What is Chess Notation and why is it used?
Chess notation is the method by which chess games are recorded. Chess games are often recorded in chess tournaments - the sort of tournaments which are played in school halls and other venues. Games are recorded for the following reasons:
Fortunately cheating is very rare, and as you can see above, there are plenty of good reasons to record games.
So, how are games recorded?
Each piece has a code - as follows:
Pawns - pawns do not get a letter - as you will see.
Notice that the letter that denotes a piece is always a CAPITAL letter.
Each square on the board has a code. Each horizontal row of squares - these are called "Ranks" - has a number from 1 to 8. Each vertical column of of squares - these are called "Files" - has a letter - and these run from "a" through to "h". So a square may be known as, for example h8. When noting a square on the board, the letter is always a small letter.
The chess notation then records each move in turn. You write down the piece being moved first and then the square to which that piece is being moved to. An example of this is "Qh8". So, this simply means that the Queen (Q) is moved to the square h8.
If when a piece is moved, one of the opponents pieces is taken, this is mark with an "x". An example of this would be "Qxh8". So, the Queen "takes" - x - whatever of the opponents pieces is located on the h8 square.
So, how do you record putting the King into check? - answer - "+". An example of this is "Qh8+". So, the Queen moves to the h8 square and puts the opposition King into Check.
Checkmate? - "#" - an example of this is "Qh8#", which means that the Queen moves to the h8 square and puts the King into Checkmate. Another example may be "Qxh8#" - which means that the Queen takes a piece on h8 and puts the King into Checkmate.
There is sometimes a problem that two pieces could both move to the same square. An example of this may be where two Queen's, obviously located on different squares can both move to the same square. The solution is to record something about the square from which the Queen was moved. For example: "Qbh8+". The Qh8+ element of this is simple - The Queen moves to h8 and puts the King into Check. But, what does the "b" mean? Well, this example is taken from the "Mate in 2" problem below. If you look at the board below, White is lucky enough to have two Queen's and they can both make the move to h8. However, there is only one Queen on the "b" file, so recording this records which Queen makes the move.
Sometimes, both Queens may be on the same file, but then they will be on a different rank - so you may record "Q8h8". This means move the Queen located on the 8th rank to h8.
When a pawn is moved, oddly the Pawn is not mentioned - the notation will simply state the square to which the pawn is being moved. If you think about it, if a pawn is moved to a certain square, there is only one pawn that can make that particular move. And there is no need to mention that it is a pawn, if it was another piece, it would note which that piece is, it may say Qh8, for example. An example of a pawn move is as follows: "e4" - this means that a pawn moves to the e4 square. As already mentioned , there can only be one pawn that can complete any particular move in any particular position.
When Pawns take a piece, it is recorded slightly differently. Because the pawns are not uniquely identified, and in some positions there can be two pawns that can take a piece, so we need to identify which pawn completed that move. An example of this is as follows: "dxe5". This means that the pawn located on the "d" file takes whatever piece is located on the "e5" square.
Then, there is Castling. This is recorded as "0-0" or "0-0-0". "0-0" means Castling to the Kings side (the nearer side to the King), and "0-0-0" means castling the other way.
Lastly - thankfully - how do you record promoting a piece? - this is when a pawn makes it all the way to the other side. The player whose pawn it is can then exchange the pawn for any other piece. Mostly players exchange pawns for Queen's, for the obvious reason - she is the most powerful piece - why not have another? Just occasionally it is better to exchange for a Knight, but this is fairly rare. But - how do you record it? An example of this is "e8=Q". This means: Put the pawn on the "e8" square and exchange the pawn for a Queen.
There are a few other notations which are sometimes used:
"!" means a good move
"!!" means a brilliant move
"?" means a mistake - a bad move
"??" means a blunder - a really bad move that lets your opponent take a piece
"?!" means a dubious move
"!?" means an interesting move
Honestly - I never really look at the exclamation marks and question marks, and these are generally only added after the game, so don't sorry about them - they are confusing.
I hope the above is clear - I dare say I will read it tomorrow and realise how hard it is to follow, but I thought I would at least attempt to explain chess notation. Alternatively... look at this link: https://www.chess.com/terms/chess-notation
Chess Problem - Checkmate in 2...
