chess coordinates, notation

Chess Notation Coordinates (Chess Square Names)

Chess, a game deeply embedded in the realms of strategy and intellect, employs a unique language to record and communicate the moves made during a game.

This language, known as chess notation, utilizes coordinates to identify each square on the chessboard, facilitating precise communication and documentation of games.

The Chessboard

The chessboard is an 8×8 grid, comprising 64 squares in total, each with its own unique coordinate.

The vertical columns, known as files, are labeled a through h, while the horizontal rows, or ranks, are numbered 1 through 8.

The combination of a letter and a number, such as e5 or b7, identifies each square uniquely.

chess coordinates, notation
Chess coordinates, algebraic notation

Algebraic Notation: The Modern Standard

Algebraic notation, the most widely used chess notation today, combines the coordinate system with abbreviated piece names to record moves succinctly and accurately.

  • Piece Abbreviations: Each chess piece (except the pawn) has an uppercase letter abbreviation: King (K), Queen (Q), Rook (R), Bishop (B), and Knight (N).
  • Movement Notation: A move is recorded by combining the piece abbreviation with the destination square. For example, moving a knight to f3 is noted as Nf3.
  • Capture Notation: Captures are denoted with an “x” between the attacking piece’s abbreviation and the destination square. For instance, Bxf7 indicates a bishop capturing a piece on f7.

Pawn Movements and Promotions

Pawns, lacking an abbreviation, are identified by their starting file when recording moves. A pawn moving to e5 is simply notated as e5, while a pawn capturing a piece on d5 from the e-file is expressed as exd5.

  • Promotion Notation: Pawn promotions are indicated by appending an equals sign and the abbreviation of the promoted piece. For example, a pawn advancing to the eighth rank and promoting to a queen is notated as e8=Q.

Special Moves and Their Notations

Chess notation also accommodates the game’s special moves: castling and en passant.

  • Castling: Castling kingside (with the rook on the h-file) is denoted as O-O, while castling queenside (with the rook on the a-file) is O-O-O.
  • En Passant: An en passant capture is notated like a regular pawn capture, but it’s often appended with “e.p.” to clarify the special nature of the move, e.g., exd6e.p.

Check, Checkmate, and Draw Indicators

To indicate specific game states, additional symbols are used.

  • Check and Checkmate: A plus sign (+) denotes a check, while the hash symbol (#) indicates checkmate. For example, Qf7+ signifies a queen move to f7, putting the opponent’s king in check.
  • Draw Offers: In informal games, an offered draw may be recorded with the symbol “(=)” following the move.

Annotating Remarkable Moves

Chess annotations often include symbols to comment on the quality or nature of a move.

  • Good and Bad Moves: Exclamation points (!) and question marks (?) denote notably good and bad moves, respectively. A combination of both (!?) indicates an interesting or surprising move.
  • Blunders: A double question mark (??) marks a blunder, a move that significantly deteriorates the player’s position.

Q&A – Chess Notation Coordinates (Chess Square Names)

What are chess notation coordinates?

Chess notation coordinates are a system used to identify each square on the chessboard uniquely, enabling players to record, communicate, and analyze moves in a standardized manner.

This system employs a combination of letters and numbers to pinpoint each square, providing a clear and concise method to describe any move made during a game.

How are the squares on a chessboard named?

The squares on a chessboard are named using a coordinate system derived from the combination of letters and numbers.

The chessboard itself is an 8×8 grid, and each square is identified by a unique coordinate made up of a letter and a number.

The vertical columns, known as files, are labeled from left to right with letters a through h.

Simultaneously, the horizontal rows, referred to as ranks, are numbered from 1 to 8, starting from the rank closest to the white player.

Therefore, each square is named by combining its file letter and rank number, such as a1, b5, or h7.

Why is chess notation important?

Chess notation is pivotal for several reasons.

Firstly, it allows players to record games, enabling them to review and analyze their moves and strategies post-game, which is crucial for improving skills and understanding missteps.

Secondly, it facilitates the sharing and publication of games, allowing players and analysts worldwide to study famous games, learn new strategies, and explore historical matches.

Moreover, in tournament settings, notation is essential for resolving disputes, verifying moves, and ensuring adherence to time controls and rules.

What is the difference between algebraic and descriptive chess notation?

Algebraic and descriptive chess notations are two methods used to record chess moves, each with its unique format and conventions.

