Smiling schoolgirl in purple sweater writing down chess moves while teacher pointing at notebook

Mastering Chess Notation: A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Down Chess Moves

Game Analysis, Beginner, Tournaments By Feb 22, 2023 27 Comments

Chess notation is the system used to record the moves of a game. It allows players to communicate the moves of the game in a standardized way, which is important for studying and analyzing games. There are two main systems of chess notation: algebraic notation and descriptive notation. Algebraic notation is the more modern and widely used system, and it involves using the letters of the chessboard (a-h) and the numbers (1-8) to describe the moves. For example, the move 1.e4 would mean the pawn on the e-file is moved two spaces forward. Descriptive notation, which was used more in the past, describes moves based on the location of pieces and their movements, such as 1.P-K4 for moving the pawn in front of the king’s knight two spaces forward.

A chess score book is a notebook used by chess players to record their games, moves, and results. It typically has space for recording the date, location, players’ names, and other details about the game. The main purpose of the score book is to provide a written record of the game that can be used for analysis and improvement.

In a score book, the moves of the game are recorded using chess notation. This allows players to review their games and analyze them to improve their skills. The score book can also be used to document a player’s progress and achievements over time.

What do Chess Players Write Down When They Play?

When chess players play, they write down the moves they make on a scoresheet. The scoresheet is a form on which the players record the moves in the game, along with other important information. Here’s what chess players typically write down when they play:

  1. The moves: The most important thing that chess players write down on the scoresheet is the moves in the game. Players write down each move using algebraic notation, as explained in my previous answer. This helps to keep an accurate record of the game and can be useful for analysis and review later.
  2. The time: In most tournaments, each player has a certain amount of time to make their moves. Chess players write down the time they spent on each move, as well as the total time they have used up to that point. This helps them keep track of how much time they have left and can help them make strategic decisions about how to use their remaining time.
  3. The player’s names and ratings: The scoresheet usually includes the names of the players, as well as their ratings (a numerical score that reflects their skill level). This helps to ensure that the game is played fairly, and that players are matched up with opponents of similar skill levels.
  4. The date and location of the game: Chess players also write down the date and location of the game, as well as any other relevant information (such as the name of the tournament, the round number, etc.). This helps to keep track of the player’s performance over time, as well as providing a record of the game itself.

Overall, when chess players play, they write down the moves in the game, as well as other important information such as time, names, ratings, and location. This helps to ensure that the game is played fairly, accurately, and can be reviewed and analyzed later.

How to Write Down Chess Moves

To write down chess moves, you need to use chess notation, which is a system of symbols used to describe the movements of the pieces on the chessboard. The two most commonly used systems of chess notation are algebraic notation and descriptive notation. I will explain how to use algebraic notation, which is the most widely used and more modern system.

Algebraic notation is based on using the letters of the chessboard and the numbers to describe the moves. The chessboard is divided into ranks (rows) and files (columns), and each square has a unique name based on its file letter and rank number.

Here’s how to use algebraic notation to write down chess moves:

  1. Each square on the chessboard is identified by a unique coordinate, consisting of a letter and a number. The files (columns) are labeled a-h from left to right, and the ranks (rows) are labeled 1-8 from bottom to top.
  2. To record a move, start with the piece that is being moved. Use the first letter of the piece’s name: K for king, Q for queen, R for rook, B for bishop, and N for knight (to avoid confusion with the king, which uses the letter K).
  3. Next, write the square to which the piece is moving. Use the coordinate of the square. For example, if a knight on b1 moves to c3, write Nc3.
  4. If a capture is made, use the symbol “x” to indicate the capture. For example, if a pawn on e5 captures a pawn on d4, write exd4.
  5. If a pawn moves, only write the coordinate of the square to which it moves. For example, if a pawn on e2 moves to e4, write e4.
  6. If a pawn reaches the opposite end of the board, it must be promoted to a more powerful piece. The “=” sign is used to indicate a pawn promotion move. Write the move as usual, but add the promoted piece’s first letter after the move. For example, if a pawn on d7 reaches d8 and is promoted to a queen, write d8=Q.
  7. If the move puts the opponent in check, use the symbol “+” to indicate check. For example, if a bishop moves to attack the enemy king and the move puts the king in check, write Bg5+.
  8. If the move results in checkmate and ends the game, use the symbol “#” to indicate checkmate. For example, if a queen delivers checkmate on g7, write Qg7#.
  9. 0-0 means king-side castling
  10. 0-0-0 means queen-side castling
  11. 1-0 means white won
  12. 0-1 means black won
  13. ½-½ draw
  14. ! (Exclamation mark) is used to indicate a very good move, one that is strong and unexpected, or one that leads to a significant advantage.
  15. !! (Double exclamation mark) is used to indicate an extraordinary move, one that is not only very strong but also very creative or surprising.
  16. The question mark symbol (?) is used to annotate a move that is questionable or dubious. It indicates that the move is not necessarily a blunder or mistake, but it’s not a good move either, as it doesn’t contribute to the player’s position or plan.
  17. ?? (Double question mark) is used to indicate a very bad move, one that is a mistake, blunder, or oversight.
  18. The symbol ?! is used to annotate a move that is somewhat questionable, but not necessarily a bad move or a mistake. It’s typically used when a move has some drawbacks or weaknesses, but also some potential benefits or ideas.

