Shogi - Japanese Chess
by Roger Hare, rhare[at]talk21[dot]com
Last modified: 13 September 2003
Roger Hare's Shogi Pages are brought to you by
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Editor's note: Roger has retired and it is unlikely that
he will be able to devote any more time to his Shogi pages in the future,
so these pages should now be regarded as complete. They were one of the
first, if not the first, Shogi pages on the internet and have provided
many Shogi fans and aspiring players with lots of invaluable information
about Shogi and its variants. We are therefore very pleased that Roger
has chosen Shogi.Net as the new home for his Shogi pages. We thank Roger
for all his efforts to popularize Shogi and hope he'll enjoy his
Editor's note: Roger has retired and it is unlikely that he will be able to devote any more time to his Shogi pages in the future, so these pages should now be regarded as complete. They were one of the first, if not the first, Shogi pages on the internet and have provided many Shogi fans and aspiring players with lots of invaluable information about Shogi and its variants. We are therefore very pleased that Roger has chosen Shogi.Net as the new home for his Shogi pages. We thank Roger for all his efforts to popularize Shogi and hope he'll enjoy his retirement.
Shogi is one of the forms of chess which is generally thought to have developed from the game Shaturanga or Shatranj. It is the Japanese form of the game which is known in the West as 'Chess' - more correctly, 'International Chess'. Shogi is the Japanese form of the game. There are others, for example Chinese Chess (Xiang-chi).
Shogi is similar to International Chess in that it is played between two players ('black' and 'white'), and that the object is to checkmate the opponents king. Shogi is also very different from International Chess (hereafter called simply Chess). Here are a few of the differences:
The bulk of what follows describes the usual 9x9 form of shogi...
The board looks like this:
The board is 9 'squares' by 9. In fact, the 'squares' are slightly larger in the vertical direction than the horizontal. The circular points are to mark promotion zones and to enable you to visually divide the board up easily. The letters and numbers are for notational purposes - eg: the top right square is 1a, the bottom left is 9i, and so on. As we will see later, black plays 'up' the board, and white plays 'down' the board.
Note: All graphics in the basic shogi pages were developed using programs written in the Icon language - an enthusiasm of mine...
Shogi pieces are usually wedge shaped and pointed. There is no difference between blacks pieces and whites because captured pieces need to be able to be re-entered after capture. In the actual game, the direction in which a piece points indicates which side it is on. The pieces are identified with (usually) two Japanese characters. It is usual in diagrams to show only the top character.
The pieces I have used to 'design' the graphics below are small pieces from a pocket set I have. As such, these graphics are actually what would usually be found in diagrams in books, and are simplified renderings of the two-character symbols found on actual full-size pieces. That is, they are different - the differences shouldn't however be so great as to make it impossible to use the graphics below to identify actual pieces (it isn't using my two sets of wooden pieces).
In what follows, the moves of the pieces are described as if the piece were 'black', ie: playing 'up' the board. To get the move for the white move, simply rotate all directions (and the piece!) through 180 degrees.
Each player has 1 king. The king is the most important piece on the board in the sense that the object of the game is to checkmate the king in the same manner as in International chess. The king occupies the centre of the first rank, ie: black's king is on 5i, and white's is on 5a. The king may move 1 square in any direction like the king in chess, that is, one square in a n, n-e, e, s-e, s, s-w, w, n-w direction. The king does not promote.
Each player has 2 golds. The golds occupiy the 2 positions either side of the king, ie: black's golds are on 4i and 6i, and white's are on 4a and 6a. The gold moves one square in any direction except the two rearward diagonal squares, that is, one square in a n-w, n, ne, s, w, e direction. The gold does not promote.
Each player has 2 silvers.
The silvers occupy the 2 positions either side of the golds, ie: black's
silvers are on 3i and 7i, and white's are on 3a and 7a.
The silver moves one square in any direction except orthogonally
left, right or backwards, that is, one square in a n-w, n, n-e, s-w, s-e
The silver may promote to gold once it has entered the promotion zone and
the promoted silver looks like this:
Each player has 2 knights.
The knights occupy the 2 positions either side of the silverss, ie: black's
knights are on 2i and 8i, and white's are on 2a and 8a.
The knight moves one square forward and then one square diagonally, left or
right (ie: a restricted form of the knights move in Chess), that is, one
square n followed by one square n-w or n-e.
Pieces on the intervening squares are ignored.
The knight is the only piece which may jump other pieces in
The knight may promote to gold once it has entered the promotion zone and
the promoted knight looks like this:
Each player has 2 lances to start with.
They occupy the corners of the board, ie: black's lances are on 1i and
9i, and white's are on 1a and 9a.
