What do the numbers and letters like "Nc3" mean?
That is chess notation - the language of chess!
Each move in a chess game can be described by a series of letters and numbers, and once you understand the language, you will be able to tell by looking at these letters and numbers what move was played!
How to understand chess notation
The first thing to understand is that the chessboard is a grid, with rows and columns. The rows are numbered 1-8 and the columns are lettered a-h.
This means you can describe any square on the chessboard with a letter and a number.
For example, in the above image the square e4 is highlighted.
Each piece can also be represented by a letter, as follows:
So, if in a game you saw the move Re4 written, it would mean that on that move, the player moved the rook to the square e4!
Pawns are not given a letter in most forms of chess notation, so if you see the move written as simply e4 or g6, it means a pawn was moved to that square.
NOTE: You may see an image of the piece in your chess notation instead of a letter, depending on your settings. So instead of Re4 you may see an image of the Rook piece, followed by e4. If you want to see text notation instead of image notation, go to your board and pieces settings, and change the 'piece notation' setting to 'text'
Of course, chess is not just about moving pieces! There is also notation for all the other actions that can happen on the chess board:
0-0: kingside castle
0-0-0: queenside castle
So, if instead of Re4 your saw the move Rxe4, that means a Rook moved to e4 and captured the piece there. Or if you saw Re4+, that means the rook moved to e4, and the move was check! You can also combine these as needed, so Rxe4# means that the Rook captured a piece on e4, and that move was also checkmate!
But what if multiple pieces can move to the same square?
Consider the below position:
It is White's move, and White wants to capture the bishop on d5 with their rook. But which rook? If we simply write Rxd5, then how will we know which rook was moved?
To solve this problem we can add another letter to the notation, so Raxd5 means the Rook on the a file captures the piece on d5. Similarly, if instead both rooks were on the d file, we would give them a number to differentiate. For example, R4xd5 would mean that the rook on the 4th row captured the piece on d5.
Once you understand the language of chess notation, you can read and enjoy a game of chess just by looking at text!
Try our Vision Trainer to practice remembering each square!
Click here to read an article about understanding chess notation.