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# SHOGI (Try it)

• #1

I'm posting this here, because some chess players I know tried Shogi and got hooked while others gave up after the first glance, scared by japanese symbols added to the fact that Shogi is known as the most complex "chess game", among the traditional variations. I'm trying to present a way to demystify the game by making people experiment with it before commiting. If you don't like it... well... at least you know why you don't like it.

There is a piece set with simplified kanjis, but my point here is that it just doesn't matter. Just pick the most characteristic shape of a piece and associate it with the allowed movement.

It's a way to experiment with Shogi without having to go through the rules. For a chess player it shouldn`t be difficult to go through these simple problems. Just give it a try. Some Shogi rules (like promotion and drop restrictions) are intentionally ignored here, for the sake of simplicity. The only things you need to know are:

- captured pieces go to your hand (or your opponents hand) and can be dropped ANYWHERE on the board on following moves.

- your pieces point up (narrower side up).

- on the diagrams, arrows mean that the piece can move any number of square in that direction; it may not jump above "same color" pieces and it may capture an opponent piece by occupying it's square;

- on the diagrams, a circle means that the piece can move to that square specifically; the same as above applies;

- the goal is to checkmate the king, like in chess.

- if you or your opponent have any captured piece available on the first move, they will be shown in a specific box on the picture. If nothing is shown, consider only the pieces on the board. Remember that captured pieces can be reused.

1.GOLD 7C -> 8B

1.GOLD 6C -> 7B, KING 8A -> 9A  ...

2.GOLD 7B -> 8B (OR   GOLD 8C -> 8B)    <------

1.GOLD 8C -> 7B, KING 6A -> 5A   2.GOLD 6C -> 5B  <------

1.SILVER 6A -> 7B, KING 8A -> 9A   2.PAWN 9C -> 9B  <-----

1.SILVER 7A -> 8B

(GOLD IS CAPTURED AND KEPT AT HAND), <-----

KING 8A -> 9B   2.GOLD DROP AT 9C   <-------

IF 1. ..., KING 8A -> 7B 2. GOLD DROP AT 7C <------

1.GOLD 3E -> 2E, KING 1E -> 1F   2.GOLD DROP TO 2G <----

1.GOLD DROP TO 2C, KING 1C -> 1D   2.LANCE 1F -> 1E <---

1.GOLD DROP TO 3C, KING 2B -> 2A

2.LANCE 2G -> 2D, PAWN DROP TO 2C <-----

3.LANCE 2D -> 2C     <------

IF 2. ..., PAWN DROP TO 2B   3.LANCE 2D -> 2B <-----

1.SILVER DROP TO 6E, KING 5D -> 5E  <-----

2.LANCE DROP TO 5F    <------

1.SILVER 5B -> 4C (CAPTURING LANCE),  <----

KING 5D -> 5E  <-----

(IF KING 5D -> 5C  2.LANCE DROP TO 5D, CHECKMATE) <----

2.LANCE DROP TO 5G, SILVER DROP TO 5F  <----

3.SILVER DROP TO 6D  <----

Notice that the knight is the only piece that can jump above others, like in chess, but unlike chess, it can only move foward as in the following diagram.

