How Moves Are Recorded - The Basic Rules of Chess - The Complete Chess Course From Beginning To Winning Chess! (2016)

The Complete Chess Course From Beginning To Winning Chess! (2016)

Book One

The Basic Rules of Chess

How Moves Are Recorded

Fred Reinfeld’s original work was in what is known as “English Description Notation.” That method of recording chess games is no longer used. The modern method is called “English Algebraic Notation.” The following section is reprinted, with permission, from My First Book of Chess Tactics by David MacEnulty.


To understand this book, you must understand algebraic notation.
Fortunately, algebraic notation is easy to learn. The first thing to learn is how we name squares.

The chessboard is a square arrangement of sixty-four smaller squares, laid out in eight rows of eight squares each.

The rows going sideways are called ranks.
Ranks are numbered 1 through 8.

The rows going up and down the board are called files.
Files are named after the first eight letters of the alphabet, a through h.

Squares are named after the file they are on and the rank they are on. Each square has only one name, which is made up of a letter and a number.


As an example of how we name squares, the five-point star in this diagram is on the d-file and also on the 4th rank. So the star is on the square we call d4.

The “d” is a lowercase letter, and the letter comes before the number. We would not write this as D4, nor would we write it 4d. In chess we always name the file first, and it is always a lowercase letter.

What square is the four-point star on?

The four-point star on the previous page is on g2.


There are six different pieces in the chess army. Below are the names of the pieces, the symbol used in notation, and a picture of what it looks like on our diagrams.


Note that we use only upper case letters as symbols for the pieces. That way there is no confusion between the upper case B for bishop and the lower case b for the b-file.

You may have noticed that even though the word knight is spelled with a ‘K’ as the first letter, we use the letter N as the symbol. That’s because we need the letter K for the king.

Other symbols used in chess:


in the writing of a move indicates that the move involves a capture.


at the end of a move indicates that this move puts the opposing king in check.

+ +

at the end of a move indicates a double check See Book 2, page 40


at the end of a move indicates that this move gives checkmate.


is used to indicate castling on the kingside, where there are two squares between the king and rook.


is used to indicate castling on the queenside, where there are three squares between the king and rook.


means White wins.


means Black wins.


means the game is a draw.


indicates a strong move.


indicates a brilliant move.


indicates a weak move or a mistake.


indicates a blunder, possibly a losing move.


indicates an interesting move.

? !

indicates a dubious move.


Reading and writing chess notation is simple once you know the names of the pieces and the names of the squares.

There are various forms of notation, but the most popular form, and the easiest to understand, is algebraic notation.

First, we begin with a number. The number simply tells us which move we are on. So, if there is a 1 in front, it’s the first move. If there is a 5 in front, it is the fifth move.

Next comes the symbol for the piece that is moving: K for king, Q for queen, B for bishop, N for knight, or R for rook. We do not give the symbol for the moving unit if it is a pawn.

Finally, we name the square the piece is moving to.


In this diagram, White has moved a pawn from e2 to e4, and Black has moved a pawn from e7 to e5. Since this is the first move for each side, we write this as:

1e4 e5

White’s move is on the left. Black’s is on the right. Since these are pawns, we do not use the symbol for the moving unit.


On move two, both sides brought out a knight. Now the moves are written like this:

1 e4 e5

2 Nf3 Nc6

Note that we use the letter N for knight.

White’s next move will be

3 d4

Diagram after move 3 on the next page.

Is this what you thought it would look like?


The position after 3 d4


For Black’s third move, he takes the pawn on d4. We write this as

3 … exd4 (see diagram)

The 3 means it is the third move of this sequence. The three dots signify that it is Black’s move. The ‘x’ means that a capture has taken place.

This move can also be written as ed. Since no piece is named, we know this is a pawn move. Since the capture involved two files, a pawn has just changed files, which only happens when a pawn is making a capture.

In this book, the moves are often written in paragraph form. The moves we have shown so far would look like this: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4.

If two similar pieces can both get to the same square, you must note which one is moving. For example say you have a knight on c3 and another knight on d2. Since they can each move to e4, if one of the knights moves to e4, we need to know which one. Say the knight on c3 moves to e4. This would be written as 1 Nce4. That way we know it is the knight on c3, and not the knight on d2, that is moving to e4.

One final note: We will be using the “figurine” icons of each piece. (See the “Picture” column on page 22.) Using Figurine Algebraic Notation, the moves shown above look like this: 1 e4 e5 2 Nf3 Nc6 3 d4 exd4