A way of describing moves in a game of chess. We begin by dividing the chess board into ranks and files (rows and columns). If you are playing as white, the board would look like this:

  _______________________________________
8| a8 | b8 | c8 | d8 | e8 | f8 | g8 | h8 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
7| a7 | b7 | c7 | d7 | e7 | f7 | g7 | h7 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
6| a6 | b6 | c6 | d6 | e6 | f6 | g6 | h6 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
5| a5 | b5 | c5 | d5 | e5 | f5 | g5 | h5 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
4| a4 | b4 | c4 | d4 | e4 | f4 | g4 | h4 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
3| a3 | b3 | c3 | d3 | e3 | f3 | g3 | h3 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
2| a2 | b2 | c2 | d2 | e2 | f2 | g2 | h2 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
1| a1 | b1 | c1 | d1 | e1 | f1 | g1 | h1 |
 |____|____|____|____|____|____|____|____|
    a    b    c    d    e    f    g    h

The ranks, or rows, are numbered from 1 to 8 starting from the side closest to white, and the files, or columns, are labeled a to h, starting from the file farthest from the kings. In this fashion, each position, or square, can be uniquely described using a letter followed by a number. The pieces are set up with white's pieces on the first rank, white's pawns on the second, black's pawns on the seventh, and black's pieces on the eighth.

Each piece type is then given a unique, capital letter to identify it. Kings are labeled K, Queens, Q, Rooks, R, Bishops, B, and Knights, N (K is already in use by the King.) Pawns do not have a letter associated with them because they do not need one. Whenever a move is notated with no capital letter before it, the move is assumed to be taken by a pawn.

Now we can begin to notate where unique pieces are moving around the board. If you wanted to notate a move like "King from position e5 to position e4", you would notate it like so: 1. Ke4. The 1. at the beginning of the move signifies that it is the first turn of the game, and that white made the move. If black were to follow with a similar move, the notation would look like this: 1.Ke4 Kh4. If you wanted to talk about black's move alone, the notation would look like this: 1...Kh4.

The starting position of the King is ambiguous in this example. Because Simplified Algebraic Notation (SAN) is meant to be read in order from start to end, the starting position of the piece is already known. In this case, because it is the first move of the game, the starting position of the King is understood to be e5 for white, and h5 for black.

Likewise, a Bishop moving to square f7 would be 2. Bf7.

Standard Algebraic Notation, or just Algebraic Notation, includes the starting position in the piece's maneuver. As stated before, this is ambiguous if you are following the game from start to finish. That is why this is simplified.

Pawn maneuvers are similar to piece maneuvers, but lack an identifying letter. On the first move, white can move his d2 pawn to either d3 or d4, so the notation for this would either be 1. d3 or 1. d4. Because no other pawn can make this move, it is obvious which pawn is moving.

Notating moves that both Knights, both Rooks, or two pawns can make becomes slightly confusing. Because SAN does not specifically identify the moving piece, we need to add an identifier. For instance, if first rank were cleared except for the two rooks at a1 and h1, you can't notate a move to c1 as 2. Rc1 because either rook can move there. In this case, a lower case letter after the R signifies the proper rook. If the a1 rook were to move, the notation would be 1. Rac1. If the rooks are on the same rank, the identifying file is inserted instead. A rook moving to square d4 from square d1 with the other rook at square d5 would look like this: 4. R1d4.

Notating a capture involves simply stating the move like a normal maneuver. If white's b2 knight were to capture black's rook on d3, it would be notated 5. Nd3. If black's pawn on e4 were to then capture white's knight, it would be notated 5...d3. Recently, it has become common to insert an x before the square being captured, so 5. Nd3 would become 5. Nxd3. Because pawns have no identifying letter, the file letter is used before the x, so 5...d3 would become 5...exd3.

If a move places a player in check, it is notated with a + after the move, like 6. Qb8+. If the move places a player in checkmate, the accepted notation is a #, though some may still use ++. 6...Qxb8# or 6...Qxb8++. A move placing another playing into stalemate is not notated: the game is simply ended.

En passant captures are treated no different from normal pawn captures.

If a pawn reaches final rank, it is promoted. A pawn promotion is signified by =, followed by the identifying letter of the piece the pawn becomes. 7. g8=Q+ signifies a g-pawn reaching final rank and placing black in check.

A castle king-side is notated by O-O, and castling queen-side is notated by O-O-O. Note that they are the capital letter O, and not the digit zero. 8...O-O-O signifies black castling queen-side.

Subjective move notation is handled at the end of the move, and uses Numeric Annotation Glyphs. The following symbols are accepted, and their meaning follows:

  • !! - Excellent Move
  • ! - Good Move
  • !? - Interesting Move
  • ?! - Dubious Move
  • ?? - Blunder
  • ? - Bad Move
  • 8. Rb6+?! Kxb6! indicates white move his rook to b6, a move the annotator thought dubious. Black responded by capturing white's rook, a move the annotator though was good.

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