The lance moves any number of squares forward, that is, any number of
When it enters the opponents promotion zone (the furthest away third of
the board), the lance may promote to gold if desired and the promoted lance
looks like this:
Each player has one bishop which occupies 8h (black) and 2b (white) at the
start of the game.
The bishops move is the same as that in Chess - any number of squares in
any of the diagonal directions, that is, n-w, n-e, s-e, s-w.
The bishop may promote and acquire the extra power to move one square only
in any of the orthogonal directions, that is, one square n, e, s, w.
The promoted bishop looks like this:
Each player has one rook which occupies 2h (black) and 8b (white) at the
start of the game.
The rooks move is the same as that in Chess - any number of squares in
any of the orthogonal directions, that is, n, e, s, w.
The rook may promote and acquire the extra power to move one square only
in any of the orthogonal directions, that is, one square n-e, s-e, s-w, n-w.
The promoted rook looks like this:
The pawns occupy the third rank on each side. Each player has 9 pawns to
The pawn moves one square forward, that is, one square n.
When it enters the opponents promotion zone, the pawn may promote to gold if
The promoted pawn looks like this:
At the start of play, the board is set up like this:
This would seem a useful place to introduce the Shogi notation scheme. The most useful scheme is probably that which is part descriptive, part algebraic. In this scheme, a piece is named and the destination square named also. For example (referring to the startuing setup), P-7f.
It should be clear what this means, but note the abbreviations: P - pawn, L - lance, N - knight, S - silver, G - gold, R - rook, B - bishop, K - king.
Capture is indicated by a 'x', eg: Px1c - note the captured piece is not explicitly named in the notation.
When a piece is promoted after the move, a '+' is appended, eg: Px1c+.
When a promoted piece is subsequently moved, it is prepended with a '+', eg: +P-2b.
Strictly, if a piece does not promote when it could, an '=' should be appended to the move, eg: Px1c=.
A 'drop' of a captured piece which is 'in hand' is designated with a '*', eg: L*9d.
In cases of ambiguity, the starting square of the piece being moved is indicated, eg: (considering the starting set-up), G6i-5h.
Each playes individual moves are numbered in Japanese games, unlike international chess where moves are numbered in pairs, thus:
Shogi is a game for two players ('black' and 'white'). In diagrams, black traditionally plays 'up' the board, white 'down'. Black plays first.
The object of the game is as in western chess to checkmate the opposing king. Check in general is given by threatening the king with capture. The threatened player may escape check by moving the king, by capturing the threatening piece, by moving a piece between the threatening piece and the king, by dropping a piece between the threatening piece and the king. Checkmate is achieved when the king cannot escape. A game may end in two other ways - a player may resign if their position is seen to be hopeless, or, a draw may occur. This is rare in shogi. There is no stalemate in shogi.
Moves & Capture
Moves of the individual pieces are described elsewhere, but (fairly obviously) a player may not move a piece onto another square if it is already occupied by another of that players pieces. If the square is occupied by a piece belonging to the other player, the move is legal and the other players piece is captured. Once a piece is captured, it reverts to its unpromoted state (see below for details of promotion), and is retained by the capturing player, who may drop the piece as an alternative to a move (see below for details of drops). With the exception of the knight, no jumps are allowed in any move.
Most pieces (pawn, lance, knight, silver, rook, bishop) may be promoted on reaching the promotion zone (the furthest away three ranks of the board). Pieces are promoted by turning them over so that their promoted characters are visible. Pawn, lance, knight and silver promote to gold. Rook and bishop have their powers enhanced by being allowed to move one square in a diagonal (rook) or orthogonal (bishop) direction. Note that promotion is not mandatory, and there are some strategic situations in which it may be disadvantageous to do so.
Note however, that when a piece would no longer have a valid move after the current one, it must promote - that is, when a lance or pawn reaches the last rank, or when a knight reaches either of the last two ranks. Once promoted, a piece may not be 'unpromoted'. Finally, remember that although the discussion above assumes that promotion takes place (or not) when a piece first enters the promotion zone, in fact, a piece may be promoted in the course of a normal move as it enters or leaves the promotion zone or as part of a move entirely within the promotion zone.
Pieces may not 'un-promote'.
A player may elect to 'drop' a captured piece instead of moving a piece. This is one of the features which makes shogi so different from chess. Basically a piece may be dropped anywhere with the provisos that:
It is forbidden to have more than one unpromoted pawn on the same file;
A pawn may not be dropped to give direct checkmate;
A piece may not be dropped where it does not have a legal move (ie: a lance or pawn on the last rank, or a knight on either of the last two ranks);
A piece may not be promoted as it is dropped (a dropped piece may only be promoted after it has actually moved).
