Paper is very useful. You can literally scribble something down and then an archaeologist 1000 years in the future can find this permanent record. Chess notation is useful because you can record your moves, the opponent’s moves, and other important information for posterity.
Players usually notate on paper notation sheets but there are a few electronic notating devices (see below).
The official rules of chess, 7th ed., by the US Chess Federation states in Section 15A:
“In the course of play each player is required to record the game […] move after move, as clearly and legibly as possible, on the scoresheet prescribed for the competition.”
Beginners who don’t know how to notate are usually not required to notate at the tournament director’s discretion (Section 15A1). Players not notating also usually receive less time because they don’t have to spend time writing down their moves – this works out to about 5 minutes less each game.
One of the main reasons notation is required is that the TD will look at your notation sheet if there’s a dispute on the board. For example, to verify 3-fold repetition, the TD will use your notation. Notating also deters cheating so people don’t randomly move a piece and claim it was always there.
There are numerous benefits to learning to notate.
If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will!
Coaches Tip: Make your students “notate their age” when they first learn notation. If they’re 6 years old, they only have to notate the first 6 moves of a game. Or if they’re 10, only 10 moves. This helps them learn notation without overwhelming them.
Ahhh the meat and potatoes of the article. To notate you just use this fill-in-the-blank formula: _ _ _.
This sounds very confusing but it’s really not. Try and guess the correct notation for the following pictures.
Tip: The 2nd and 3rd blanks of _ _ _ are just describing the square the piece is going to. Learn more about naming squares here.
Note: The abbreviation of Knight is N because King is K.
When you capture a piece, you put an “x” in between the piece name and the square. Qxd5 or Bxe7. Think of it like the piece “takes” the square.
When you notate pawn moves, you do not include the piece name abbreviation “P”. Instead you only list the column letter and square number like: _ _. Like e4 or d4.
For pawn captures, you use the normal captures notation of _ x _ _ where the last two are the square name. However, the first blank is the letter of the column the pawn came from.
Chess players use a variety of symbols when they annotate (the process of commentating on a chess game). If you’ve ever looked at a scoresheet you’ll see those symbols which go behind the move.
But what do those funny symbols mean?
╔════════╦════════════════════╗ ║ Symbol ║ Name ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ! ║ Good ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ !! ║ Brilliant ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ? ║ Mistake ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ?? ║ Blunder ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ !? ║ Speculative ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ?! ║ Dubious ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ + ║ Check ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ # ║ Checkmate ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ N ║ Novelty ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ □ ║ Forced Move ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ⨀ ║ Zugzwang ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ = ║ Drawish ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ⩲ ║ Small edge (White) ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ⩱ ║ Small edge (Black) ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ± ║ White's better ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ∓ ║ Black's better ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ +- ║ White's winning ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ -+ ║ Black's winning ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ∞ ║ Unclear position ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ↑ ║ Initiative ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ↑↑ ║ Development ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ → ║ Attack ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ⇆ ║ Counterplay ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ⊕ ║ Time trouble ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ =∞ ║ With compensation ║ ╠════════╬════════════════════╣ ║ ∆ ║ "With the idea" ║ ╚════════╩════════════════════╝
Don’t feel pressured to learn what all the symbols mean. In fact, the bottom 8 are rarely used. I only included them for completeness sake.
When you notate, write down both white and black moves in a table format – with White moves in the left column and black moves in the right (see picture below). You typically only number the white moves – 1 move = White + Black moving.
To make notation easy there are “notation sheets” that you can download or buy a notation book.
Tip: A single “move” by only White or Black is called a “ply” – 2 plys = 1 move.
Electronic notation devices work by showing you a visual display and then you drag the pieces to the proper squares. The device automatically and painlessly records the move notation.
Electronic notation devices are by no means necessary for chess success. Most players don’t use one. However there are a number of benefits to e-notating.
If you are interested, I recommend you check out the MonRoi. I have personally used it for 8+ years and have only good things to say about it.
As per the MonRoi website, their device comes with the following features:
The only downside is that it is fairly pricey at $359. If you want a cheaper alternative, check out the ChessNotateR which is $269.
Please note: Chess Intellect does not receive any compensation for these endorsements.