The position below is taken a game in the Bullet tournament last Sunday. This is a game between WiseCrabbyCoconut and ZanyHummingBook. Spotting Checkmates can be hard enough, but in Bullet Chess, they are especially hard. In this game, each player started with 3 minutes on the clock, and each turn, were given an extra 3 seconds. The extra three seconds is to help if there is a slow connection. Given that white won with the 57th move, that is pretty a pretty impressive rate of play, given how little time the players had.
In this position White, who is lucky enough to have two Queen's, finds a way to force Checkmate in two moves. Can you see how? - answer below the puzzle.
Move 56: Qbh8+; Rh7
Move 57: Qh4#
Let's decode that...
Qbh8: The Q represents the Queen, and h8 represents the h8 square on the board. So this is saying: "The Queen moves to h8". So, what does the "b" mean? Well, if you look at the position above, which shows the position on the board before White's move at Move 56, you will see that both of White's Queen's could be moved to h8. So, on this occasion, the "b" means that it is the Queen on the "b" file that is moved. The "+" sign at the end means "check" - so this is a move which puts the opposition into Check.
Rh7: This simply states: "The Rook "R" moves to the square h7". Actually, in this position, Black has two options, there is another way out of Check, but unfortunately, both options lead to Checkmate on the next move.
Qh4#: The "Qh4" elements of this simply means "The Queen "Q" moves to h4". And the "#" sign means "Checkmate".
Sunday Blitz 4
Sunday Bullet 4
OK - so chess is a game where you simply play the moves. No pressure. No drama.
I remember watching a YouTube video a few years ago and I loved it. Garry Kasparov was the greatest chess player in the world when I was growing up, and Magnus Carlsen is the best player at the moment and has been for a few years. They first played each other in 2004 in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Magus Carlsen was 13. Garry Kasparov was 41. Magnus Carlsen was already an International Master and ranked 700th in the world. Garry Kasparov was a Grandmaster and ranked No.1 in the world.
A crowd was watching. People were filming and taking photographs. And... Garry Kasparov was late. Garry Kasparov turned up late to the game keeping the 13 year old waiting at the board. No pressure? No drama?
Part way into the game, Carlsen goes for a wander while Kasparov is considering his next move. While Carlsen has his back to the table, Kasparov plays his move. If Carlsen is not careful, his clock will be ticking down while he is wandering around the other boards. What happens? - almost instantly Carlsen senses that Kasparov has played his move and he returns to the board to play a move he has clearly planned.
The result of the match is a draw. A truly fantastic achievement for a 13 year old against one of the greatest players of all time. But what interests me is the drama and the pressure and how Carlsen dealt with it.
I would expect a lot of people to find those circumstances difficult to handle. Especially a 13 year old. But Carlsen never lost his cool - he stayed calm and focused on the moves. He controlled those parts of the occasion which he could control, and he did not get concerned about things going on around him which he could not control. I think that is a great lesson for all players - and not just when playing chess.
Oh - and by the way - the opening? It was Queen's Gambit Declined. This is one of the best openings for young chess players to learn.
The YouTube video can be seen below. It is a great video to watch.
My apologies, it has been a couple of week's since I have done an article - I was away last Wednesday and busy over the weekend, so there has not been a report for a couple of weeks. My apologies.
This week I am not writing up the games - there have been a few too many for that, but the results and links to all of the tournaments in the last few weeks are provided below. If you have a ChessKid login, you can use these links to see the full results and look through the games.
Results: 13/09/2020 Sunday Blitz 2
Results: 13/09/2020 Sunday Bullet 2
Results: 16/09/2020 Wednesday Carlsen
Results: 20/09/2020 Sunday Blitz
Results: 20/09/2020 Sunday Bullet
Results: 23/09/2020 Wednesday Seven's
We have now moved to tournaments which take place on Wednesday evenings and Sunday mornings. The articles will generally be once a week from now on, usually on a Wednesday - that way weeding in the garden can be done!
