7 Reasons Why Chess Players Write Down Their Moves

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Many times you might have noticed chess players in tournaments writing on a piece of paper after each move, and that seems like they are taking notes. So you might wonder, what do chess players write down?

Chess players write down the notation of each move they make in the scoresheet. A scoresheet is a sheet of paper that contains blank areas where the chess players can record the necessary information about the game being played. After the game ends both players sign each other’s scoresheet.

The Algebraic Notation is considered the standard method for recording the moves.

After each move, chess players write down the moves they made. For example, in a chess game, if the white pawn is moved to e4 square and the black pawn is moved to e5 square then both chess players write down e4 in the column of white and e5 in the column of black in their respective scoresheets.

Here’s what a standard scoresheet looks like:

(In case, if you are looking to buy chess scoresheets then you can click here to check them on Amazon.)

Ahead in this article, I am going to discuss in detail how to write down the moves following the standard procedure.

But before that, you may think, even though electronic chess boards are capable of recording the moves then why do chess players write down their moves?

Chess players write down their moves because it is mandatory as per the rules to record the moves. Moreover, it acts as a written record of their game and helps them in resolving disputes, making any claims in front of the arbiter, and analyzing their games later on.

Arbiter means the referee of a chess game. Now, this is just a straightforward answer. If you are interested to know the exact reasons why chess players note down their moves with an in-depth explanation along with the standard procedure of writing down the moves, then continue reading till the end.

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Now let’s discuss the 7 reasons why chess players write down their moves and other related topics.

#1. It Is Mandatory As Per The Rules

In chess, FIDE is the international chess governing body. All the standard chess rules are followed as mentioned in FIDE laws of chess. So, in the FIDE rated chess tournaments, it is compulsory for a chess player to note down their moves.


There is a dedicated section in FIDE laws of chess, which guides on how to record moves in chess. 

If a player is not able to write the moves in the scoresheet then there are assistants appointed who write the moves on the scoresheet on the player’s behalf. 

Moreover, it is customary for each chess player to sign their score sheets after their game ends. So you can see how much importance is given to writing down the moves on the scoresheet. 

The only exception to this rule of recording the moves is if the player has less than 5 minutes left on his or her clock and doesn’t have additional 30 seconds or more added with each move, and in rapid chess games in which the time duration is more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes as per FIDE.

In casual play you don’t need to note down your moves. However, it is good practice to do so.

#2. Helps In Claiming Draw By Threefold Repetition

In chess there are many rules and one amongst them is draw by threefold repetition.

β€œIn simple words, three-fold repetition means the same position occurs three times. Although it is not necessary that this has to occur in a succession but the claim has to be made by the player with the turn to move..”

Now the procedure as per the FIDE article and article,

  • A claim can be made if the same position is going to occur the third time with the same player to move and so the player first has to note this down on the scoresheet and then ask the arbiter
  • Or if the same position just occurred for the third time so the player with move can claim for this.

Moreover, the positions are considered the same only if the same player has the chance to move, the same pieces occupy the same positions, the right for castling is the same, and the possibility of en passant capture is also the same.

Now to claim the draw by this rule it is very important to have a written record of your moves. So whenever you claim a draw, the arbiter can easily check the positions from the scoresheet and give the result. Thus writing moves help to claim a draw by threefold repetition.

Below is the video by Chess Base India of a chess game that shows the occurrence of three-fold repetition practically. If interested you can watch how the player makes the claim for it.

#3. Helps In Claiming Draw By 50 Move Rule

In simple words, a 50 move rule means a player can claim a draw if no pawn movement and no capture has been made in the last 50 moves.

The simple procedure to claim draw by this rule as per the FIDE article 9.3.1 and article 9.3.2. 

A player has to write his move on a scoresheet and then declare to the arbiter that the next resulting move will cause the 50 move rule to be applied or already the 50 moves have been played without any pawn movement or capture.

So the arbiter can track the moves on a scoresheet and decide whether to accept the claim or reject it. Thus in this case also a written record proves to be very beneficial for a player to claim the draw.

One important thing to consider is by both the three-fold repetition rule and the 50 move rule, the game doesn’t end automatically. The player has to claim for it.

But as per the new 75 move rules (provided no pawn movement and no capture has been made within the last 75 moves) and the five-fold repetition rule (the same position repeated for at least five times) then the arbiter(referee in a chess game) can declare the game as a draw. There is no requirement of claiming in these cases.

#4. Helps To Prove The Time Limit Is Not exceeded

In certain chess games, a player has to make a certain number of moves within a fixed time frame. If the player exceeds the time period then necessary penalties are applied to that player.

Also Read: What Happens When A Player Runs Out Of Time?

Now if you have followed the rules then how will you prove it, by written records! Right? 
So writing down moves in a scoresheet helps in proving that you followed the rules and made the required number of moves within the given time frame.

#5. Prevents Cheating

Let’s suppose that you are playing in a chess tournament. Now during the game you have put your opponent in such a position that he/she might lose the game.

Now if the opponent changed the position of some of the pieces on the board or made an illegal move.

After that when you claim the opponent disagrees. At that time the only proof you have is the written record of moves. 

You can just go to the arbiter and show your scoresheet. You will get the decision in your favor. Thus this habit prevents cheating.

Also Read: What happens when you copy moves in chess?

#6. Written Records Are More Reliable


Though today we have electronic chess boards called dgt chess boards which are very accurate and show the live movement of chess pieces on the board. But after all it is an electronic machine.

Written records are very simple, reliable, and easy to use. The arbiter can easily interpret the score sheets and give judgment on whether to reject or accept any claim.

