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.
George Hodges first learned shogi from Trevor Leggett’s book, Shogi: Japan’s Game of Strategy (1966). He felt Westerners would love shogi, so arranged the creation of westernized shogi sets, and imported traditional shogi sets from Japan. With the help of Glyndon Townhill, he devised the common English shogi game notation still used globally.
In 1975 George Hodges founded The Shogi Association (TSA), and in January of 1976, he presented the world Shogi, a magazine. In Hodges’ own words, it was “the first magazine printed in English and devoted entirely to the great chess game of Japan.” He put together 70 professional quality issues, filled with news and translated professional articles from Japan, though the subscriber base never rose much above 150.
Not only did George run the magazine, but he also financed tournaments and The Shogi Association. He lent a great deal of money without receiving anything but a small financial return. Hodges’ efforts can only be described as philanthropic.
George wrote in issue 70 at the end of 1987, “I think I have shown the way in which shogi should be propagated. It is now up to others to take up this mammoth task if they have the will so to do.”
I dedicate this set of shogi articles to George Hodges. He was a driving force behind shogi popularization in the English speaking world for an entire generation. George’s efforts with The Shogi Association and Shogi magazine brought shogi news, strategy, history, and variants to those not privileged enough to understand Japanese in a pre-internet world. In the few correspondences that we had, I found him friendly, helpful, and dedicated to spreading knowledge about this beautiful game.
Thank you George Hodges (1934-2010).
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.
I’d love to play a game of shogi, but I don’t have time.
That’s a common complaint. We all have limited time, and an hour to play, even our favorite game, is hard to come by. And if one or more of the players tend to think for a long time on each move, forget about a quick game.
Shogi games between evenly matched opponents often take over a hundred moves to complete. They can even take hundreds of moves to finish. And, with shogi’s highly developed handicap system, all games tend to be between evenly matched opponents. The number of moves adds up to a long game, very quickly.
Speed up your games with a good digital clock and using byoyomi rules. These rules are typically applied to tournaments, but with small adjustments to the time allocations, can make a normally long game more manageable for anyone’s tight schedule.
I’m going to upgrade my japanesechess.org server. This whole thing is a bit of a scramble, because my current host is serving up someone else’s pages 50% of the time due to technical difficulties on their end. Migrating servers is always a bit dangerous, … meaning I could lose everything. I don’t have source code for some of the shogi apps on the japanesechess.org site, so you just don’t know what will happen during the upgrade.
I’m mirroring everything to this site as a precaution. If I can get it working here, that is. Then, good or bad, I’m doing the upgrade so that japanesechess.org can support https.
Here’s the current japanesechess.org home page, just in case that gets wiped in the move.
I’m putting together a site of historic board games you can play in your browser. The goal is to publish games you don’t see too often, but have been around 100+ years. First up is Tori Shogi, also called Bird Chess, a game from Japan that is around 200 years old. Be sure to follow the progress on the new Fun Historic Games historic games site.
I still have my beta version of my shogi app up on this site. The beta version of my shogi app runs on most browsers. I am currently working on an update. You guessed it, the update will be on my
historic games site when I’m finished.
I’m moving most of my Japanese Chess site over here while I’m migrating to a new server. I used to actually have a large shogi presence here on Gene Davis Software, but let it lapse. I’m working to bring back all the shogi fun to this site.
I’ve been seeing a lot more references to shogi in pop culture and books about chess these last few years. Also, lots of the latest generation reaching adulthood in the United States are familiar with Shogi, even if they don’t know the rules.
Recently, I found a whole section on shogi in pop culture on Wikipedia, which I was surprised was actually incomplete.
In the manga series
, shogi plays an essential part in Shikamaru Nara’s character development. He often plays it with his sensei, Asuma Sarutobi, apparently always beating him. When Asuma is fatally injured in battle, he reminds Shikamaru that the shogi king must always be protected, and draws a parallel between the king in shogi and his yet-unborn daughter, Mirai, whom he wanted Shikamaru to guide. Naruto
Shogi has been a central plot point in the manga and anime
, the manga and anime Shion no Ō , and the manga and television drama March Comes in Like a Lion . 81diver
In the manga and anime
, the information broker Izaya Orihara plays a twisted version of chess, go and shogi, where he mixes all three games into one as a representation of the battles in Ikebukuro. Durarara!!
In the video game
, the Star confidant is a high school shogi player looking to break into the ranks of the professionals. The player character will gain knowledge stat when spending time with the confidant, supposedly from learning to play shogi. The abilities learned from ranking up the confidant comes from Japanese shogi terms. Persona 5
I have to recommend
, by the way. You can find it on Crunchyroll I’ve been watching that anime recently. It’s about a young and rising professional shogi master. Absolutely, a must watch for any Japanese chess fan. March Comes in Like a Lion