Instead of 'a1', why not '11'? First file, first rank.

Instead of 'g6', why not '76'? Seventh file, sixth rank.

And so on. Why not just use two numbers to represent the square, as opposed to 1 letter and 1 number?

I think the notation with the letter is more confusing for beginners and children. For example, with the 'g6'-square, it's not immediately obvious to a complete beginner where the 'g'-file is. They usually have to look down on the letter on the chess board, or, if the board doesn't have letters, they will usually count in their head, from left to right: 'a ... b.. c.. d.. e ... f... g, aha there it is'. On the other hand, if the 'g'-file was simply the '7'-file, it's immediately obvious where it is, since it's much easier to simply find the 7th file by eye-sight.

  • 6
    One argument for the established notation is that it's much easier to distinguish between ranks and files if you denote ranks by numbers and files by letters. Also, it is easier to not write incorrect notation this way. Moreover, I don't believe that your suggestions would actually make anything simpler for beginners, since there is not really anything suggesting that it's easier to find '7'-file by eye-sight than it is to find 'g'-file by eye-sight. Recall that most people who are raised in a western nation are just as familiar with the latin alphabet as the arabic numerical system.
    – Scounged
    Apr 20, 2019 at 7:39
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    Draughts has a different notation, using only numbers.
    – Glorfindel
    Apr 20, 2019 at 7:43
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    @Glorfindel And draughts notation is the worse for it. Rather than labelling each rank and each file, it labels each of the squares used. And international draughts uses a 10x10 board. It is much harder to understand which of the 32 or 50 black squares a number means, than which of 8 or 10 ranks or files a symbol means.
    – Rosie F
    Apr 21, 2019 at 5:51

3 Answers 3


Imagine White has two knights on b5 and e2 respectively (ie, 25 and 52) I think it would be confusing to write N243 rather than Nbd4 (we could still write N5d4, making a "mistake" but still not changing our move)

Also, there is no advantage to write everything in numbers, I'd say it loses legibility, as now our eyes can easily tell pieces (capital letters), files (lowercase letters) and ranks (numbers)

  • That’s a silly reason. Do you really need to shorten the knight’s starting position to one character? How about n2543?
    – Bryan
    Dec 20, 2020 at 20:40
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    @Bryan I'm not sure if I understand what you're talking about. Being able to read a game easily is the main purpose why chess notation exists. So legibilitiy is a pretty good reason to choose one method over the other.
    – David
    Dec 21, 2020 at 9:34

I believe that it is more of a historic thing where chess players went from descriptive to algebraic notation, really because strong players started adopting algebraic notation. Admittedly, using 2 numbers would probably be just as easy to use once you get use to it. Infact, ICCF(international correspondence chess federation) uses such coordinate systems in order not to confuse people from different countries who would use different alphabets for algebraic notation.

  • I think legibility also plays a role here. Using letters for files and numbers for ranks makes them easier to distinguish and talk about. We all know what we're talking about when we say "White's d pawn". Even someone who doesn't know chess notation could look at the board (if it has letters and numbers around it) and figure it out. Saying "the 4 pawn" instead could result confusing, as we're also using "4" to refer to the forth rank.
    – David
    Dec 21, 2020 at 9:37

One reason would be to avoid confusion with earlier methods - such as numbering each square from 1 to 64, starting on black's side of the board.

"28" could either be file 2, rank 8 (b8), or the 28th square from the upper left (d5).

  • Come on. It’s a coordinate system. XY
    – Bryan
    Dec 20, 2020 at 20:41

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