Descriptive notation seems to be limited to certain languages like English, and I found a Wikipedia article that mentions Spanish and French.

I have never seen a Russian book that uses Descriptive, and in fact, I can go back to the 1800's in Russian books, and they all use Algebraic.

In particular, I would like to see a list of languages that used Descriptive before finally adopting Algebraic, but I would also be interested in a list that have always used Algebraic.

2 Answers 2


Stamma invented algebraic notation, and it was used sporadically by other writers (e.g. Allgaier) alongside several other systems. Algebraic notation really took off with the German Handbuch, first published in 1843, which was the MCO of its day and hugely influential. Algebraic has been standard in German language chess literature ever since.

There wasn't much Russian language chess literature until the 20th century, even Jaenisch actually wrote in French. I'm not sure if there was ever such a thing as Russian descriptive notation, all the 20th century Russian books adopted algebraic notation.

Spanish, Catalan and to a lesser extent French used a different form of descriptive notation. In Spanish descriptive, the move 1.c4 would be written as 1.P4AD (4th rank is given before "AD", Alfil de Dama, or Queen's Bishop).


Originally there was ONLY descriptive and it was used in ALMOST ALL languages, if not actually in ALL of them.

Each language used the letter from their words for the pieces to use to describe moves.

EG Spanish would say AxT for Bishop takes Rook French and other languages used their words to identify the letter for the pieces.

I never saw Russian magazines using algebraic before it became the standard but they may have been part of the movement to transition away from descriptive. Can't speak to Russian books as I never had any of those. And I am positive that if you go back far enough that descriptive was the only method used.

And I never saw algebraic used anywhere until long after the 50s. Not sure when it became popular but it did take a while to displace descriptive and really needed FIDE to make it happen.

Michael West noted elsewhere a German book for Carlsbad 1923 and said he had no problem playing through the games.

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    Correct, I have a reprint in german of the “karlsbad 1923” tournament book in descriptive notation. Damengambit: 1. d2-d4 Sg8-f6 2. Sg1-f3 e7-e6 3. c2-c4 d7-d5 Feb 20, 2020 at 0:56
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    @MichaelWest How is that not algebraic? Feb 20, 2020 at 1:14
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    @edwinaoliver It is not a hybrid anything. It IS algebraic. It is just a long form, which shows the full to and from squares. That was how it was originally used, but has just been logically shortened over the years. Feb 20, 2020 at 3:18
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    I was thinking of it as a hybrid as well. But I see now that "long-form" algebraic also makes sense. Feb 20, 2020 at 14:25
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    I have never seen any descriptive in Dutch or German, I've always thought of it as a purely Anglo-Saxon thing. It would be nice if either of us could find some sources for our claims... Nov 29, 2021 at 18:17

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