Monday, October 14, 2013

Alpha Bravo Alegbraic: A Spoken Chess Notation Optimized for Listener Comprehension

Most Recent Update November 8, 2013
NACN 2.0

A Spoken Chess Notation 

Optimized for Listener Comprehension

Ranks and Files of the Chessboard

Narrated Algebraic Chess Notation (NACN) encodes algebraic chess notation letters a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h for chessboard files as spoken English words. In NACN, files of the chessboard are encoded for narration (speaking aloud) as:

Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot, Golf, Hotel

Ranks of the chess board numbered 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 are encoded as the English spoken words:

One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight

In NACN we use the standard algebraic chess notation of the ranks and files of the chessboard, encoded by the IRSA/ICAO spelling alphabet.

NACN Chessboard

The International Radiotelephony Spelling Alphabet (IRSA) is also known as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) spelling alphabet. 

IRSA/ICAO encoding is the most widely used spoken spelling alphabet. Airline pilots, air traffic controllers, civil aviation pilots are proficient in the use of this spoken spelling alphabet. 

Moreover, IRSA/ICAO is optimized for communication.  

Decades of tests and usage have shown that IRSA/ICAO provides a most accurate means of spoken alphabet communication over noisy audio transmission channels.   

For detailed information on the IRSA and ICAO spoken spelling alphabets, and their variants check out this Wikipedia article:

Chess Pieces

The standard English names of the chess pieces can be used in narration with excellent clarity.  Narrations making use of standard piece names: King, Queen, Bishop, Knight, Rook, and Pawn are unlikely to be misunderstood by chess players.

Chess Moves in Narration 

First we observe that chess moves when spoken aloud consist of grammatical sentences. When narrating chess moves, observe the grammatical rules, think of moves as full sentences. However, chess notation and NACN encodes a move in such a way that it may not look like a full sentence. However, NACN moves and algebraic chess notation moves should decode into full sentences.

For example:  

1. e2-e4  in algebraic notation decodes as the sentence: 

"On move one white moves his pawn on the square e2 to the square e4."
" White's first move is pawn on e2 to e4."


Chess Moves in NACN


The term "takes" as in:  "d1 knight takes bishop on e3" or simply "Knight d1 takes on e3" or Nd1 x e3 can be narrated using IRSA "Tango" for takes.

NACN for the above two sentences would be:

"Knight Delta One, Tango, Bishop Echo Three."


"Knight Delta One, Tango, Echo Three."

Here we use the standard practice of capitalizing the first letter of each code word. Notice that algebraic notation for Knight is N, but NACN for Knight is the spoken word "Knight.

The use of commas and periods in NACN are important guides to the narration.  Commas are observed by the narrator in his narration of the moves. The slight pauses indicated by commas are very important in accurate verbal communication. 

Moves are numbered as usual in algebraic chess notation. The spoken move number would  "move ten"  or "White move ten" or "Black move ten"

Special Moves and Terms: 

Tango, Castles Kilo, Castles Quebec, November Papa 


NACN for the move castles kingside or O-O, is "Castles Kilo"
and "castles queenside or O-O-O" is narrated as "Castles Quebec"

Here Quebec is the phonetic code word for the letter Q, and is pronounced as KEH-BECK. This follows the IRSA/ICAO standard spoken spelling alphabet for the letter Q as does Kilo for the letter K.

Pawn promotion:

Pawn promotion consists of a move and a piece name like "f7-f8 Queen."
NACN for pawn promotion is:

"Foxtrot Seven, Foxtrot Eight, Queen." or 
"Pawn Foxtrot Seven,  Foxtrot Eight, Queen."


Pawn promotion via capture, e.g.  f7 x g8 Queen would be NACN encoded as  "Foxtrot Seven, Tango, Golf Eight, Queen."

The word "to" is sometimes used in casual conversation to narrate a move like e2 - e4.   It's probably better to not use "to" in narration because it sounds exactly like the number 2 or "two." 

The use of the word "to" will be addressed in detail in NACN 2.1

Pawn Captures en passant: November Papa

The pawn move  "White pawn on e5 captures black pawn en passant on d5 and moves to d6 on white's tenth move." can be written simply in algebraic notation as "10. e x d6 e.p."  One and only one e-pawn can legally move to d6 via e.p. capture, so the notation is unambiguous, though cryptic.  Notice that, the only way for the e5 pawn to get to d6 on this move is to capture en passant.  

Strictly speaking, you don't even need the "e.p." for this move, it can simply be written as e5 x d6 or e x d6. 

Probably it's best to use the move notation and e.p. to be clear that we want the reader to understand that a capture en passant took place, and not a typo.

NACN encodes the move e x d6 e.p. as: "Echo, Tango, Delta Six."  
or "Echo Five Pawn, Tango, Delta Six"   or "Echo, Tango, Delta Six, November Papa."

Rendering en of e.p. phonetically as "n" encoded as November, and "p" of e.p. as Papa.   

So "en passant" is encoded as  "November Papa." 

It's usually ok to just go ahead and say "en passant."

If the audio communication channel is unusually noisy, then "November Papa" is necessary.

Check, Checkmate, Draw, Resigns

Check in NACN
The move Q e2 check is encoded:
"Queen Echo Two, Check."

Checkmate in NACN:
The move Q f3-f7 checkmate is encoded:

"Queen Foxtrot Three, Foxtrot Seven, Mate," or 
"Foxtrot Three, Foxtrot Seven, Mate." 

The move resigns is encoded as 

"Zulu" or "White Zulu" or "Black Zulu" 

as the last move of a game in which white or black resigns.

Draw outcome and kinds of draw

A draw outcome of a game can occur in six ways. 

They are NACN encoded as: 

1. Draw agreed: "Draw Alpha" 

2. Draw by stalemate: "Draw Sierra" 
3. Draw by perpetual check: "Draw Papa"
4. Draw by three fold repetition: "Draw Romeo" 
5. Draw by fifty non-pawn moves:  "Draw Five Zero" 
6. Draw by insufficient material: "Draw India"  

Or simply, "Draw" can be used if the type of draw is obvious or unimportant. 


The standard algebraic notation chess moves:

1. e4 e5, 2. Nf3 Nc6, 3. Bb5 a6

encoded in Narrated Algebraic Chess Notation (NACN) become the spoken phrases

1. Echo Four, Echo Five.  
2. Knight Foxtrot Three, Knight Charlie Six.
3. Bishop Bravo Five, Alpha Six.


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