Chess Oldies – Really Descriptive Notation

March 19th, 2009

You’re probably familiar with descriptive notation, the once standard manner of writing down games. With this form of recording a battle, the moves are described from the vantage point of the player on the move and in relation to their pieces starting squares. It’s also often referred to as simply old notation, ever since the advent of the current standard, algebraic form.

Many people who did not grow up on descriptive notation find it difficult to grasp. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that each square has two names depending on whether it is a White or Black move. For example, the d4 square is either Q4 (Queen 4) from White’s point of view, or Q5 from Black’s.

Further complicating the situation is the apparent necessity of remembering from whence each piece came. This is because, when, say, two knights can both land on the same square, the piece making the move is distinguished by whether it is the KN (King’s Knight) or the QN that is to occupy that space.

You may find it interesting to learn there’s an even older, even more descriptive chess notation that was once the way games were recorded. It looked a little like the following pulled from Philidor’s classic instructional entitled Chess Analysed.

White. The King’s Pawn two Steps.
Black. The fame.

W. The King’s Bifhop at his Queen’s Bishop’s fourth Square.
B. The fame.

W. The Queen’s Bifhop’s Pawn one Move.
B. The King’s Knight at his Bifhop’s third Square.

W. The Queen’s Pawn two Moves.
B. The Pawn takes it.

W. The Pawn retakes the Pawn.
B. The King’s Bifhop at his Queen’s Knight’s third Square.

W. The Queen’s Knight at his Bifhop’s third Square.
B. The King caftles.

W. The King’s Knight at his King’s fecond Square.
B. The Queen’s Bifhop’s Pawn one Move.

W. The King’s Bifhop at his Queen’s third Square.
B. The Queen’s Pawn two Moves.

Seriously, each move pair took up three lines(!), one for the move number, and full sentences for both the White and Black moves. Notice also the almost arbitrary capitalization throughout and the ‘f’s in Bishop and castles. These latter are, of course, the letter ‘s’, but in olden times, they were more like long f’s.

Here’s that same start in our beloved algebraic notation.

1.e4 e5
2.Bc4 Bc5
3.c3 Nf6
4.d4 exd4
5.cxd4 Bb6
6.Nc3 0-0
7.Nge2 c6
8.Bd3 d5

To read the rest of this classic book, and others, painstakingly converted for you, be sure to visit

Topalov Defeats Kamsky

February 26th, 2009

Alas, just three games (and two big blunders) later, the game in my last post remains Kamsky’s sole win over Topalov. The latter, having won the match with a score of 4.5-2.5, now moves on to face Anand for the title of World Chess Champion. As for Kamsky, they were speculating in the live commentary today on the ICC that he may once again leave the Royal Game. I hope not, but time will tell.

Kamsky’s First Win Over Topalov

February 21st, 2009

Just like Fischer, who’s first win against Spassky did not come until their World Championship contest in 1972, Kamsky also “waited” to draw first blood against Topalov until today, in their all-important qualification match to determine Anand’s challenger.

The score is now level at 2-2 in this ultra-short 8-game match. It’s now already at the half-way mark!

Rumor has it 16.Bc2 is the novelty.

Staunton Chess Set Is Here!

February 16th, 2009

So, that Staunton chess set I won from the House of Staunton through the ICC has arrived, and I’m quite pleased. :)

First of all, it came very well packed. These pics really don’t do it justice, but you get the idea.


And here they are lined up for battle on a well-worn field.

(By the way, that’s Dangerous Weapons: 1.e4 e5 by John Emms, Glenn Flear, and Andrew Greet peeking out there.)

Jacob Aagaard – Soren Bech Hansen, Copenhagen 1994

And now they’re really going at it! The Attacking Manual Volume 1, by Jacob Aaagard, the winner of the above and one of my favorite chess authors, providing the marching orders.

The verdict? While I’m used to playing with a slightly larger set, these feel great. So, put away the database for a while, crack open a book, and push some real wood around again.

What a concept!  

House of Staunton Chess Set Winner

January 24th, 2009

I’ve been keeping up with the Corus Chess Tournament on the ICC and especially their Game of the Day with its attendant trivia contest.

The games have been interesting, of course, but this post is just a quick celebration. You see, I won a House of Staunton chess set the other day.

I’ll let you know when it arrives. :)

Serious chess. Serious fun!