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.
The Big Three Shogi Castles
Shogi castling involves forming a stronghold to protect the king. Most shogi pieces don’t move very fast, but as soon as a pieces start getting captured, lightning fast plays involving drops change the pace of the game. Placing your king in a castle allows you to focus on attack.
The most deadly location for a king in shogi is the square it starts on.
Get the king off to a corner and protected, quickly. Dead center means a dead king!
Shogi castles keep the rook and king apart. A common tactic of advanced shogi players is setting up a split with the king and rook so that a knight or other piece attacks both the rook and king. Of course, losing the rook in such a split makes winning more of a challenge.
Mino Castle A properly formed mino castle is strong during creation and has several alternative forms available after creation.
Tsumeshogi (詰将棋) is the shogi equivalent of chess puzzles. Chess puzzles and Japanese chess puzzles are both mentally stimulating, and just plain fun. Since I just finished creating my 200th tsume (詰) for my Japanese chess site, I figured this is a great time to share a few more of my thoughts on shogi (将棋) puzzles.
If your’e reading this, you probably know about my book on Japanese chess puzzles. I sell it on amazon and basically every other outlet worldwide. Creating all those puzzles for the book was a real eye opener. I learned a lot more about the movement of knights (桂馬), silver generals (銀将), and capturing kings (王) than I every knew before. The most exciting thing was learning novel ways that the pieces work together. The game is a lot more intricate than the rules imply.
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.
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
(more…) 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. 81 Dojo 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. BrainKing Human vs Human. BrainKing offers a few shogi variants to play against other members. They’ve been around awhile. Basic membership is free. Little Golem 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 … Play-by-email graphical interfaces … Chess Variants These guys have tons and tons of shogi variants to play-by-email. Some are Java, so many modern computers refuse to run them.