In Japan, players are graded. There are in fact two grading systems, one for professional and one for amateur players. The amateur scheme goes from about 15 kyu (beginner) to 6 dan. An amateur 6 dan is about equal to a professional 4 dan. Shogi allows for a handicapping scheme when the difference in grades of the two players is known:
If the same game position occurs more than three times in a single game, the game is declared a no-contest. The same position means, same players turn, same disposition of pieces on the board and in hand. If a repeated position occurs as a result of repeated checks, the player giving check must not do so a fourth time otherwise that player forfeits the game.
|Books & Magazines, etc.|
First Step To Shogi - Oyama Memorial Museum, Space Sano, 1995.
Better Moves for Better Shogi - Teruichi Aono, Man to Man Books, 1983, 2377-906053-2732.
Guide to shogi openings - Teruichi Aono, Man to Man Books, 1983.
Shogi - How to Play - John Fairburn, The Shogi Association, 1979.
Shogi for Beginners - John Fairburn, The Ishi Press,
Now out of print, but still available from George Hodges.
The Art of Shogi - Tony Hosking, The Shogi Foundation, March 1997.
Shogi - Japan's Game of Strategy - Trevor Legget, Charles E Tuttle Company, 1966.
The following items contain articles or chapters of greater or lesser depth pertaining to Shogi: Board and Table Games from Many Civilizations - R C Bell, Dover, 1979, 0-486-23855-5.
Games Ancient and Oriental and How to Play Them - Edward Falkener, Dover, 1961, 486-20739-0. Chess Variations - John Gollon, Charles E Tuttle Company, 1985, 0-8048-1122-9.
Oriental Board Games - David Pritchard, Know The Game Series, 1977, 0-7158-0524-X.
New rules for classic games - R. Wayne Schmittberger, Wiley, 1992, 0471536210. Reputed to contain a good description of the rules of Chu-Shogi - I haven't seen this one myself.
Some national shogi organisations produce magazines. Here are brief details with contacts where known:
In the UK, the British Shogi Federation (BSF) publishes a magazine (in english) - Shoten - on a quarterly basis. The BSF web page is at http://www.hollandnumerics.demon.co.uk/BSF.HTM
81, The Dutch Shogi Association's magazine (in dutch and english). Editor: Hugo Hollanders, h[dot]hollanders[at]merit[dot]unimaas[dot]nl.
The German Shogi Association's magazine (in german). Editor: Thomas Majewski, thomas[dot]majewski[at]wabco-auto[dot]com.
The French Shogi Association's magazine (in french). Editor: Eric Cheymol, shogi[at]free[dot]fr.
Shogi has spawned a rich literature of proverbs. here is a random selection:
Exchanging your Rook Pawn gives a four-fold advantage
Without Pawns the game is lost
A Pawn-anchored Gold is as solid as a Rook
Ranging Rook needs a Static Bishop
A four piece mating net will always catch its prey
Bring the Horse back to camp
The stab in the back is the best way to get a Gold in hand
5e is a strategic point
There are a lot more proverbs here.
Tsume are to Shogi what mating problems are to European chess - there are a few differences but it would not be stretching a point too far to describe tsume as 'shogi mating problems'. My favourite selection of tsume shogi problems is on the Shogi Nexus Page.
Tsume are an important part of Shogi, particularly if you can't find opponents very often - they allow you to 'practice' on your own.
The rules for tsume are really quite simple - here they are:
Ascii Board representations are painful, so I won't bother with them here, but will present a problem in a standard notation which is described in more detail below.
Black: +B3d, P2e In hand: R
White: K1c, B2b, G1e, L1a
That is, Black has a promoted bishop on 3d a pawn on 2e and a rook in hand. White has the king at 1c, a bishop at 2b, a gold at 1e and a lance at 1a (and in hand all pieces not shown except for the black king).
Here is the solution:
R*1b Lx1b +B2d
Set the problem up on your board and play through the solution. This should give you a little feel for what tsume are all about. Remember, every move by black must be a check.
|Tsume Shogi Description by Reijer Grimbergen|
Solving tsume shogi is a special skill that is neglected by a lot of Shogi players. This is unfortunate, since tsume shogi sharpens your endgame and because Shogi has drops, the endgame and especially mating the enemy king can turn a game completely around. Countless are the games I won starting from a bad position and I think I have my tsume shogi to thank for that. But even more important, solving tsume shogi is lots of fun. I love puzzles and that is exactly what tsume shogi is about. Some of my fellow players call me crazy but one of my greatest joys in Shogi is solving a very hard tsume problem after hours of puzzling, frustrated to the bone, but refusing to give up and look at the solution. Of course you don't have to get so obsessive about it, but tsume shogi is an essential part of studying the game.
