Shogi, aka Japanese Chess, is an extremely fun and challenging variant of Chess. Actually the two versions of chess are cousins. Shogi, pronounced SHOW-gee with a hard ‘G’, is the western version of a game that was created in India several centuries ago. Chess is the European version of the same game.
Just as you have many variants on Western Chess, there are several variants of Shogi. The main version of shogi is played on an 9×9 square board (one bigger than chess). Japanese Chess tends to be a bit more challenging than Western Chess, but still very fun for beginners and masters alike.
One of the most interesting
Shogi rules is that tokens that are captured become the enemy’s pieces, and he can then drop them back on the board to strengthen his army. This adds a great deal of strategy to the game as pieces appear from seemingly nowhere to block checks or quickly promote.
I have a very rough beta version of shogi for play online. You can play it by clicking the image below. It will take you to the page, and let you play against the computer. The AI is a bit weak, but I’m working on fixing that in future versions.
Everyone’s introduction to shogi is unique. My introduction was from a friend that was Japanese. He was very tired of me beating him at Western chess, so one day he pulled out a Japanese chess board and said, Let’s try this for a while. He thoroughly beat me many times and then gave me the shogi board as a present.
This was in the days before the Internet, so wrote down the rules for future reference and taught my own children how to play when they were old enough to learn the rules of shogi.
I’m just getting started on this site, so keep checking back for updates.
Years ago, I made up some PDFs you can print out to make shogi tokens and boards. Lots of people around the world have used these to learn shogi without incurring the expense of buying a board and pieces. They are a great cheap way of getting extra shogi boards for a school shogi club, too.
Shogi boards are a little hard to come by outside of Japan. If you’re looking to find one, I would recommend checking any local Oriental/Japanese specialty stores or ask a Japanese friend where he/she would look. Another good source is Ebay. Do a search on Shogi and see what offerings are out there. There are also some sites on the web that sell Shogi boards, but I’ve never used them so can’t give any advise about them.
Shogi boards tend to be made in Japan, for now, so are expensive imports. A good alternative is to make your own. That’s the focus of this page.
English speakers are use to board games that are played on boards made with a similar process as book covers. Think about it. If you examine many board games and compare them to the cover of hard cover books you’ll find they’re the same.
Shogi mating puzzles are called tsume. As is common knowledge, I wrote the first English tsume book ever published, just a few years ago. I thought about writing a second shogi mating puzzles book, but realized that not everyone has the money to buy a book. I opted instead to create an online collection of puzzles for everyone to study shogi for free.
I like the “free” part best.
I’ve been working on building my tsume database at http://japanesechess.org. Now I have hundreds of shogi mating problems of my own creation entered. A lot of people may not realize how many features the tsume database has. Not only are there hundreds of tsume puzzles to solve, but you can filter on search criteria, view them in random orders, change the board view to kanji, western, or other piece styles, and you can remove the label that tells you how many moves are required to mate the king.
This is one of the hundreds of tsume found in my free online tsume collection.
It can be hard to remember how to record a game of shogi. I’ve created a quick cheat sheet below to make life easier.
The starting player is called “Black”, and the other player is called “White” when playing in English. Black is sometimes called “Sente” and White is sometimes called “Gote”. Don’t let Sente and Gote confuse you. They’re as different as black and white. (No I couldn’t resist.)
The top of the game record should state important information about the game such as who was Black and who played White. It should also state the date, the players’ rankings, if any, and also what handicap was used. For example:
Handicap: White gives Rook and Bishop
Date: 2 January 2007 Notation Symbols and Order
Shogi pieces are always indicated with capital letters. The letters used to represent the shogi pieces are:
Play Shogi Online
For a while it was hard to find sites to play shogi. There’s been an upswing in the number of sites for playing shogi and shogi variants in the last few years. Here is a list of some of the more popular shogi and shogi variant sites.
PlayOK – Shogi
Human vs Human play. The graphics aren’t great, but there’s usually a good crowd to play games against.
Human vs Human play. Includes standard shogi, handicaps, and several variants. Also, game analysis tools are included. This is a very nice site for serious students of shogi. I highly recommend this site.
Internet Shogi Dojo
Many will argue this is the best shogi site on the web. Plan on learning some Japanese if you want to take full advantage of this site.
Human vs Human. BrainKing offers a few shogi variants to play against other members. They’ve been around awhile. Basic membership is free.
Human vs Human. Little Golem has several shogi variants listed under open play (Infinity). The Championship and Monthly Cup areas seem a bit more limited.
SDIN Free Games
Human vs Human or Human vs Computer. SDIN Free Games has several shogi variants available for online play. You can play against the computer or against a player. Here’s what they offer.
Richard’s Play-By-eMail Server
Gamerz.net has several play-by-email for shogi variants, also some graphical interfaces for the same shogi severs. For those new to Gamerz play-by-email, their home page has an explanation of how it all works.
Play-by-email graphical interfaces …
These guys have tons and tons of shogi variants to play-by-email. Some are Java, so many modern computers refuse to run them.
First off, this seems like a good place to mention the kanji for shogi. If you go looking up shogi in a japanese dictionary, remember that in Japanese, the pronunciation is actually “shougi” not “shogi”. Shogi has been in English long enough that the “u” was dropped from the name.
Now for the Japanese notation.
Don’t let it scare you, but Japanese use kanji. This puts off westerners who get really scared by all those lines. (I wonder, is there a phobia name for this?) Notation for Japanese shogi game records is very similar to western game notations.
First remember Japanese write two directions. Sometimes they write like in English, that would be from left to right and from top to bottom. Traditionally they write like Chinese, that would be from top to bottom and from right to left. Shogi game records usually are in the traditional top to bottom and from right to left.