1.SILVER 3A -> 2B, KING 1A -> 1B <-----

2.KNIGHT DROP TO 2D  <------

1.GOLD 2D -> 1C, KING 1B -> 1A   2.KNIGHT 1E -> 2C <----

1.GOLD 2C -> 3B, KING 4A -> 5A  <----

2.GOLD 6C -> 5A  <----

(1.GOLD 6C -> 5B WILL WORK TOO)  <----

1.SILVER 2C -> 3B, KING 4A -> 4B  <----

2.GOLD 3D -> 4C, KING 4B -> 5A   <----

3.GOLD 6C -> 5B  <----

1.GOLD DROP TO 1C, KING 2B -> 3A <----

(OR KING 2B -> 1A)   2.KNIGHT 1E -> 2C <----

1.KNIGHT 2E -> 3C (CAPTURING THE KNIGHT), <----

KING 2A -> 3B (OR KING 2A -> 1B)  <-----

2.KNIGHT DROP TO 2D  <----

1.GOLD 5B -> 4B, KING 3A -> 2A  <----

2.KNIGHT DROP TO 3C, KING 3A -> 2A  <-----

3.KNIGHT DROP TO 2C  <----

1.ROOK 4D -> 1D, SILVER 2A -> 1B   2.GOLD 3B -> 2B <----

1.KNIGHT DROP TO 3C (OR TO 5C), KING 4A -> 5A  <----

2.GOLD 6C -> 5B  <----

1.KNIGHT DROP TO 3C, LANCE 3A -> 3C <----

(CAPTURING THE KNIGHT)  <----

2.ROOK 1C -> 1A, PAWN (OR KNIGHT, OR SILVER) TO 2A <---

3.ROOK 1A -> 2A, ANY OF THE REMAINING PIECES <-----

DROP TO 3A   4.ROOK 2A -> 3A  <-----

1.ROOK 7F -> 7D (CAPTURING THE GOLD), <----

SILVER DROP TO 5D   2.GOLD DROP TO 5E  <----

1.GOLD DROP TO 4E, KING 4D -> 3C <----

(CAPTURING THE PAWN)  <----

2.ROOK 1E -> 3E, PAWN DROP TO 3D  <----

3.GOLD 4E -> 3D (OR ROOK 3E -> 3D)  <----

1.BISHOP 1E -> 3C, KING 1A -> 2A   2.GOLD 2C -> 2B <----

1.LANCE 1I -> 1C, PAWN DROP TO 1B  <----

2.BISHOP 2D -> 3C <----

The fastest way would be GOLD DROP to 4B, but try to find another way.

1.BISHOP 3F -> 1D, PAWN 2B -> 2C  <-----

2.ROOK 1A -> 1B, KING 3B -> 2A   3.GOLD DROP TO 2B <----

1.BISHOP 1E -> 3C, KING 2B 2A  <----

2.BISHOP 4A -> 3B (OR GOLD 4B -> 3B)  <----

1.GOLD 2C -> 3C, KING 4B -> 5B  <----

2.GOLD 3C -> 4B  <----

MATE WITH 1.BISHOP 1E -> 3C, KING 4B -> 5B

2. ROOK 6A -> 6B, KING 5B -> 4A  <----

3.GOLD 2C -> 3B  <----

This last one can be difficult. Don't get frustrated if you don't get it. The fact is that the real problems in Shogi can be much richer than the ones presented here and mate solving is really an integrant part of the game. It's not rare for shogi games to end in a thrilling "mate race" between both players.

1.KNIGHT DROP TO 3G, KING 2E -> 2F  <----

2.PAWN DROP TO 2G, KING 2F -> 2G  <---

(CAPTURING THE PAWN)  <----

3.PAWN DROP TO 2H, KING 2G -> 2F  <----

4.BISHOP DROP TO 1G, KING 2F -> 1F  <----

5.BISHOP 1G -> 3E, PAWN DROP TO 1G  <----

6.LANCE 1I -> 1G(OR 4.SILVER 2D -> 3E, KING 2F -> 3E

5.ROOK 7D -> 3D, KING 3E -> 2F  <----

6.ROOK 3D -> 3F)  <----

My intention was to make people experiment with the game and show that it isn't that difficult to play with japanese kanjis. You don't need to learn japanese.

If you got interested, all you need to learn shogi rules, tactics, openings, etc, is available for free in Hidetchi's channel on youtube and in other sites on the net.

• #2

I thought the goal was to capture the king and checkmate is also a win because it's not necessary to postpone the game another move. Also the Shogi tutorial game I downloaded had just the direction of the moves on them instead of the Kanji, which was very convenient

I've looked into it, but it's too complex. Too much to keep in mind, like where your opponent can drop pieces and immediately promote them etc.

I just like chess more, if I'd pick up another variant it would be xiangqi, or some other game that a friend would be willing to play, like maybe even Go, allthough it doesn't fascinate me, maybe even backgammon but that's on a different level

• #3

That's why I ignored some rules here. Like in chess, thinks become second nature after you keep playing. Pawn structure and knight moves in chess aren't easy for a beginner to track also, but after some exercises, one begin to visualize it better.

I tried to post some easy problems, so that a complete beginner can try to solve without having to deal with all the rules. Just ignore promotion if you would like to try them.