The rules of tsume shogi:
Tsume shogi problems are given by means of a diagram, showing the position from which you have to mate the king by consecutive checks. You are always black and only the enemy (white) king is shown (since you are about to mate your opponent without giving him a chance to mate, your own king is not important - although there are some special kinds of tsume problems that have both kings on the board-) alongside the defending pieces and the pieces you can use to mate (both on the board and in hand). All pieces not shown are considered to be in your opponent's hand and can be dropped in defence. Often the number of moves is given in Japanese count (black's first move counted as 1, white's answer as 2, black's second move as 3, white's answer as 4 and so on) but this is not necessary. It is important to note that a useless defensive move (like dropping a piece between king and checking piece that can be taken without changing the mate) is not counted as a move. This is neither a design nor a qualification fault but a basic rule of tsume shogi (but be careful, in some of the more tricky problems dropping a piece can change the mate according to the piece dropped).
How to solve tsume shogi problems:
The basic idea is to solve tsume shogi problems without moving the pieces, just like in a game situation. Some players prefer to put the position on a board but I trained myself to solve the problem directly from the book or magazine so that tsume shogi is useful way of killing time in train, car or plane. Roughly said, problems with more moves are more difficult than problems with fewer moves. Although this is not always true , it is easy to find books working according this principal starting with simple problems and moving up to more difficult ones. As you solve them your Tsume Shogi skill progresses as you move through the book. I started tsume shogi with a book by Kato, containing 180 tsume problems (unfortunately this book is now out of print). At the start I had a very difficult time, but going through the book I was amazed at the beautiful themes used in tsume and I began to like it more and more. Shortly after finishing this book I became sho-dan, winning more than one game in a close endgame fight.
|Additional Notes on Tsume Shogi by Hans Geuns|
In each position Black (the attacker) should have only one correct move.
does not play this one move, White (the defender) should be able to defend
successfully and reach a position where Black is no longer able to force mate.
If Black has more than one way to force mate, the problem is not really a tsume (you might call it a deficient tsume problem). The Japanese term for this kind of deficient problem (fukanzensakuhin) is yozume (which means, simply, ''extra mating sequence'').
This rule implies that all the variations in the solution of a tsume result from White trying yet another unsuccesful defence. (These variations are called henka, while a variation starting with a Black move is called henkoo/chakushu-henkoo.) So, in a (good) tsume problem any henka will result in mate, unless Black plays a henkoo.
In the final position - when White is checkmated - Black should no
longer have any pieces in hand.
This rule implies that if you think you have solved a tsume and end up in a position where Black still has one or more pieces in hand, you have made some error. (Or that the problem itself is deficient...!). But if the problem is from a Japanese source - found in the Shogi Sekai for instance - the chance that the problem is incorrect is very slight indeed and you can bet your Shogi life that you have overlooked some heinously clever defence move... If the problem itself is incorrect, it is called a te-amari, which means something like ''still having some moves'').
However, there is one little - rather technical - exception to this rule:
If there two ways to force mate (two henka, not henkoo !), one leading
to a position without Black pieces in hand and another variation that is 2
moves (Japanese count) longer in which Black still has a piece in hand, the
problem is nevertheless considered to be a kanzensakuhin (a correct tsume
Some of the older tsume problems are problems of this kind. If a problem belongs to this class, it is thought of as a little bit flawed, however. Any tsume shogi author will try to avoid this flaw.
Mr. Murayama Takaharu (1923) is the writer of several books and articles about Tsume Shogi and has composed about 150 tsume problems. As far as I know - judging by this book and by some references in Shogi - Shibu-shikanshi (the Shogi Quarterly published by the Renmei) - he may safely be seen as an authority on Tsume Shogi.
|Additional information from yours truly...|
I have received a letter from Mr Onogi of NSR which leaves the copyright
situation with respect to the problems I used to display here (i.e., those
contributed by Reijer Grimbergen) unclear - so I have removed access to
the tsume. Anyone requiring further information should contact me by email.
Here is another resource which contain tsume-shogi problems: Ricoh Tsume Shogi
|Shogi Mailing List|
There is a moderately active mailing list. To join, send the one line message:
subscribe shogi-l your name
after which you can send messages to the list by directing your email to:
Alternatively, the list can be viewed here by selecting this URL.
