn captures: You can visit here, at Wikipedia, to learn more about en passant. Some people write "e.p." after an en passant pawn capture. But it is not necessary. As above, just write the file the pawn starts on, the "x", and the square the pawn lands on. If all of this paragraph confuses you right now, just skip it and move on.

For now, just understand that "x" means a capture.


3. Where is it moving to?
We have to somehow number the squares on a chessboard. One way to divide up a chessboard is to name vertical columns (called files) with letters from "a" to "h", and then number horizontal rows (called ranks) from 1 to 8. Any square on a chessboard can thus be identified by which file and rank it is on, like the diagram below:


The White pieces always begin on Ranks 1 and 2. The Black pieces always begin on Ranks 7 and 8. The Kings are on their proper starting places in the diagram above. The White King always starts on e1. The Black King always starts on e8. (Remember that Queens always take their own color?)

You should always assume that rank 1 ("first rank") is at the bottom of a diagram, and the file farthest to the left is always the "a" file. Diagrams are almost always looked at as if White set it is pieces up on the bottom of the diagram.

(I say, "almost." It may be just barely possible that a diagram is "reversed," with the 8th Rank at the bottom. But if it is, it will be marked that way by whomever made it. And it is *very* rare. Do not worry about this at the moment just assume the bottom row is always first rank.)

Now, you can already identify any square to which a piece is moving to, just by naming which file and which rank the piece is going to!