I use kanjis to show that, after solving some problems, the shapes begin to become second nature. After two or three complete games, one no longer have to struggle to remember them. Promoted pieces are easy to remember, because most of them move the same way.

• #4

Hmm... I wonder... is this a game you're going through in post #1?

Vivinsky, XiangQi is easier, I'll say that (I'm Chinese and I play it). I tried Shogi before, but gave up/went on a hiatus because it turned out to be more difficult than western chess.

I think I'll play again... after reading some theory. Anybody recommend any good websites or eBooks?

• #5
I got hooked on shogi from watching Hidetchi's tutorial series on YouTube. Unfortunately, there simply is not the wealth of shogi books written in English like there is for western chess. And even on a website dedicated to promoting the game outside of Japan like 81squareuniverse.com, the degree of forum participation is very low compared to chess.com.
• #6

True...

• #7

This is a GREAT article.

If I wouldn't play shogi already, at least I would start playing it, now.

By the way: the graphics are also looking very nice. Are they from a commercial program, or can they be used for free?

• #8

I don't get why in Chinese and Japanese "chess" they don't use different pieces, or at least inscribe an icon on them, and instead they just write the name of the piece. It makes it much harder to recognize them, even if you speak the language.

• #9

• #10
plutonia wrote:

I don't get why in Chinese and Japanese "chess" they don't use different pieces, or at least inscribe an icon on them, and instead they just write the name of the piece. It makes it much harder to recognize them, even if you speak the language.

Indeed, but I think there are pieces that have the arrows of movement on them which makes it much easier

• #11

zslane, it`s true that in 81squareuniverse the degree of participation is much lower than in chess.com, but that isn't a fair comparison, I think.

If you try  Shogi24, for instance, you'll see that one will probably find more opponents to play against, than in chess.com, but it isn't really such a friendly place for westerners to discuss the game.

Plutonia, I don't think that kanjis make it more difficult. I agree that it makes it SEEM more difficult, but, believe me, after some games you'll just tell, without effort, the difference between pieces at a glimpse. It isn't really an obstacle.

Vivinski, I agree that pieces with arrow make it easier for the first or second game, after all, moves printed on a chess piece for reference would make it easier for those who never saw chess pieces previously, too. Yet, ultimately, we doesn't need it.

• #12

I agree, but those kanji just don't mean anything to me.

• #13
SRenault wrote:

Wow, great work! Are you thinking about making them available for free, or maybe do you like yourself making a theme for BCMgames?

I haven't done all problems, but only a few ones.

Unfortunately I've found some errors - or missed I something?

PROBLEM22_1
(OR 1.BISHOP 2D -> 3C,  (OR KING 1A - 1B) 2.LANCE 1I -> 1C)
The rook is not protected.

PROBLEM22_2
Why not simple mate in one move with gold-drop?

• #14

Meh, Japanese people play with the names written on the pieces, why don't western players simply write "gold general" on a token and play that way.  Makes no sense to keep foreign symbols if you can't read them.

• #15

I learned Shogi in the '60s and still have a Shogi set, but the problem was always a dearth of opponents, so I never had the opportunity to find out if I was any good or not.

It is certainly a fascinating game.  It would be an interesting variant, but the added feature of returning captured opposing pieces to the board on your side is inspired.

• #16

It's indeed a funny game, however I would never study it, I would just play it for fun sometimes with a friend. Perhaps discussing the game while playing it or enjoying a cup of coffee.

• #17

From a modern physical design perspective, the kanji symbols are less than ideal. We could, for instance, use medieval-style lettering on flat wooden tiles for our (Western) chess pieces, but that would make them needlessly difficult to distinguish during play, even for players already accustomed to the Latin alphabet. The Staunton design is a great design because each piece has a unique and easily identified silhouette. This is good physical design.

There are two aspects of Shogi that make the use of three-ldimensional carved figures (ala western chess pieces) impractical. First is the fact that all but two of the unit types promote. The current method of simply flipping over the game piece is probably the most optimal solution, but it requires pieces that can be flipped over. Second is the fact that captured pieces are added to one's own forces, making color distinctions between armies impractical. You would have to double the number of pieces in a set just to employ color distinction between armies. The fact that the same pieces can be used by either side is ideal, even though the rather subtle use of piece shape and orientation is less than ideal.

