The Advantages Of English Descriptive

Something I’ll never understand is why FIDE made the fascistic decision to ban English Descriptive chess notation, thus condemning it to obsolescence. There are so many great books written with this notation which are now difficult for younger players to access. It’s also a very easy and logical form for people to understand when they’re first starting out.

Now I know that many are going to wonder what the problem is with algebraic as every square has a fixed coordinate. Simple, right? But it’s not so simple for the human mind.

For someone to work out each move in algebraic they have to count from 1 to 8 and a to h simultaneously, the coordinates starting from White’s left. And they have to do this whilst wondering if two pieces can go to the same square, clock ticking plus other problems on the board. This can be a big ask for your average 9 year old and even adult beginners. In my experience they only get fluent with algebraic when they can actually REMEMBER each of the 64 squares.

With English Descriptive, on the other hand, you can far more easily and quickly work out the name of the square you’re moving something to. It’s just in front of where your pieces started out and you count from one as Black as well as White. It also makes certain strategies much clearer, for example getting a rook to the 7th.

Of course many chess books still use these Descriptive notation concepts, otherwise it would be a nightmare describing the same thing with both White and Black (a rook on the 7th would become a rook on row 2 or 7, depending on its colour). So I guess we should be happy that FIDE hasn’t tried to regulate those too.

After receiving a request to do so I’m going to draw up a list of great books that are in English Descriptive so as to encourage its illicit revival. But that will be the subject of a future post.


Author: NigelD

Nigel Davies is an International Chess Grandmaster living in St. Helens in the UK. The winner of 15 international tournaments he is also a former British U21 and British Open Quickplay Champion and has represented both England and Wales on several occasions. These days Nigel teaches chess through his chess training web site, Tiger Chess, which has articles, recommendations, a monthly clinic, videos and courses. His students include his 15 year old son Sam who is making rapid progress with his game. Nigel has written a number of chess books that are available at Amazon: