International Draughts tutorial p.2. Notation

I have already wrote on basics of International Draughts strategy, but these basics are not enough to be a good player. You have to analyze a lot of situations and find some recurrent patterns in them. To achieve this goal you have to learn International Draughts notation system.

Why notation is important?

What would you like to learn as a Draughts player? Let me guess. You want to win and I’m sure you want to make spectacular shots – multiple jumps to that pin your opponent down. Achieving this goal is possible, but it requires tedious work on:

  • analyzing your own games,
  • analyzing other players games,
  • learning theory of shots, openings, positional play and endings.

Almost in all areas of human activity analysis requires writing. Languages has developed thanks to writing. Music has developed thanks to musical notation. Computers can be programmed with special code. Even knitting requires special symbols for instructions how to create a napkin or ornaments on a sock.

Games have their own notation systems – signs and symbols that allow to record interesting games and/or positions. Theoretically it would be possible to live without notation. We could just draw all positions in the game, but it would be tiresome. Notation allows you to quickly and easily “save” and “load” the course of the game.

International Draughts notation

Notation systems of many games are based on identifying each square or point, on which pieces stand or move. In many games squares are identified as coordinations (eg. g8 or c7). This is intuitive because it’s quite easy to read a column and a row to find a square. Such notation is used in chess and in 64-square Draughts, but International Checkers have a different notation system.

International Draughts notation is based on numbers assigned to each square. Therefore a game record may look like this.

1. 32-28 17-22
2. 28x17 12-21
3. 38-32 11-17
4. 32-27 11x32

Each line contains information on White’s move and Black’s move. It’s pretty obvious, but how to read these numbers?

Square numbers

Although international checkers have a 100-square board, the game is played only on 50 dark squares. Each of these squares has number assigned (from 1 to 50). Square 1 is the first dark square on the right side of Black player. Other fields are numbered sequentially up to the last number 50th dark square on the right side of White.

Squares with numbers are shown on the image below.


Some boards show edge squares numbers at the edges of the board to ease writing or reading notation.


Recording moves

Each move of a piece is indicated with the number of the square on which the man was standing and the number of the square to which a man has moved. Numbers are separated with hyphen (-). So if we write…


…we mean a move like this on the image below.


If we want to indicate a jump (capture) we should use “x” to separate numbers. We should write a number of square on which a piece stands, then the “x” and the number of square on which piece has landed. So if we write…
…we mean a capture like this shown on the image below.


Note: In some books, the colon (:) is used instead of “x” to indicate capture. You can also find game records where all moves are written with a hyphen, even captures.

Multiple captures can be written in two ways. Let’s take, for example, capture shown on the image below. It starts from square 39 and ends on square 19.


Some records indicate all squares, into which piece jumped. Capture shown on the image above would be written as:
However, in many books (and in tournament practice) only the first and last squares are recorded. Taking this into account the same capture would be written as:


If game record serve for analysis, you may sometimes find additional explanatory symbols.
! - good move
!! - very good move
? - bad move
?? - very bad move
?! - move that looks bad, but is fact is good
!? - move that looks good, but is bad is good
* - forced move leading to loss
+ - winning move
= - draw


How to quickly re ad square number from a board

Even if general rules of notation are understandable, its not easy for beginners to quickly link numbers with squares on a board. Beginners often look for numbered square near the edge and they must count from it to find a right square. They have more problems if there are no auxiliary numbers on the edge of the board.

There are ways to make it easier to find the right field. It is worth remembering that the squares numbers in the same column have the same last digit. For example under the square 1 there are 11, 21, 31 and 41 squares (lets call this squares “ones”).


Under the square 8 there are “eights”. I mean squares 18, 28, 38 i 48.


If you learn to quickly recognize the first ten squares, it’s easier to find consecutive fields from other columns.

It’s also worth remembering that squares are organized in tens. Squares from 21 to 30 form a “middle ten”.


On the Black’s side there are squares from 1 to 20 and and on the White’s side there are squares from 31 to 50. If you look for 38 square, you can be sure it’s on the White’s side and it must be in the “eights'” culumn.

It is also worth remembering that men (non-Kings) have only two possibilities of normal move, so if a man stands on the square from “threes” column (3, 13, 23, 33 or 43) they must move to a square in “eights” (8, 18, 28, 28, 48) or “nines” column (9, 19, 29, 39, 49). There are no other possibilities so sometimes you just have to look at the last digit to see were a man moved. Reading and writing notation is generally easier thanks to reduced number of possible moves in Draughts.

Some history

Invention of the International Draughts notation is attributed to a man known as Manoury. He was the head of the waiters in cafe at Place de l’Ecole in Paris and later became its manager. The cafe was attended by the draughts and chess players, but draughts were more important there. Cafe attracted visitors not from the highest social classes, but many prominent people from “just under the top” class. There is a story about one French Minister complained that his social position kept him from playing a game of draughts against visitors of Manoury’s cafe.

Manouri published two books about Draughts probably has made a good profit from them (what was not often in his times). Apparently he loved Draughts and he was able to efficiently promote this game.

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Copyright notice
Header photo by Philllip Taylor (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

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