It seems to me that Shogi got it right in using pieces that can be used freely by either side, and which can be simply flipped over to show the promoted state. However, the use of kanji is sub-optimal, in my opinion, and Shogi could benefit by using Staunton-like icons instead. Hidetchi's "Internationalized Shogi" set is a great example of this approach, and I highly endorse them. I have taken that idea and created my own graphics with a more Japanese flavor to them (e.g., samurai helmets instead of European crowns, Asian dragon instead of European dragon, etc.). However, Japanese culture being as hidebound to tradition as it is, such improvements to the game will likely never be accepted in Japan, or by any "serious" players of the game who, like most chess masters, abhor change.

• #18

You are right Berni. The first one was a trap for me, since I was mentally considering a promotion and forgot about the restrictions I, myself, imposed. The second one was a change I made a the last minute, so that the error went unnoticed.

As for the graphics, I can try to tweak it to be used in BCM if you're intentioning to make it available with the program. Or I can make them available to you in layers, so that you can play with them. The best advantage is that the resolution is much bigger than what is displayed here, so that you would be able to fill a high resolution monitor with the Shogi board if your program is able to deal with big images.

Vivinsky and wafflemaster, look at the following image:

it didn't mean anything to me when I first saw Shogi or Chess, yet I was able to just associate the basic shape with the pattern of moves. You can use mnemonics like associating the Gold General main shape (presented here) with a house, for instance. Play a few games and those shapes become second nature.

• #19

zslane, I must agree that chess pieces, at a first glimpse, are most noticeably different from one another, but it doesn't take long for a player to not confound a gold with a silver general. What makes shogi board more difficult to read, IMHO, is the fact that drops make the board more convoluted and the lack of colors, which you justify very well in your post.

I always worked with graphics and I thought about making a more abstract and stylised western shogi set, since I think that Hidetchi's, even being a very nice initiative to promote the game, look a little cartoonish; forms must be a little more abstract or you get the feel of a game made for kids. Stauton chess sets are much more "mature" in terms of design; the same is true for traditional kanjis (not trying to discuss if they are appropriate, here) used in Shogi. Yet, as you have said, I doubt that japanese players would accept such a change, as wouldn't chess players accept a very different set in official tournaments.

I think that a well designed western chess could, perhaps, introduce people to the game, until they discover that playing with kanjis isn't as difficult as they tought, at first. I'm not a great Shogi player, but I have no trouble in using them. In fact, I used to avoid playing in littlegolem, which is the best turn-based shogi site for english speaking players, because I couldn't addapt to western set, the only one they had available. When I said that I couldn't addapt, I meant that I had trouble to visualize patterns on my first game and, since I really don't like them, it wasn't worth the effort. Now there is a google chrome extension for traditional pieces.

• #20

After a lot of repetition, I too have come to internalize the kanji characters and which pieces they represent. However, it still stands that alphabetic characters, regardless of typeface, are less mnemonically useful than object icons. When you see many game pieces in close proximity and at a distance it all looks like a mass of indistinguishable line strokes, which I (and anyone who understands graphic design, especially for games) consider poor physical design.

Case in point, if you watch Hidetchi's first video lesson on how to play Shogi, he dumps the traditional 2-kanji piece set he owns onto the board in a pile and then searches for particular pieces. It is clear that even though he knows the kanji intimately, both because he is a Japanese adult and because he has a 5-dan amateur ranking and knows Shogi very well, even he has difficulty sifting through the pieces finding the ones he wants. No matter how you spin it, the kanji symbols are not very clear or easy to visually parse, even if you know what they stand for.

Imagine a chess game diagram in which the pieces are not color coded and in which ornate, medieval-style gothic letters are used to represent the pieces. Nobody in their right mind would consider that ideal, or preferred, over the Staunton icons we use today. They are not cartoonish unless you have some sort of irrational bias against icons in general. A picture of a horse's head is culture-neutral, easy to visually parse, and conveys the notion of "knight" far better than a bunch of arbitrary letterform strokes. I regard this as so self-evident that it amazes me it needs to be explained at all, much less argued for rhetorically.

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