  • Algebraic Notation: This is the modern and widely-accepted method of recording chess moves. It uses the coordinate system described earlier, with each square identified by a letter-number pair (e.g., e4). Moves are recorded using the abbreviation for the piece (if it is not a pawn) followed by the destination square (e.g., Nf3 for a knight moving to the f3 square). Captures, checks, and other special moves have specific symbols and conventions, as outlined in the previous article section.
  • Descriptive Notation: This older system is less common today but can be found in historical chess literature. In descriptive notation, squares are named based on the piece occupying them at the start of the game and are described from the perspective of the player making the move. For example, the square known as e4 in algebraic notation might be called K4 (King’s 4) when described from White’s perspective and K5 (King’s 5) from Black’s perspective. Moves are recorded using a combination of piece names and either the starting or ending square, such as P-K4 to indicate a pawn moving to the king’s fourth rank.

How do you read chess coordinates?

Reading chess coordinates involves understanding the grid-like structure of the chessboard and interpreting the letter-number pairs that identify each square.

To locate a square using its coordinate:

  • Find the letter of the coordinate along the bottom or top edge of the board (the files). These run from “a” on the left to “h” on the right from White’s perspective.
  • Find the number along the side of the board (the ranks). These run from “1” to “8”, starting from the rank closest to the white player.
  • Identify the square where the file and rank intersect. For example, the coordinate c5 refers to the square located on the “c” file and the “5” rank.

What do the letters and numbers in chess notation represent?

In chess notation, the letters (a through h) and numbers (1 through 8) represent the files and ranks, respectively, on the chessboard.

Together, a letter and a number form a coordinate that uniquely identifies each square on the board.

The letters represent vertical columns (files), while the numbers represent horizontal rows (ranks).

For example, the coordinate “d4” refers to the square positioned in the “d” file and the “4” rank.

How do you write a move in algebraic notation?

Writing a move in algebraic notation involves using abbreviations for the chess pieces and coordinates for the squares:

  • Piece Abbreviations: King (K), Queen (Q), Rook (R), Bishop (B), and Knight (N). Pawns have no abbreviation.
  • Standard Move: Write the piece abbreviation followed by the destination square. For example, moving a knight to f3 is written as “Nf3”.
  • Pawn Move: Indicate the destination square only (e.g., “e5”).
  • Capture: Use “x” to denote a capture, placing it between the attacking piece’s abbreviation (or the originating file in the case of pawns) and the destination square. For instance, “Bxf7” means a bishop captured a piece on f7.
  • Check and Checkmate: Use “+” to denote check and “#” for checkmate. For example, “Qf7#” indicates a queen move to f7, delivering checkmate.
  • Castling: Use “O-O” for kingside castling and “O-O-O” for queenside castling.
  • Pawn Promotion: Indicate the pawn’s move and append “=Q” (or the relevant piece) to show promotion, like “e8=Q.

Are there different types of chess notations used around the world?

Yes, various chess notations have been used historically and regionally around the world, though algebraic notation is now the standard and is universally accepted.

Some of the notable notations include:

  • Descriptive Notation: Once popular in English-speaking countries, it uses descriptive names for the squares and is often found in older chess literature.
  • Forsyth-Edwards Notation (FEN): Used to describe a particular board position, useful for setting up positions for analysis or problem-solving.
  • Portable Game Notation (PGN): A standard format for recording chess games electronically, which uses algebraic notation for the moves but includes additional data about the game and players.
  • Coordinate Notation: A simplified system that uses the coordinates of the origin and destination squares to denote a move, such as “e2e4”.

How can I practice using chess notation coordinates?

Practicing chess notation coordinates can be approached in various ways:

  • Record Your Games: Begin by recording your moves and your opponent’s moves during casual games using algebraic notation.
  • Read Notated Games: Study professional games, trying to visualize the moves on a chessboard as you read through the notations.
  • Chess Puzzles: Engage with chess puzzles and problems, ensuring to read and understand the provided notations and solutions.
  • Use Chess Software: Employ chess software or apps that allow you to input moves using notation, enhancing your familiarity and speed.
  • Blindfold Chess: Try playing blindfold chess, where you visualize the board in your mind and communicate moves using notation only.

Why are some chess books written using descriptive notation?

Some chess books, especially those published before the 1980s, are written using descriptive notation because it was the prevalent system in English-speaking countries during that period.

Descriptive notation was widely used in historical texts and classic chess literature, reflecting the norms and standards of the time.

Even after the adoption of algebraic notation as the international standard, these books retained their original notation in subsequent printings to preserve authenticity and maintain consistency with the original text.

Consequently, learning descriptive notation can provide access to a rich trove of historical chess literature and classic games.


Chess notation coordinates serve not only as a method to record and analyze games but also as a universal language that allows players from all around the world to share and study chess strategies, historic games, and complex positions.

This system, while initially seeming complex, becomes second nature with practice, opening up a world where the rich history and future of chess intermingle, allowing players to learn, innovate, and perpetually enrich the global chess community.

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