Algebraic notation (chess)

Algebraic notation (or AN) is a method for recording and describing the moves in a game of chess. It is based on a system of coordinates to uniquely identify each square on the chessboard. It is now standard among all chess organizations and most books, magazines, and newspapers. In English-speaking countries, the parallel method of descriptive notation was generally used in chess publications until about 1980. Some older players still use descriptive notation, but it is no longer recognized by FIDE.

Algebraic notation exists in various forms and languages and is based on a system developed by Philipp Stamma. Stamma used the modern names of the squares, but he used p for pawn moves and the original file of a piece (a through h) instead of the initial letter of the piece name.[1] This article describes standard algebraic notation (SAN) required by FIDE.

Naming the squares

Each square of the chessboard is identified by a unique coordinate pair—a letter and a number. The vertical columns of squares, called files, are labeled a through h from White's left (the queenside) to right (the kingside). The horizontal rows of squares, called ranks, are numbered 1 to 8 starting from White's side of the board. Thus each square has a unique identification of file letter followed by rank number. (For example, White's king starts the game on square e1; Black's knight on b8 can move to open squares a6 or c6.)

Naming the pieces

Each piece type (other than pawns) is identified by an uppercase letter. English-speaking players use the letters K for king, Q for queen, R for rook, B for bishop, and N for knight (since K is already used). S (from the German Springer) was also used for the knight in the early days of algebraic notation and is still used in some chess problems (where N stands for the nightrider, a popular fairy chess piece).

Players who speak other languages may employ different letters; for example, French-speaking players use F for bishop (from fou). In chess literature, especially that intended for an international audience, the language-specific letters are often replaced by universal icons for the pieces, for example, Nf3 is represented as f3. This style is known as figurine algebraic notation.

Pawns are not identified by uppercase letters, but rather by the absence of one. Distinguishing between pawns is not necessary for recording moves, since only one pawn can move to a given square. (Pawn captures are an exception and indicated differently as explained below.)

Notation for moves

Each move of a piece is indicated by the piece's uppercase letter, plus the coordinate of the destination square. For example, Be5 (move a bishop to e5), Nf3 (move a knight to f3). For pawn moves, a letter indicating pawn is not used, only the destination square is given. For example, c5 (move a pawn to c5).


When a piece makes a capture, an "x" is inserted immediately before the destination square. For example, Bxe5 (bishop captures the piece on e5). When a pawn makes a capture, the file from which the pawn departed is used to identify the pawn. For example, exd5 (pawn on the e-file captures the piece on d5). A colon (:) is sometimes used instead of "x", either in the same place the "x" would go (B:e5) or at the end (Be5:).

En passant captures are indicated by specifying the capturing pawn's file of departure, the "x", the destination square (not the square of the captured pawn), and (optionally) the suffix "e.p." indicating the capture was en passant.[2] For example, exd6e.p.

Some texts, such as the Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings, omit any indication that a capture has been made. (For example, Be5 instead of Bxe5; ed6 instead of exd6 or exd6e.p.) When it is unambiguous to do so, a pawn capture is sometimes described by specifying only the files involved (exd or ed). These shortened forms are sometimes called minimal or abbreviated algebraic notation.

Disambiguating moves

1.Bdb8, 2.Rdf8, 3.R1a3, 4.Qh4e1

When two (or more) identical pieces can move to the same square, the moving piece is uniquely identified by specifying the piece's letter, followed by (in descending order of preference):

  1. the file of departure (if they differ); or
  2. the rank of departure (if the files are the same but the ranks differ); or
  3. both the file and rank (if neither alone is sufficient to identify the piecewhich occurs only in rare cases where one or more pawns have promoted, resulting in a player having three or more identical pieces able to reach the same square).

For example, in the diagram, Bb8 would be ambiguous, as either of the bishops on a7 and d6 could legally move to b8. The move of the d6 bishop is therefore specified as Bdb8, indicating that it was the bishop on the d file which moved. Although they could also be differentiated by their ranks, the file letter takes precedence.

For the black rooks both on the 8th rank, both could potentially move to f8, so the move of the d8 rook to f8 is disambiguated as Rdf8. For the white rooks both on the a file which could both move to a3, it is necessary to provide the rank of the moving piece, i.e. R1a3.

In the case of the white queen on h4 moving to e1, neither the rank nor file alone are sufficient to disambiguate from the other white queens. As such, this move is written Qh4e1.

As above, an "x" can be inserted to indicate a capture, for example if the final case were a capture it would be written Qh4xe1.

Pawn promotion

When a pawn moves to the last rank and promotes, the piece promoted to is indicated at the end of the move notation, for example: e8Q (promoting to queen). Sometimes an equals sign or parentheses are used: e8=Q or e8(Q), but neither format is a FIDE standard. In Portable Game Notation (PGN), pawn promotion is always indicated using the equals sign format (e8=Q).

In older books, pawn promotions can be found using a forward slash: e8/Q.

Draw offer

In FIDE Laws of Chess,[3] an equals sign with parentheses, "(=)", is used to write the offer of a draw on the score sheet next to a move, but this is not part of algebraic notation.[4]


Castling is indicated by the special notations 0-0 (for kingside castling) and 0-0-0 (queenside castling).

While the FIDE Handbook, appendix C.13[5] uses the digit zero (0-0 and 0-0-0), PGN requires the uppercase letter O (O-O and O-O-O).


A move that places the opponent's king in check usually has the symbol "+" appended. Alternatively, sometimes a dagger (†) or the abbreviation "ch" is used. Double check is commonly indicated the same as check, but is sometimes represented specially as "dbl ch", or in older books as "++". Some publications indicate a discovered check with an abbreviation such as "dis ch". The Encyclopedia of Chess Openings omits any indication of check.


Checkmate at the completion of moves can be represented by the symbol "#". (Some use "++" instead, but the USCF recommends "#".) The word mate is commonly used instead. Occasionally the double dagger (‡) is seen. A checkmate is represented by "≠" (the not equal sign) in the macOS chess application. In Russia and ex-USSR, where captures are indicated by ":", checkmate can also be represented by "X", "x", or "×".

End of game

The notation 1–0 at the completion of moves indicates that White won, 0–1 indicates that Black won, and ½–½ indicates a draw.

Often there is no indication regarding how a player won or lost (other than checkmate, see above), so simply 1–0 or 0–1 may be written to show that one player resigned or lost due to time control. (Similarly, there is more than one way for a game to end in a draw.) Sometimes direct information is given by the words "White resigns" or "Black resigns", though this is not considered part of the notation but rather a return to the surrounding narrative text.

Notation for a series of moves

A game or series of moves is generally written in one of two ways.

Position after 1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6
  • In two columns, as White/Black pairs, preceded by the move number and a period:
    1. e4 e5
    2. Nf3 Nc6
    3. Bb5 a6
  • Horizontally:
    1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6

Moves may be interspersed with commentary (annotations). When the game score resumes with a Black move, an ellipsis (...) fills the position of the White move, for example:

1. e4 e5 2. Nf3
White attacks the black e-pawn.
2... Nc6
Black defends and develops simultaneously.
3. Bb5
White plays the Ruy Lopez.
3... a6
Black elects Morphy's Defence.


Descriptive notation was usual in the Middle Ages in Europe. A form of algebraic chess notation that seems to have been borrowed from Muslim chess, however, appeared in Europe in a 12th-century manuscript referred to as MS. Paris Fr. 1173 (PP.). The files run from a to h, just as they do in the current standard algebraic notation. The ranks, however, are also designated by letters, with the exception of the 8th rank which is distinct because it has no letter. The ranks are lettered in reverse – from the 7th to the 1st: k, l, m, n, o, p, q.[6]

Another system of notation using only letters appears in a book of Mediaeval chess, Rechenmeister Jacob Köbel's Schachzabel Spiel of 1520.[7]

Algebraic notation is described in 1847 by Howard Staunton in his book The Chess-Player's Handbook. Staunton credits the idea to German authors, and in particular to "Alexandre, Jaenisch and the 'Handbuch.'"[8]

Piece names in various languages

The table contains names for all the pieces as well as the words for chess, check, and checkmate in several languages.[9] NB: alfil is a chess-specific loanword from Arabic which has lost its original meaning of "elephant" in the European languages that use it for the piece called bishop in English.

figurine ♔ ♚ ♕ ♛ ♖ ♜ ♗ ♝ ♘ ♞ ♙ ♟ ... + #
Afrikaans K Koning
D Dame
T Toring
L Loper
R Ruiter
(P) Pion Skaak Skaak Skaakmat
Albanian M Mbreti
Msh Mbretëresha
Ku Kulla
O Oficeri
Ka Kali
(U) Ushtari
Shahu Shah Shah mat
Arabic م مَلِك
(malik, king)
و وزير
(wazïr, vizier)
ر رخ/طابية
(rukhkh, fortress) / (ṭābiya, castle)
ف فيل
(fīl, elephant)
ح حصان
(ħiṣān, horse)
ب بيدق/عسكري
(baidaq, pawn) / (`askarī, soldier)
كِش مَلِك
(kish malik)
كِش مات
(kish māt)
Azerbaijani Ş Şah V Vəzir T Top F Fil A At P Piyada Şahmat şah
Armenian Ա Արքա
(A Ark῾a, king)
Թ Թագուհի
(T T῾agowhi, queen)
Ն Նավակ
(N Navak, ship)
Փ Փիղ
(P P῾ił, elephant)
Ձ Ձի
(Dz Ji, horse)
Զ Զինվոր
(Z Zinvor, soldier)
Շախմատ (Ճատրակ)
Šaxmat (Čatrak)
Basque E Erregea (king) D Dama (lady) G Gaztelua (castle) A Alfila Z Zalduna (knight) (P) Peoia (pawn) Xake Xake Xake mate
Belarusian (Taraškievica) К кароль
Вз візыр
Лд ладзьдзя
А афіцэр
В вершнік
(Л) латнік
Шахматы Шах Мат
Bengali R রাজা
M মন্ত্রী
N নৌকা
H গজ/হাতি
G ঘোড়া
B বোড়া/সৈন্য/পেয়াদা
দাবা (daba) কিস্তি
Bulgarian Ц цар
Д дама
Т топ
О офицер
К кон
(П) пешка Шахмат/Шах Шах (Шах и) мат
Catalan R rei D dama/reina
T torre
A alfil C cavall
(P) peó Escacs Escac/Xec Escac i mat
Chinese K
(wáng, king)
(hòu, queen)
(, chariot)
(xiàng, elephant)
(, horse)
(bīng, soldier)
(guójì xiàngqí, international chess)
(jiāngjūn, general)
(jiāngsǐ, general dead)
Czech K král
D dáma
V věž
S střelec
J jezdec
(P) pěšec
(foot soldier)
Šachy Šach Mat
Danish K konge
D dronning
T tårn
L løber
S springer
(B) bonde
Skak Skak Skakmat
Dutch K koning
D dame/koningin
T toren/kasteel
L loper/raadsheer
P paard
(pi) pion Schaken Schaak Mat/Schaakmat
English K king Q queen R rook, castle B bishop N knight (P) pawn Chess Check Checkmate/Mate
Esperanto R reĝo
D damo
T turo
K kuriero
Ĉ ĉevalo
(P) peono Ŝako Ŝak Ŝakmato
Estonian[10] K kuningas
L lipp
V vanker
O oda
R ratsu
(riding horse)
(E) ettur
(after malev)
Finnish K kuningas
D daami/kuningatar
T torni
L lähetti
R ratsu
(S) sotilas
Shakki Shakki Matti/Shakkimatti
French R roi
D dame
T tour
F fou
C cavalier
(P) pion Échecs Échec Échec et mat
Georgian მფ მეფე
(mep'e, king)
(lazieri, queen)
(etli, chariot)
(ku, tortoise)
(mkhedari, rider)
(paiki, pawn)
ჭადრაკი (Čadraki) ქიში
German[11] K König
D Dame
(lady, queen)
T Turm
L Läufer
S Springer
(B) Bauer
Schach Schach Matt/Schachmatt
Greek Ρ βασιλιάς
(vasiliás, king)
Β βασίλισσα
(vasílissa, queen)
Π πύργος
(pýrgos, tower)
Α αξιωματικός
(axiomatikós, officer)
Ι ίππος
(íppos, horse)
(Σ) πιόνι
(pióni, pawn)
Hindi R राजा
(rājā, king)
V वज़ीर
(vazīr, vizier)
H हाथी
(hāthī, elephant)
O ऊँट
(ūṁṭ, camel)
G घोड़ा
(ghoṛā, horse)
(P) प्यादा
(pyādā, infantryman)
Hebrew מ מלך
(Melech, king)
מה מלכה
(Malka, queen)
צ צריח
(Tzariach, tower)
ר רץ
(Ratz, runner)
פ פרש
(Parash, rider)
(Regli, foot-soldier)
Hausa S sarki
Q sarauniya
R sansanin
G giwa
J jarumi
(mounted warrior)
(P) soja
ces ceki ceki mat
Hungarian K király
V vezér/királynő
B bástya
F futó
H huszár/ló
(Gy) gyalog/paraszt
Sakk Sakk Matt
Ido R rejo
D damo
T turmo
E episkopo
K kavalo
(P) piono Shakoludo Shako Shakmato
Icelandic K kóngur
D drottning
H hrókur
B biskup
R riddari
(P) peð
Skák Skák Skák og mát
Indonesian R raja
M menteri
B benteng
G gajah
K kuda
(P) pion Catur Sekak/Ster Sekakmat
Irish R
B banríon
C caiseal
E easpag
D ridire
(F) fichillín/ceithearnach
(little chess piece/kern)
Ficheall Sáinn Marbhsháinn
Italian R re
D donna/regina
T torre
A alfiere
C cavallo
(P) pedone
Scacchi Scacco Scacco matto
Japanese K キング
Q クイーン
R ルーク
B ビショップ
N ナイト
(P) ポーン
Javanese R raja
Q ratu/perdhana mentri
(queen/prime minister)
B bèntèng
M mentri
K jaran
(P) pion sekak
Korean K
B 비숍
(bi syob)
N 나이트
(na i teu)
(che seu)
(che keu)
(che keu me i teu)
Latin rex
signifer, cursor
(standard-bearer, messenger)
(ult. from Arabic)[12]
pedes, pedo
Scacci Scaccus Mattus
Latvian K karalis
D dāma
T tornis
L laidnis
Z zirgs
(B) bandinieks
Šahs Šahs Šahs un mats
Lithuanian K karalius (king) V valdovė (queen) B bokštas (tower) R rikis (Lithuanian military commander) Ž žirgas (horse) (P) pėstininkas (pawn) Šachmatai Šach Matas
Lojban N nolraitru (king) Nu nolraitruni'u (queen) B badydi'u (castle) X xanto (elephant) Xi xirma (horse) (S) sonci (soldier) caxmati gunta (attack) lo nolraitru cu morsi (the king is dead)
Luxembourgish K Kinnek
D Damm
T Tuerm
L Leefer
P Päerd
(B) Bauer
Schach Schach Schachmatt
Macedonian K крал
D кралица/дама
T топ
L ловец
S коњ
P пешак/пион
шах шах мат
Malayalam K രാജാവ്
(rajavu, king)
Q മന്ത്രി
(manthri, minister)
R തേര്
(theru, chariot)
B ആന
(anaa, elephant)
N/Kt കുതിര
(kuthira, horse)
(P) കാലാള്‍ / പടയാളി
(kalal)/(padayali, foot soldier)
ചെക്ക് മേറ്റ്
check mate
Marathi R राजा
(rājā, king)
V वजीर
(vajīr, vizier)
H हत्ती
(hātti, elephant)
O उंट
(Unṭ, camel)
G घोडा
(ghoḍā, horse)
(P) प्यादे
(pyāde, foot soldier)
Mongolian Н ноён
Б бэрс
(fers, vizier)
т тэрэг
(tereg, chariot)
Т тэмээ
(temee, camel)
М морь
(mor, rider)
(Х) хүү
(hüü, infantryman)
Шатар шаг, дуг, цод мад
Norwegian Bokmål K konge
D dronning
T tårn
L løper
S springer
(B) bonde
Sjakk Sjakk Sjakkmatt
Norwegian Nynorsk K konge
D dronning
T tårn
L løpar
S springar
(B) bonde
Sjakk Sjakk Sjakkmatt
Persian ش شاه
و وزیر
(vizier, minister)
ق/ر قلعه/رخ
ف فیل
ا اسب
س سرباز
شطرنج کیش
Polish K król
H hetman W wieża
G goniec
S skoczek
(P) pion
szachy szach mat (szach-mat / szach i mat)
Portuguese R rei
D dama/rainha
T torre
B bispo
C cavalo
(P) peão Xadrez Xeque Xeque-mate
Romanian R rege
D damă/regină
T turn
N nebun
(fool, jester)
C cal
(P) pion Şah Şah Mat
Russian Кр король (king)
Kr korol'
Ф ферзь (vizier)
F ferz'
Л ладья (boat)
L ladya
С слон (elephant)
S slon
К конь (horse)
K kon'
(П) пешка
P peshka
Scottish Gaelic R righ (king) B bànrigh (queen) T tùr (tower) E easbaig (bishop) D ridir (knight) (P) pàn (pawn) feòirne casg tul-chasg
Serbo-Croatian К/K краљ / kralj (king) Д/D (краљицa / kraljica / queen) or (дама / dama / lady) Т/T топ / top (tower) Л/L ловац / lovac (hunter) С/S (скaкaч / skakač / jumper) or (коњ / konj / horse) (П) (пешак / pešak / pedestrian) or (пион / pion / pawn) Шах / Šah Шах / Šah Мат / Mat
Northern Sotho К Kgoši Kg Kgošigadi N Ntlosebô/Moshate Mp Mopišopo M Mogale S Seitšhireletšo Tšhêšê Check Checkmate
Sicilian R re
D riggina
T turru
A alferu S scecc[h]u
(P) pidinu
Slovak K kráľ (king) D dáma (lady) V veža (tower) S strelec (shooter) J jazdec (horseman) (P) pešiak (infantryman, pawn) Šach Šach Mat/Šachmat
Slovene K kralj (king) D dama (lady) T trdnjava (castle) L lovec (hunter) S skakač (jumper) (P) kmet (farmer) Šah Šah Mat/Šahmat
Spanish R rey
D dama/reina
T torre
A alfil C caballo
(P) peón
Ajedrez Jaque Jaque mate
Swedish K kung D dam/drottning
T torn
L löpare
S springare/häst
(B) bonde
Schack Schack Schack matt
Tamil K அரசன்
(arasaṉ, king)
Q அரசி
(araci, queen)
R கோட்டை
(kōṭṭai, castle)
B அமைச்சர் / மந்திரி
(amaicchar, minister) / (manthiri, minister)
N/Kt குதிரை
(kutirai, horse)
(P) காலாள் / சிப்பாய்
(kālāḷ, fotsoldier) / (cippāy, sepoy)
இறுதி முற்றுகை
(iṟuti muṟṟukai)
Telugu రాజు
(rāju, king)
(maṃtri, minister)
(ēnugu, elephant)
(gurraṃ, horse)
(baṃţu, soldier)
Thai ขุน
(khun, king)
เม็ด (ตรี/มนตรี)
(met (trī/montrī), counselor)
(reūa, ship)
(khōn, elephant)
(, horse)
(บ) เบี้ย
(bīa, menial)
(ruk, invade)
(jon, checkmate)
Turkish Ş/K şah/kral (shah/king) V vezir (vizier) K kale (castle) F fil (elephant) A at (horse) (P) er/piyon (soldier/pawn) Satranç Şah Mat
Ukrainian король
(korol, king)
Ф ферзь
(ferz, vizier)
T тура
(tura, tower)
C слон
(slon, elephant)
K кінь
(kin, horse)
(П) пішак, пішка
(pishak/pishka, footsoldier)
Urdu بادشاہ
Vietnamese V vua (king) H hậu (queen) X xe (chariot) T tượng (statue) M mã (horse) _ tốt (soldier) Cờ vua Chiếu Chiếu bí/Chiếu hết/Hết cờ
Welsh T teyrn/brenin (lord/king) B brenhines ( queen) C castell (castle) E esgob (bishop) M marchog (rider) (G) gwerinwr (peasant) Gwyddbwyll Siach Siachmat

Kindred notations

Besides the FIDE standard (or short) algebraic notation (SAN) already described, several similar systems are in use for their own particular advantages.

Figurine algebraic notation

Figurine algebraic notation (or FAN) is a widely used variation of algebraic notation which substitutes a piece symbol for the letter representing a piece, for example: ♞c6 in place of Nc6. (Pawns are unlabeled, just like in regular algebraic notation.) This enables moves to be read independent of language.

The Unicode Miscellaneous Symbols set includes all the symbols necessary for FAN. In order to display or print these symbols, one has to have one or more fonts with good Unicode support installed on the computer, that the Web page, or word processor document, etc., uses.[13]

Long algebraic notation

Some computer programs (and people) use a variant of algebraic chess notation termed long algebraic notation or fully expanded algebraic notation. In long algebraic notation, moves specify both the starting and ending squares separated by a hyphen, for example: e2-e4 or Nb1-c3. Captures are still indicated using "x": Rd3xd7.

The long notation takes more space and thus is not as commonly used. However, it has the advantage of clarity, particularly for less-skilled players or players learning the game. Some books using primarily short algebraic notation use the long notation instead of the disambiguation forms described earlier.

A form of long algebraic notation (without hyphens) is also notably used by the Universal Chess Interface (UCI) standard, which is a common way for graphical chess programs to communicate with chess engines (e.g. for AI).

ICCF numeric notation

In international correspondence chess the use of algebraic notation may cause confusion, since different languages employ different names (and therefore different letters) for the pieces; hence the standard for transmitting moves in this form of chess is ICCF numeric notation. In recent years, the majority of correspondence games have been played on on-line servers rather than by email or post, leading to a decline in the use of ICCF numeric notation.

PGN for computer storage

Chess games are often stored in computer files using Portable Game Notation (PGN),[14] which uses algebraic chess notation as well as additional markings to codify a game. As mentioned, PGN requires uppercase letter O to represent castling (e.g. O-O), while the FIDE Handbook uses digit zero (0-0).

Annotation symbols

Though not technically a part of algebraic notation, the following are some common symbols frequently used by annotators, for example in publications Chess Informant and Encyclopaedia of Chess Openings, to give evaluative comment on a move or position.

On moves:

  • !  an excellent move
  • !!  a particularly good—and usually surprising—move
  • ?  a bad move; a mistake
  • ??  a blunder
  • !?  an interesting move that may not be best
  • ?!  a dubious move or move that may turn out to be bad
  •  a better move than the one played
  •  the only reasonable move, or the only move available
  • TN (or N)  a theoretical novelty

On positions:

  • =  equal chances for both players
  • +/= (or ⩲)  White has a slight plus
  • =/+ (or ⩱)  Black has a slight plus
  • +/− (or ±)  White has a clear plus
  • −/+ (or ∓)  Black has a clear plus
  • +−  White has a winning advantage
  • −+  Black has a winning advantage
  •  unclear whether either side has an advantage
  • =/∞  whoever is down in material has compensation for it

The symbol chosen is simply appended to the end of the move notation, for example: 1.d4 e5?! 2.dxe5 f6 3.e4! Nc6 4.Bc4+/−

See also


  1. Davidson, Henry (1981). A Short History of Chess. David McKay. pp. 152–153. ISBN 978-0679145509.
  2. FIDE Handbook
  3. Fide Laws of Chess taking effect from 1 January 2018
  4. Schiller, Eric (2003). Official Rules of Chess (2nd ed.). Cardoza. p. 25. ISBN 978-1580420921.
  5. FIDE Handbook, appendix C.13
  6. Murray, Harold James Ruthvan. A History of Chess. Oxford Clarendon Press (1913). page 469-470
  7. Murray, Harold James Ruthvan. A History of Chess. Oxford Clarendon Press (1913). page 469-470
  8. Staunton, Howard. The Chess-Player's Handbook. A Popular and Scientific Introduction to the Game of Chess, Exemplified in Games Actually Played by the Greatest Masters and Illustrated by Numerous Diagrams of Original And Remarkable Positions. Third edition, revised. Bell & Daldy London. 1866. p. 501
  9. Sources for this section include Wikipedia articles in various languages. Note that the symbol for pawn is not used in algebraic notation. Archived 2009-10-25.
  10. The Estonian chess terms were coined by Ado Grenzstein.
  11. "Handbook". Retrieved 22 March 2019. The pieces bear the names: Koenig, Dame, Turm, Laeufer, Springer, Bauer
  12. H. J. R. Murray, A History of Chess, ch. 11
  13. "Test for Unicode support in Web browsers".
  14. Standard: Portable Game Notation Specification and Implementation Guide
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