Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Descriptive chess notation
Descriptive chess notation is a notation for recording chess games, and at one time was the most popular notation for doing so. Alternate names for this notation include descriptive notation, English notation, and English descriptive notation. It is not used often today (most people today use algebraic chess notation), but is still important for understanding older chess books.
Each move in descriptive chess notation is either a special castling symbol (O-O for a kingside castle or O-O-O for a queenside castle, as with algebraic notation), or by the following sequence: piece name, "-" (no capture) or "x" (capture), its final square at the end of the move, and special indicators if any. The piece names are K (King), Q (Queen), R (Rook), B (Bishop), Kt [or N] (Knight), and P (Pawn); note that English versions of algebraic notation use the same abbreviations except for the Knight and Pawn. Special indicators include e.p. (en passant), Ch (Check), and Mate (Checkmate). If the move is a capture, the final square is indicated by naming the piece being captured.
Typically, the move will record only enough information to make the move unambiguous. A pawn capturing a pawn may be shown as PxP if it is the only one possible, or as BPxP if only one of the player's Bishop's Pawns can capture another pawn, or as QBPxP, or PxQBP, or other such variations. As a last resort, the location of a capture or the starting point of a move may also be shown, delimited with parentheses or a slash, as PxP/QB6, or R(R3)-Q3. Parentheses are also used to indicate promotion: P-R8(Q).
The primary difference between algebraic and descriptive notation is how squares are specified. The squares are identified by what piece originally starts there (using the adjectives "Queen's" and "King's" to disambiguate the side), followed by how many squares from that player's perspective. Thus, when White is playing, algebraic notation's square "a1" in descriptive notation would be spoken as "Queen's Rook 1" and written as "QR1" in descriptive notation. Squares written as a1 through h1 in algebraic notation are written in descriptive notation as QR1, QKt1 [or QN1], QB1, Q1, K1, KB1, KKt1 [or KN1], and KR1. From White's perspective, the square notated as "e4" in algebraic notation is described as "K4" in descriptive notation. Note that the name for the same square has a different representation depending on whether the player is Black or White; the square notated as K4 for White is notated as K5 for Black.
Thus, moving the King's pawn forward two squares as an initial move would be written as "e4" in algebraic notation, and as "P-K4" in descriptive notation.
By identifying each square with reference to the player on move, descriptive notation better reflects the symmetry of the game's starting position ("both players opened with P-K4 and planned to play B-KN2 as soon as possible"), and because the pieces captured are named, it is easy to skim over a game record and see which ones have been taken at any particular point. But algebraic notation represents the same moves with fewer characters, on average, and can avoid confusion since it always represents the same square in the same way.
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