Chess Life, April, 1968

Letter to the Editor

Sir:
What were the results of the Questionnaire concerning algebraic vs. descriptive notation? Descriptive obviously won this time, but the fact that this question was included on the questionnaire shows that there is a number of chess players in the United States who use algebraic notation.
    There are several advantages for a publisher using AN.  Abbreviated algebraic notation, which is used when the game is not printed in columns, saves space in nine out of ten moves.  A typical example of this is in The Official Chess Handbook.  In a publication this would save a great deal of space, which [would] allow more features . . .  Translations of foreign publications to English would be easier since most European countries, even England, use AN.  Mistakes caused by changing AN to DN would be eliminated.
    AN can make life easier for the tournament player as well.  A player attempting to write perfect DN . . . must ask himself "Can I make the equivalent move on the other wing?  Must I specify which capture. . . .?"  Since every square [using algebraic notation] is uniquely identified by only two figures, you don't worry about the other wing (for notation purposes).  Any capture by a pawn is shown by the file the pawn started on and where it ended.  While it may take "BPxKNP" to write a pawn capture in DN, "fg" does it cleanly in AN . . .
    It is easier to clain a draw by repetition of position with AN.  By pointing out the moves that set up the repeated position, one does not need to replay the entire game score.  If a piece reached its position by capture, how could you locate in in DN without playing over the game?  In AN piece captures are denoted by "Qe5:" or "Qxe5", leaving no doubt as to where the piece is.

    While no one would expect you to switch to AN overnight, I hope you will consider experimenting with it; after all, AN didn't stop Americans from buying "Chess Informat" . . . The only thing holding you back is inertia.

                                    Warren B. Porter

    The only thing holding us back is the readership!  Since you asked, descriptive won out over algebraic by a score of about six to one (not counting "no opinion").  This is pretty decisive, and we certainly have no intention of ramming "AN" down anybody's throat.

   Nevertheless, we believe you are entirely correct, and that your points are well taken.  The reason, in fact, that this question appeared at all on the questionnaire, was our own desire to use AN in Chess Life and to learn just how strongly against it the readers would be.  (There was never any doubt that AN would lose; it was a question only of how badly.)

   We remember seeing some old Chess Review Annual in which this question was hotly debated, resulting in the continued of use of descriptive notation.  However, figures were never made known regarding the ratio of yeas vs. nays.  Now that we have some figures of our own, we plan to ask the same question again some day (on the next questionnaire) just to see if the ratio has changed.

   If readers will send similar exhortations on behalf of descriptive notation, we'll give "equal time".