...we had two events - a Blitz event followed by a Bullet event. Chess is typically played in 4 formats. 'Over the board' chess is normally either Standard Play or Rapid Play. In Standard Play, players generally get upwards of an hour each in which to play their moves, and often get an additional 15 seconds or so per move. In 'Rapid Play', players generally get between 25 and 40 minutes or so each for their moves and would not normally get additional time for each move. Then there are the faster forms which are Blitz and Bullet. In Blitz, players typically get around 5 minutes each, and Bullet even less time.
Why play Blitz or Bullet?
Who knows? - I could never cope with the time limit! I think the reason people play this form of chess is mainly enjoyment - it is really good fun having to play moves really quickly. I spoke to an International Master once and he said that he prepares for major tournaments by playing Blitz chess online. I think the reason was to really sharpen his thinking, and also to get lots of games under his belt in a short time. In these very short forms of the game, players who know their openings really well have an advantage because they will not need to think about these moves as much if they know the right move from memory. It also rewards players who perhaps have a bit of an instinct for the right move, and who know what move looks right. That is probably why I would not play this form of the game - I have neither of these attributes!
...Blitz - time control: 5 minutes each
theworldoflegend played a blinder, winning all 3 of his games. AbleLopsidedGiraffe took second place with 2/3. kolifl0w37 took 3rd place, narrowly beating WiseCrabbyCoconut on tiebreak score.
...Bullet - time control: 3 minutes each and an extra 3 seconds a move
This time, AbleLopsidedGiraffe took the glory with 4 wins from 4 games - very well played. RedNuttyCactus had an excellent tournament with 3 wins from 4 games, only losing to AbleLopsidedGiraffe. theworldoflegend, winning 2 form 4 games, narrowly took 3rd place on tiebreak score, edging ahead of SillyLimit, MeanCactus, and ORichards who all also scored 2/4.
Very well played to these players and all who entered the Blitz and the Bullet events. These tournaments do reward good chess, but it is very easy to make a mistake when there is little thinking time, so if you didn't do as well as you would have liked, try again next time.
If you have a ChessKid login, you can see all these games and the full results at the following links:
So, we know what Blitz and Bullet chess are; so what is Seven's? Well, I suppose it is a type of Rapid Play. I like to mix up the time controls for the events, partly to make sure that they are not always the same, and partly because some tournaments will be preferred by some, and others will like a different arrangement - so change is a good thing. I like the time control - it is probably the gentlest time control we have in these events. Seven minutes may not sound like long, but you get an extra 7seven seconds for every move. So, if you need to think for a while about a move, then you can, but you still need to keep a careful eye on the clock. It also helps for those who may sometimes have a slow internet connection. Those extra seven seconds can be a real help.
This event was won by Rowantree who won three games and drew a close game with RichSmoothPanda. RichSmoothPanda took second place with two wins and two draws. But, the player with the best performance this evening was probably MerryJazz. MerryJazz took third place with 3 wins from 4 games, only missing out on second place on tiebreak score. So, why is MerryJazz the best performer? - well, the only game he lost was to RowanTree, the eventual winner, and all of his wins came against players with a higher ChessKid grade than his own - very well played.
If you have a Chesskid login, you can see all the games and the full results here: https://www.chesskid.com/tournament/wednesday-sevens-102680/results
Chess Puzzle - Mate in 1
In the position below, can you see how Black can secure Checkmate in One move? Answer beneath.
Bg5# - That is code for B (Bishop) moves to the square g5, and the # means Checkmate
We have moved our chess events to Wednesday evenings to avoid a clash with the new evening for the Ipswich Junior Chess Club, and the change of evening certainly suited SillyLimit who played exceptionally well to secure third place, only missing out on second place on tiebreak score. Very very well played. SillyLimit managed to win in the third round with barely a false move, which is no mean feat. You can see the whole of this game below.
The tournament was won by Rowantree with 4 wins from 4 games, which was well earned, and rafcalum took second place on tiebreak score with 2 wins and 2 draws, and also played extremely well.
If you have a ChessKid login, you can see all the games and the full results here: https://www.chesskid.com/tournament/schools-in-wednesday-101191/results
Check here for articles about the Suffolk Juniors.