That’s how you write down chess moves using algebraic notation. It may take some practice to get used to, but it is an essential skill for recording and analyzing chess games.

Here are two examples of famous chess games with notation:

Game 1: Deep Blue (Computer) vs. Garry Kasparov, New York City, 1997

1. e4 c6
2. d4 d5
3. Nc3 dxe4
4. Nxe4 Nd7
5. Ng5 Ngf6
6. Bd3 e6
7. N1f3 h6??
8. Nxe6 Qe7
9. O-O fxe6
10. Bg6+ Kd8
11. Bf4 b5
12. a4 Bb7
13. Re1 Nd5
14. Bg3 Kc8
15. axb5 cxb5
16. Qd3 Bc6
17. Bf5 exf5
18. Rxe7 Bxe7
19. c4 1-0

This is a famous game played by Garry Kasparov, one of the greatest chess players of all time, against the computer program Deep Blue in 1997. The game is notable for being the first time a computer program defeated a reigning world champion in a match.

Game 2: Viswanathan Anand vs. Boris Gelfand, Moscow, Russia 2012

Game 8 of the 2012 FIDE World Chess Championship, which featured former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand from India and challenger Boris Gelfand from Israel, that went down in history as the shortest game ever played in a World Chess Championship match, with only 17 moves made.

Is Writing Notation Required in Chess Tournaments?

In most official chess tournaments, it is required for players to write down their moves on a scoresheet. The rules of chess as set by FIDE (the international chess federation) state that players must keep score of their game in a clear and legible manner. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  1. Blitz and rapid chess: In some blitz and rapid chess tournaments, players are not required to write down their moves. Instead, the moves may be recorded by an electronic device, or not recorded at all.
  2. Beginner and scholastic events: In some beginner and scholastic events, players may be allowed to use notational aids such as diagrams or other markings on the scoresheet to help them remember the position of the pieces. However, in most cases, the players are still required to write down the moves themselves.
  3. Disability accommodations: In some cases, players with certain disabilities may be allowed to use alternative methods of recording the moves, such as verbal notation or electronic devices.

In general, however, it is required for players to write down their moves in official chess tournaments. Failure to do so can result in penalties, such as the loss of time on the clock or even forfeiting the game.

The Importance of Writing Down Your Chess Moves in Tournaments

Writing down chess moves during a tournament game is an important part of playing serious chess. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Recordkeeping: Writing down the moves is a way to keep an accurate record of the game. This can be useful for analysis and review after the game, as well as for keeping a permanent record of the player’s performance over time.
  2. Dispute resolution: In case of a dispute or disagreement, the written record of the moves can be used to resolve any disputes about the game. For example, if a player claims that their opponent made an illegal move, the arbiter (the official overseeing the game) can review the written record to determine whether the claim is valid.
  3. Time management: Writing down the moves helps players keep track of the time remaining in the game. In most tournaments, players have a certain amount of time to make all their moves, and if they run out of time, they lose the game. Writing down the moves helps players keep track of how much time they have left and can help them plan their moves accordingly.
  4. Strategy and analysis: Writing down the moves allows players to review the game and analyze their performance. By going over the game after it is finished, players can identify mistakes and weaknesses in their play and work on improving their skills.

Overall, writing down chess moves during a tournament game is an important part of playing competitive chess. It helps ensure fairness, accuracy, and a record of the game, as well as providing a valuable tool for analysis and improvement.


Hi there, I'm Sabina, a passionate chess player and author. I've been playing chess for over a decade and have participated in several national and international tournaments. As a woman who loves chess, I feel it's important to encourage and support other women who are interested in the game. That's why I love to write articles that focus on topics such as chess strategy, tactics, and psychology, as well as on the challenges and opportunities of being a female chess player. When I'm not playing chess or writing, I enjoy hiking, cooking, and spending time with my family. I'm excited to share my knowledge and experience with you, and I hope to inspire more women to get involved in the chess community.


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