Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Rant - Doing Algebraic Notation Right

AlgebraicNotation Although I am a product of a "descriptive notation" generation (1. P-K4 P-QB4) I adapted relatively painlessly to algebraic notation. In fact, I wouldn't want to go back. But there are some things that irk me concerning the implementation of algebraic notation in books and on chess boards:

  • Using Long Algebraic in Beginner Books. I've seen a number of books for beginners that seem to think long algebraic notation (1. e2-e4 Ng8-f6) is somehow beneficial or easier to learn than short algebraic (1. e4 Nf6). I think it is a horrible mistake to give the chess novice a wobbly crutch that will soon be taken from them as soon as the pick up their next chess book! Is short algebraic really THAT much harder to learn than long algebraic?  I don't think so. Personally, I find long algebraic so distracting when reading it I can't visualize the moves in my head - whereas with short algebraic I have no problem at all. Take for example The Simon and Schuster Pocket Book Of Chess  by Raymond Keene. I picked this up on a whim some years ago in a Barnes & Noble store. Not a bad book for $8.00 or so - but I can't read it (or recommend it) because every chess move in the book is in that dreaded long-notation. Is it just me, or does anyone else find it impossible to "think" in long notation?
  • Labeling of Algebraic Chess Boards. Why do the majority of chess boards insist on using UPPER-CASE letters to label the file names - when it is universally accepted to write the file names using lower-case letters? You don't often see 1. E4 NF6 do you? That looks so odd I can hardly visualize it, whereas 1. e4 Nf6 is so much easier - probably because it is easier to pick out the piece names because they stand out. Are kids or beginners (learning from these chess boards) more likely to write down what they see - upper-case rather than lower-case letters for those file names? If so, please label those files with lower-case letters - thank you very much.
  • Why Can't One Purchase a Chess Board with Individually Labeled Algebraic Squares? I've looked long and hard for a chess board that labels EACH square with the correct algebraic coordinates (from both white and black's perspective). Of course, this would have to be done unobtrusively - perhaps with small print in each corner? This would greatly help the learning process - or even ensure better accuracy with more experienced players - especially when playing from the black side of the board. Does anyone know of such a board being available? I haven't found one!


Anonymous said...

I've never seen a board with the individual squares each marked with the algebraic notation. My assumption is that many people would find that too distracting when they are concentrating on the board.

Rook Van Winkle said...


I expect I might feel exactly the same way - but I'd like the chance to at least see a board with that feature so I could decide for myself. My thought is that if the print was the right size (somewhat small) and maybe light in color it might work without distracting the players too much.