Paper Shogi and Tori-Shogi boards and sets are available at: http://www.hollandnumerics.demon.co.uk/SHOGISW.HTM
Please note that I have no connection with, or financial interest in any of the companies listed below. The information provided is based on the latest catalogues which I have from these organisations. For fuller information please contact the companies direct.
2255 29th Street Santa Monica, CA 90405, USA.
Tel:1-800-988-6463; Fax: 1-310-578-7381
Web Page: http://www.yutopian.com
Yutopian also supply go, chinese chess and mah-jong equipment.
Supplier of ''The Art of Shogi'' & shogi sets.
The Shogi Foundation
P.O. Box 172
Supplier of Shogi equipment and literature, particularly for the shogi variants
G F Hodges
PO Box 77
Village Games, at Camden Lock, London - no further information.
The Nihon Shogi Renmei supply Shogi equipment, and will correspond in English, but their catalogue is in Japanese, so unless you read the language you may have problems.
Mr K Onogi
Nihon Shogi Renmai
2-39-9 Sendagaya Shibuya-ku
Sankaido Ltd. (publisher of bilingual and Japanese Shogi books)
5-18 Hongo 5 chome
Nippon I.P.S. (International Postal Service, Shogi books, among other things)
C.P.O. Box 699
Note that there is reason to believe that the following information is out of date.
Ishi Press International Ltd.
20 Bruges Place
Ishi Press International
1702-H Meridian Avenue, #193
There are several variants of shogi. These include:
GNU Shogi has now been taken over by Mike Vanier who has set up a GNU Shogi Home Page. You should find all you need to knew at this page.
A shogi variants program is available at: http://trout.customer.netspace.net.au/index.html.
Shogi Master (PC) is available from Ibuki.
A Shogi program (shogi.zip) is obtainable from:
and maybe also from:
|Shogi by email|
The best way to play shogi by email is probably to join the shogi ladder. The ladder co-ordinator is Hans van Velzen (hans[dot]vanvelzen[at]wanadoo[dot]nl).
The current ladder rules and standings are available at:
|Shogi by Snailmail|
The Postal Shogi League (international) is run by:
Philip R Holland
Postal Shogi League
94 Green Drift
Correspondence by e-mail is encouraged also, where possible.
To join the Postal Shogi and Tori-Shogi Leagues (PSL) all you have to do is to send:
For an administrative fee of £1.00, for PSL members living in Britain, or £2.00, for PSL members living outside Britain, annually (multiple fees are accepted and you will be credited with the appropriate number of membership years), the leagues will record your current postal playing strength, put you in touch with other postal players and recommend suitable handicaps for new postal games. You will also be sent reports on the current postal playing strengths of all the current league members in June and December each year you are a member.
Membership of one league will automatically allow you to join the other league at no extra charge. All you have to do is inform Phil Holland that you have started a postal game for the second league, membership is then assumed. Any league member who is not playing the maximum number of opponents requested will be put in touch with another member in the same position who is not already an opponent, when suitable members are available. A list of languages you can correspond in would be helpful here, to avoid the selection of overseas opponents without a common language. Once the address of a new opponent has been sent to you, it is up to you and your opponent to decide how many games you wish to play. You are not obliged to play any more postal games than you are currently playing, provided you state that you do not want more opponents.
Once registered, you should inform Phil Holland of all new league games and their results and, where possible, start new games using the recommended handicaps. Your current postal playing strength will be adjusted according to the handicap and the result of each game you complete.
For details, contact:
4110 West 12th Street
From Reijer Grimbergens mailing of 6/10/95
For those of you opening your games with P2f: don't do it again! Analysis of 2200 professional games has shown that with P2f black wins only 48% of the time, while with P7f black wins 53% of the time. Shukan Shogi therefore jokingly headlined "Is P2f a blunder?" last week. Shogi professionals are now trying to build a database of Shogi games similar to that of chess. They still have some distance to cover, though. The chess base contains more than 400.000 games.
Editor's note: Owing to the dynamic nature of web sites, Roger's links are no longer maintained separately, but have been incorporated in the Shogi.Net links page.
The following have contributed to the creation of these pages. It goes without saying that I am grateful to them for their efforts.
Reijer Grimbergen - Tsume shogi information
Hans Loidl - Tori shogi files
Edward Jackson - for pointing out that the promotion rule was incomplete.
Hans Geuns - Additional tsume shogi information.
Benjamin Good - for pointing out an error in the tori shogi stuff.
Luke Merritt - Tai-shogi information.
Koichi Inoue - Chu-shogi information.
Adrian King - Chu-shogi information.
Mike Vanier - corrections to Wa-shogi page.
If you have made a contribution, and I have omitted your name, please feel free to email me and give me a hard time...
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