Chess notation is a system for recording chess games on paper while they are being played. It is also referred to as scorekeeping or keeping score.
USCF (the United States Chess Federation) requires chess notation for all regular rated chess games--games with a time control of 30 minutes or longer per player. Players are allowed to stop taking notation when they are low on time. If either player has less than five minutes remaining on the clock, either player may stop taking notation.
For local USCF-rated scholastic competition, tournament directors usually require scorekeeping starting in the grade 4/5 sections; however, most of the stronger players in the younger sections record their games.
At our unrated Evanston Scholastic tournaments, all players at Rook, Queen and King level record their games, and many at Bishop and Knight level do, too.
There are plenty of good reasons why chess players should learn chess notation and write down their games:
- Certain rules claims such as the 50-move rule and threefold repetition can only be proved with a written scoresheet.
- The only practical way to review a chess game is to have a record of it. Players cant improve unless they are able to regularly review their games with a stronger player or with a computer chess program.
- A player cannot study master games, read a chess book, or do chess problems without being able to read chess notation.
Children as young as first grade can successfully write down their chess games. Start practicing at chess club or at home. Then set a goal to record the first five or ten moves of each tournament game and work up from there. Eventually chess notation becomes second nature.
The most widely used system for writing down chess games and the one you want to learn -- is algebraic notation, which uses the letters a-h and numbers 1-8 to describe each square on the board. Nf3 would be how youd write down a knight move to square f3.
Older players know descriptive notation, which describes where a piece moved in terms of the starting position of the pieces. Knight to Queens Bishop three (or N-QB3) is an example of descriptive notation.
Evanston Scholastic Chess has notation sheet master on the web site, and you can use it to print out your own chess score sheets. Bound books of score sheets can also be purchased from an internet chess supplier or at many scholastic tournaments.
Following are some internet resources on how to take algebraic chess notation:
Wikipedia on chess notation, suitable for adults
Acrobat PDF from the United States Chess Federation
A link more suitable for younger readers: