Shogi from the Land of the Rising Sun
Shogi is chess from Japan
Having dealt with Antichess
, let's move back east. Shogi is the main chess variant in Japan. The game has existed there in many forms for centuries since Chaturanga crossed from mainland Asia. It became the most popular of these variants and the others went into decline.
It directly translates as General's Board Game
is the Japanese word for General and gi
means game. It is widely believed that Shogi became popular because of the drop rule.
Around that time when enemy soldiers were captured in battle, they would agree to fight for their captors as a means of survival. The drop rule in Shogi allows a player to return his opponent's captured pieces to the board as his own. You can add your own Shogi stories
to the website if you wish.
Shogi has been played in Japan for 1,000 years
Chaturanga spread from India in two main directions. These two branches each spawned new variants as they went that are closely related.
One branch spread west through Persia, the Gulf region, North Africa and finally into Europe. It produced similar games such as Shatranj and Western Chess. The other went north into China, then Korea and on into Japan. All of the South-East Asian variants are from this side of the family.
It's believed that chess in one form or another arrived in Japan as early as a thousand years ago. Pieces and literature dating from the 11th Century have been found. Modern Shogi evolved from these variants.
Western pieces or traditional Japanese pieces can be used
Shogi is played on a 9x9 gameboard. The pieces are flat as in Xiangqi but they are five-sided wedge-shaped pieces rather than disks. Both sides start with a King, 2 Gold Generals, 2 Silver Generals, 2 Knights, 2 Lances, a Bishop, a Rook and 9 pawns. The object is to checkmate the opposing King.
The board is not checkered like a Western chessboard. All squares are the same color. Even the two armies have no difference in color or marking. Pieces are identified as one side or the other by the way they are facing. Even so the two sides are called Black and White with Black moving first.
A captured piece can be used by the other side when later returned to the board facing in the other direction. Every piece except the King and Gold Generals can promote if they wish by reaching the final 3 ranks of the board.
The pieces are weaker than Western pieces and they operate on a bigger board. Engagement therefore takes longer. The first priority is to castle the King to safety. There are different castling formations depending on the opening chosen. Players can use the Yagura castle, the Mino castle or the Anaguma castle.
Most pawns get captured early on and get dropped in later on the other side behind enemy lines where they can be promoted to a gold general. This is done by flipping the piece over on the other side to reveal a different marking.
The endgame begins when one player breaks through his opponents lines. He will now try to checkmate the King. At this point the King may try to flee to the center of the board where he will be harder to mate. Very often both players will be breaking through at more or less the same time and then it's a race to checkmate.
Time to try Shogi out for yourself? You have many opponents waiting to test their skills against you. Be ready for a hard fight. Before long you will no doubt be a Shogi hustler.
Want to start against a computer and work out how the game works and maybe some strategies? Look no further than Japanese Chess
. Here you will find a good training ground to prepare for human opponents. Before long you will be ready to go to the next level.
When you get the hang of this game and you're ready to tussle with your peers then 81Dojo
is as good a place as any. You can grow as a Shogi player here by playing regularly.
Tell us Your Amazing Tale from Shogi History
Shogi is played in many parks and streets all over Tokyo. It has been part of Japanese life for 1,000 years and is now part of the national identity, the national psyche. There must be a wealth of great stories and tales from Shogi history dating back through the centuries. Do you have an amazing tale from Shogi's rich history?
Amazing Shogi Tales Left by other Lapocites
Click below to see Shogi Tales by other Lapocites...
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Shogi is certainly one of the more interesting variants. That drop rule is a great slant and a wonderful example of the customs of a society reflected on the board of the local chess variant.
Having played a few games that was the one thing that kept throwing me. At first I kept wondering how these enemy pieces kept showing up in my end zone. Then I remembered the drop rule.
Next we will move on to the mother of all chess variants. The one from which it is said they all sprang. Dating back to India in the 6th Century AD, this is Chaturanga