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Geographical Chess Notation

Introduction

Geographical Chess Notation is a new flexible method to notate games of Chess variants in general.

Personally, I believe that the eternally-flexible Algebraic Notation isn't as flexible when it came to boards that change shape (like Building Chess) or, even worse, infinite boards (like Open Plane Chess)!

The Geographical Chess Notation is applicable, with some modifications, to Hexagonal Boards and 3D boards. See notes.

--

Since the most popular variant is FIDE chess, I am going to apply the system to it.

Setup

The Chess Board is square. So, it makes perfect sense to call the main four directions of movement North (n), South(s), East(e) and West(w).

* ( For some chess variants, extra directions might exist. Like clockwise and counter-clockwise for Circular moving pieces. Hexagonal Boards might need redefining the six directions as a,b,c,d,e and f. )

Let's assume that White starts South, and Black Starts North. (Therefore, the White pawns move northward, and Black pawns move southward.)

North

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

| r |:n:| b |:q:| k |:b:| n |:r:|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |:p:| p |

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

| |:::| |:::| |:::| |:::|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:::| |:::| |:::| |:::| |

West +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ East

| |:::| |:::| |:::| |:::|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:::| |:::| |:::| |:::| |

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:| P |:P:|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:R:| N |:B:| Q |:K:| B |:N:| R |

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

South

Each piece is referred to by the known symbols. P for Pawn, N for Knight .. etc.

Multiple pieces of the same type are numbered from West to East. For example, the QR Pawn is P1; and the QN Pawn is P2. The Q Rook is R1, and the K Rook is R2.

If multiple pieces are on the same file, the numbering starts from North to South. In the following example, five pawns are on the board, each is given a number of its own. It doesn't matter if the pawns are White or Black. Note the numbering might change if the pawns change their position.

North

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

| |:::| |:::| |:::| |:::|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:::| |:::| |:::| |:::| |

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

| |:::| P2|:::| |:::| |:::|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:::| |:::| |:::| |:::| |

West +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+ East

| |:::| P3|:::| P4|:P5| |:::|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:P1| |:::| |:::| |:::| |

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

| |:::| |:::| |:::| |:::|

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

|:::| |:::| |:::| |:::| |

+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

South

--

There are, on the square board, four orthogonal directions : (n), (s), (w) and (e). And four diagonal directions : (ne), (se), (nw) and (sw). And eight Knight directions : (nne), (nee), (sse), (see), (nnw), (nww), (ssw) and (sww).

Generally, any direction of movement has either one, two or more orthogonal legs. When a piece moves in a given directions, the two legs are given (as in a diagonal movement.) If one of the two legs is longer, its letter is repeated. (North and south before east and west, always.)

If a piece is a rider, and moves more than one square in the direction it moves to, the number of steps is given.

A capture is notated as in Descriptive notation. However, to avoid disambiguity altogether, both pieces must be numbered. (This is one of many methods that work.)

Castling, en-passant and pawn promotion are as usual, or as specified by the specific variant author.

Every move is basically this : Which piece, which direction, and how far.

For an example, I give The Immortal Game (Anderssen-Kieseritsky) written in the Geographical Notation.

White Black

1. P5 - n2 P5 - s2

2. P6 - n2 P5 x P6 (now the numbering of pawns has changed.)

3. B2 - nw3 ... (note that the numbering of Bishops is changed here.)

3. ... Q - se4 + (+ notates check.)

4. K - e P2 - s2

5. B1 x P2 N2 - ssw

6. N2 - nnw Q - n2

7. P4 - n N2 - see

8. N2 - nee Q - sw

9. N2 - nww P2 - s (this the c-pawn, not the b-pawn, which is captured.)

10. P6 - n2 N2 - nww

11. R2 - w P2 x B1

12. P7 - n2 Q - n

13. P7 - n Q - s

14. Q - ne2 N2 - nne

15. B x P5 ... (it's P5, not P4, because it's southern.)

15. ... Q - nw

16. N1 - nne B2 - sw3

17. N1 - nne Q x P2

18. B - nw2 B2 x R2

19. P4 - n Q x R +

20. K - nw N1 - ssw

21. N2 x P5 + K - w

22. Q - n3 + N2 x Q

23. B - ne # 1-0

Notes

The system is obviously not suitable for all variants. For example, Jim Aikin's Amoeba, where you get to move empty squares.

Also, every detail of the move must be included, like a piece moving from one board to another, unless it was implied as in Alice Chess.

The system needs some getting used to, like every other system.

Some possible and necessary additions for other variants follow :

1. Mentioning squares : In games where you get to move squares (like Amoeba) or drop pieces (like Shogi) you will need a way to notate squares. The best way (I think) to do so is to mention how far away from the King the square is. For example (s.n2e3 - w) means a square 2 steps north and 3 steps east away from the King moves one square to the west. Also, (B @ s.n2e3) means a Bishop dropped at the square mentioned. In case of multiple Kings, the reference is to "K1".

2. Drops .. (see above)

3. Camels and Zebras, etc. are notated like the corresponding Knight's move.

3. Falcons, and more complex arrangements : The Falcon moves in 16 directions. So, to make the distinction, you must use four letters to say what direction it went to. The simplest way is to mention how many steps in the first leg and how many steps in the second leg it offsets from the original square. For example (F - n3w, F-n3w2). In case of more than a single step in this direction, add a slash (/) then the number of steps. For example (F - n3w2/2)

4. Roses and circular riders : Mention the first steps direction, followed by which circular direction it takes (cw for clockwise, and cc for counter clockwise), then how many steps. An example is (Ro - nne.cc2)

5. Hexagonal Boards and 3D Boards : Re-defining the directions for these boards is necessary. For Hexagonal boards, you can use a, b, c, d, e and f, defining where the directions are on a diagram. For 3D boards, add u (for up) and d (for down). For 4D boards, like Joe Joyce's Hyperchess and Jim Aikin's Chessaract, you can use hyper-directions. It is possible to use "n" for small board North and "N" for large board North. This gives 8 orthogonal directions.

I believe this about sums it up. Any additions or fairy moves (like the Magician in my own Chess with Wizards), can be dealt with in the same manner.

P.S. Thanks for David Howe and Jeremy Good for getting this article published. The work you do in the website is much appreciated.



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By Abdul-Rahman Sibahi.
Web page created: 2007-09-23. Web page last updated: 2007-09-23