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Chess in the Park 2009

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The 9th annual Chess-in-the-Parks tournament takes place tomorrow near Bethesda Fountain in the heart of Central Park. It's too late to register, but you can always drop in and see if some of the 500 spots have opened up. Registration is at 11am. I should be showing up later in the day to get rid of dozens of old descriptive notation books from my expiring collection to all the good little boys and girls. Actually the point is that it's a little cruel and unusual to send too many old DN books to kids as part of the Recycling Revel, so I'm either going to donate them as prizes or sell them for a buck or two each to raise money for the Revel postage fund. I'll bring as many as I can carry on the subway.


Learning descriptive notation shouldn't take much longer than an afternoon.
Not much compared with the time it takes to learn how to play semi-decent chess.

Descriptive doesn't require even a minute. The system is self-evident, merely initials the column piece rather than grid letters "a" to "h".

Any kid without the brain cells to figure that out isn't ever getting over 1400 anyway.

um a minute? LOL

Descriptive did take me pretty much an afternoon so Knallo is on the ball there. But i'm no where near as fast at descriptive takes me about 10 times longer to read a book with that then alg

Being raised on descriptive, I still to this day find it hard to go over a game without a chessboard using algebraic. Descriptive gives me no problems.

Maybe it's because I'm left-handed.

CO :)

I guess I was lucky to have learnt both descriptive and algebraic notations (including long algebraic, computer algebraic and figurine algebraic) almost at the same time. It's great to be multilingual but algebraic notation is so much more intuitive than the alternative. BTW does descriptive notation make sense in languages other than English?

In descriptive,

QR = a
QN = b
QB = c
Q = d
etc, etc. How difficult is that?

Moreover, descriptive provides more context, e.g. they use:

- the "x" to denote capture (e.g. PxB)
- the check sign "+" and checkmate "++" which algebraic rarely does
- "P" to denote movement of a pawn, e.g. "P-K4"

How many brain cells does it require to figure out "P-K4 equals P(awn) to the 4(th rank) of the K file"? What else could the letter P mean?

Or B-QB4 equals B(ishop)-Q(ueenside)B(ishop)4(th-rank)?

It certainly is very easy to learn. You do need some time to get used to it once you have, if you have grown up on algebraic. Maybe indeed an afternoon. I can't imagine it would take longer than that for anyone to master it.

1. 'x', '+' and '#' or '++' are also used in algebraic notation.
2. The letter P does not mean pawn in every language.
3. DN is not difficult to use but AN is just simpler.
4. BTW, AN is compelled by FIDE regulations and you cannot use your scoresheet as evidence if it's not written in AN.

I prefer algebraic as well. But descriptive doesn't take an afternoon (god help us.)

Tangentially, descriptive seems to use 'x' and '++' as a rule, whereas algebraic optionally and increasingly rare.

I prefer algebraic as well. But descriptive doesn't require an afternoon to learn (god help us.)

Tangentially, descriptive seems to use 'x' and '++' as a rule, whereas algebraic optionally and increasingly rare. To the pre-algebra kiddies (age 11 and under) descriptive may appear more intuitive.

I remember that in one of the Fischer-Spassky 1992 press conferences, some guy asked Fischer if he could show him a notation system that was "much simpler than the existing notation". Was this some ploy to get a private meeting with BF, or is there some really simple system out there that didn't take hold?

I kind of like coordinate notation:

e2e4 e7e5
g1f3 b8c6
f1b5 a7a6, etc.

(double post, sorry) The thing that always annoyed me about DN was that the number of the square varied with each move - why couldn't DN be just as as it is, except with fixed rank numbers?

BN5...PQR6, etc.

If Robson wins with Black tomorrow, he's a GM. It won't be easy having a last round must win with Black, but I think he can beat FM Daniel Rensch 2388. Leo Martinez 2176 beat Rensch in 30 moves this year with the Black side of the Benko Gambit.

Descriptive makes sense in spanish.

Grew up with it, took me a couple of tourneys to switch to algebraic (without having the descriptive notation coming first).

"Descriptive doesn't require even a minute. The system is self-evident."

The same could be said for the metric system when it comes to weights and mesurements. But people who haven't grown up with the metric system and all of a sudden have to make the switch (for one reason or another) typically take a long time becoming comfortable with it, even in common, everyday day situations (listening to a weather forecast, for instance). It's not for lack of intelligence (usually); it's just that this system feels foreign to them and they often feel compelled to "translate" the units into something more familiar. This is akin to Caleague saying " I'm no where near as fast at descriptive, takes me about 10 times longer to read a book with that then alg."

Since the discussion was initially about kids, you could argue that the algebraic notation is not yet ingrained in them, and they could just as well learn descriptive. But, to my mind, having kids learn a notation that is becoming extinct is just a waste of their time.

Descriptive notation represents an atmosphere of chess history, and that is also why I like it, somehow. Some of my best chess books are in english and with D.N.

In german language, AFAIK there never was a comparable descriptive notation, at least not since Steinitz' era or later. The oldest tournament book reprint (facsimile) I have is Nuremberg 1896 and it has long algebraic.

The descriptive is more error-prone both for writing down the moves and for replaying games, because destination squares often are kind of ambiguous. For example, if one black knight can go to f4 and the other knight can go to c4, N-B5 is not sufficient. But also: It even IS sufficient if one of the knights is pinned, but that can be overlooked when replaying a game, if you just see N-B5 without indication of ambiguity.

It is true that the latter can happen in algebraic too, but much less often: Only if the destination square of the two knights is the same.

Nevertheless, I wouldn't devalue chess books just because they use D.N., even less if you are in an english speaking country anyway. For children (or for anyone) who are really interested in chess, this should not be a problem.

I hope none of these books will end in the waste paper bank! :-)

The best thing about algebraic is that you can read a move with a single look, whereas descriptive (in particular old english long descriptive) reads more like a sentence and you need to do a little of processing to understand it (e.g. 1.b4 vs. 1.P-QKt4). The difference is small but noticeable.

Try playing over a game from the black side of the board using your suggestion. Not pretty.

What really irked me about DN was using the definition (as an example) QN-N5 (or rather QKt-Kt5). If the KN could go there, too, prodigious feats of memory were needed.

Who do you guys think will win the KO tourney? I'll go out on a limb ;) and pick Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan. :)

I grew up using descriptive, but when I was a teenager the tide started turning algebraic. That was a little confusing at first, but I've long since become "fluent" in both. I think when playing over a game with a board (pretty old-fashioned these days, I know), it's a lot easier to make a mistake if the game is in descriptive. Having a unique way of describing a square is a very good thing.

It's weird that it took the English-speaking chess world so long to make the switch. I guess people are very set in their ways. I remember that even the switch from "Kt" to "N" in descriptive notation was a controversial thing that took a long time to become universally accepted. Purists didn't like using "N" since "Knight" doesn't begin with that letter. All of this seems very silly today.

It seems sensible the chess world began with the inefficient Descriptive Notation, and only later evolved the concise AN.

Because a single player must write in a system intuitive to everyone, can't impose an algebraic system by his lonesome.

So it was until chess reached critical mass, till that first magazine editor got wise, etc.

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    This page contains a single entry by Mig published on September 25, 2009 9:20 PM.

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