Moreover, in certain complicated situations, written records are more useful. For example, electronic boards don’t record the draw offers made by chess players. 

But a player has to write down in the scoresheet each time a draw offer is made. Thus the scoresheet keeps a record of this. So whenever there is a dispute then the arbiter can just verify the scoresheet and make the decisions.

You may also like to check out my article on how many many chess games are possible.

#7. Helps To Analyse The Game Afterwards

When you write down the moves on a scoresheet you are recording the complete game on a piece of paper.

So later on when the game ends you can analyse where you made mistakes and where you could have made a better move

Thus writing the moves becomes very handy for later on for self analysis of your game.

Moreover you can also put the chess moves in the chess engine you have and then analyse according to the mistakes the engine points out. 

You have to just input all the moves serially and then the chess engine’s software will analyze your game taking reference from its large database.

Tip πŸ™‚ – If you are new to chess then also check out my article: Top 7 Best Chess Sets For Beginners [With Buying Guide]

Standard Procedure Of Writing Down The Chess Moves In The Scoresheet

So far I discussed with you why chess players write down their moves. Now let’s see how to write down chess moves?

Each move is denoted by writing the abbreviated name of the piece making the move and the square to which that piece moves. So for example, if a bishop moves to f4 square then it is denoted as Bf4.

In the appendix c, of the FIDE Laws of chess there are proper guidelines given regarding this process. Now just imagine if everyone would write down their moves according their choice how difficult it would be to understand it. There should be standard chess notation, isn’t it?

So as per FIDE, only ‘Algebraic notations’ are considered standard for writing down the moves on the scoresheet. Let’s discuss this pointwise. If you are a beginner then please read these rules carefully because they will help you a lot in writing down the moves.

According to this notation a piece means any piece but not a pawn.

The name of each piece is indicated by the first alphabet of their name in English. A king is represented as K, knight as N (to prevent confusion with king, N is used), bishop as B, rook as R, queen as Q. However a player can also use the abbreviation of the name of the piece which is commonly used in his/her country.

There are total 8 rows called as ranks and denoted from left to right as the english alphabets a-h respectively. While the 8 columns on the chess board are called as files and denoted from top to bottom as numbers 1-8 respectively.

Pawns are not indicated by their first letter. As I already said that they are not considered as a piece. Right? So they are shown by the absence of their first letter. For example, a pawn moving to e5 square is denoted as e5 and not pe5 or Pe5.

A capture is denoted by inserting the letter x between the capturing piece and the square of arrival of that piece. For example, if a bishop captures a pawn on e4 square then it is written down as Bxe4. If a bishop captures a knight on f6 then it written as Bxf6.

But if a pawn captures the opponent’s piece then, the file (column) alphabet from which the pawn has departed has to be mentioned and then x is written followed by the name of the square of arrival of that pawn. For example, if a pawn on e file captures a bishop on f4 square then it will be written as exf4.

In case of pawn promotion, the the pawn move is written and then the abbreviation of the new piece. For example if a pawn moves to f8 square and gets promoted to a queen then it is written as f8Q.

The offer of draw is denoted by ‘=’ sign. I have written an article How to offer a draw and accept it in chess? You can read this for further reference.

‘0-0’ denotes kingside castling while ‘0-0-0’ denotes the queenside castling. To know more about kingside and queenside castling, check out my complete article about it here.

‘+’ denotes while ‘++’ or ‘#’ denotes the checkmate.

En passant capture is denoted by ‘e.p.’ If you aren’t familiar with en passant in chess then I recommend you to check out my detailed article on it here.

Moreover, to remove confusion in the situations where two or more identical pieces can move to the same square, there are some rules mentioned which we are going to discuss now.

So, if two identical pieces on the same rank can move to the same square then the abbreviation of that piece followed by its file name and then the square of the arrival is written.

For example, if white’s two knights are on the same rank (one on g1 square while another on e1 square) and both can move to the square f3 then it can be written as Ngf3 or Nef3 whichiver will be the case.

However, if two identical pieces are on the same file can move to the same square then the abbreviation of that piece followed by its rank name and the square of arrival is written.

For example, if two knights are on the same file (one on g5 square and one g1 square) and both can move to the square f3 then it will be written as N5f3 or N1f3 whichever happens.

If both the pieces are on different file and rank then the file name is written. For example, if two knights are on different ranks and file (one on h2 square and another d4 square) and both can move to f3 then it is written Nhf3 or Ndf3.

For denoting the capture all the rules are same except the letter x is inserted for example Ngxf3 or N1xf3.

Finally in the scoresheet first the move of white is written and then the move of black.

Here’s a video by Chess Talk which you can watch to get the video explanation of how to write down the moves following the standard notation.


So that’s it! I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed sharing this with you. If you found this article helpful then please do share. 

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Thanks and have a nice day!

Why do chess players take notes?

Chess players note down their moves on a scoresheet because it is mandatory as per the rules, for resolving any disputes, proving any claim, and analyzing their game. As per the standard rules, they are not allowed to note anything else other than the moves.

Do grandmasters write down their moves?

Yes, grandmasters write down their moves on the scoresheet because it is compulsory in any rated tournament to record their moves and it helps them to analyze their game later on. But If they are not doing that then there are officials like an arbiter appointed for this purpose, to write down the moves on a scoresheet.

Why do chess players write down their moves despite having electronic chess boards?

Though today we have electronic chess boards, chess players write down their moves on a scoresheet because a written record of moves is more reliable than a digital record. Moreover, written records help to analyze their game later on.