A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO PGN

PGN stands for Portable Game Notation, a universally accepted method of recording chess games, and the method used by IECC. The following is not a complete guide to all the possible intricacies of PGN but will be enough to allow you to play an email game of chess and to send in the game report for rating when it is finished.

PGN uses Short Algebraic Notation, with which you may be familiar and which you may have seen in books and periodicals, whereby pieces are referred to by their initials in upper case (K=King, Q=Queen etc.), and the squares are referred to by their co-ordinates (f6, b3 etc). Should you need a quick tutorial on Algebraic Notation please see http://chess-iecc.com/algnot.txt.

The following is an example of a chess game written in PGN:-

[Event "Swiss-521.1.06"]
[Site "IECC"]
[Date "1992.11.04"]
[White "Fischer, Robert J."]
[Black "Spassky, Boris V."]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Be7 6. Re1
b5 7. Bb3 d6 8. c3 O-O 9. h3 Nb8 10. d4 Nbd7 11. c4 c6 12.
cxb5 axb5 13. Nc3 Bb7 14. Bg5 b4 15. Nb1 h6 16. Bh4 c5 17.
dxe5 Nxe4 18. Bxe7 Qxe7 19. exd6 Qf6 20. Nbd2 Nxd6 21. Nc4
Nxc4 22. Bxc4 Nb6 23. Ne5 Rae8 24. Bxf7+ Rxf7 25. Nxf7 Rxe1+
26. Qxe1 Kxf7 27. Qe3 Qg5 28. Qxg5 hxg5 29. b3 Ke6 30. a3
Kd6 31. axb4 cxb4 32. Ra5 Nd5 33.f3 Bc8 34. Kf2 Bf5 35. Ra7
g6 36. Ra6+ Kc5 37. Ke1 Nf4 38. g3 Nxh3 39. Kd2 Kb5 40. Rd6
Kc5 41. Ra6 Nf2 42. g4 Bd3 43. Re6 1/2-1/2

The PGN report consists of two sections, the first section being the headers, denoting the details of the game, the match, the players and so forth. Each header is placed in square brackets, is on a line of its own and the details are always inside quotation marks. Names are always in the format: surname comma first name(s). The headers for any games in which you take part will be sent to you by the Tournament Director of the department concerned, so all you have to do is to copy and paste them; it's as simple as that. Once the game is rated a few additional headers may be added but this need not concern you at this stage. However you may notice them when the game report is returned to you with your new rating.

The second section is the actual move list where each move in the game is recorded by you and your opponent The normal rules for Algebraic Notation apply (see above) but there are certain rules that must be followed when adding to the move list:-

Move numbers are followed by a full stop and precede White's move only e.g. 32. Ra5 Nd5. Black's move is preceded by a space, never a move number.

There should be a blank line between the headers and the move list, and every email you send should contain both the headers and the complete move list with your latest move.

The move list should contain no letters or characters other than the actual moves, together with the letter x to denote a capture and + to denote check. In other words no e.p. for en passant and no punctuation marks such as ! or ? to denote the quality of the move, or comments in brackets.

The result comes at the end of the move list but is not preceded by a move number (since it is not a move, neither is a resignation) . Therefore the end of every game should finish with, in this case, 43. Re6 1/2-1/2, in other words the move number, White's move, Black's move if any, and the result in the format 1-0. 0-1 or 1/2-1/2.

And remember that castling is denoted with a capital 'O' not the number zero, e.g. O-O or O-O-O not 0-0.

So it's not that difficult, but there is even more good news! As in most things to do with computers there is software to look after all this for you. There are many PGN readers available over the internet, some are free and some are not. The software section of our website has links to ECTool and to Scid. Both are used by our membership and will help you keep a record of your games as well as translating your moves into PGN which can be copied and pasted into an email. But of course you are free to make your own choice.

But beware, whilst IECC recommends the use of PGN readers to keep records of games, there are other programmes that include chess engines. These will analyse positions and suggest moves. These are banned by the club and their use could lead to loss of membership.