I learned shogi a couple of years after finishing high school. I had just turned twenty, and a Japanese friend who was tired of losing chess games to me pulled out his shogi board and taught me Japanese Chess. Of course, he won all the shogi matches we played.
When he and I were no longer living together, we never found time to play shogi. This was in the days before the Internet, so finding anyone new to play shogi with was nearly impossible. So few Americans even know what shogi is, that it is very difficult to meet new shogi players.
As I’ve mentioned many times, shogi is an ancient game. Millions of people have played shogi over its 800 year history. Anything with that much history is bound to pick up some traditions. One of the greatly loved traditions are the shogi proverbs.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Black: Esther White: Terrance 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: Read more
Portable Shogi Notation (PSN) Specification (Draft 1 – accepting comments and CONSTRUCTIVE criticism) ——————– (last updated, January 22, 2015)
compatibility with current Portable Shogi Notation file conventions
free opensource reference implementations in common programming languages to encourage compliance to current standard
information on *.kif to *.psn and *.psn to *.kif file format conversion
conventions for common and custom attribute/value declarations in game records
conventions for commenting games
conventions for recording standard and non standard shogi variations
Internet Sources ——————–
This document and the PSN reference implementation are located at, http://japanesechess.org/psn_white_sheet.php and, http://sourceforge.net/projects/psn-library/ respectively.
Rules For Creation of PSN Files ——————–
Clarity. Always mark a move with enough detail that the move is unambiguous.
Extraneous information is always optional. For instance, if stating the token and the final location makes it obvious what move took place, you are not required (though encouraged) to add information specifying what move resulted in the final location.
Ambiguous notation is deprecated. In older PSN files, you may see moves specified that could describe more than one possible move. In all cases, ambiguous move notation is unsupported in modern PSN.
These days, most computers, browsers, and mobile devices disable Applets intentionally. (Rumor has it that the reason Applets were shut down is that Java’s creator didn’t pay Washington the proper protection money, but that’s just the rumor.) If you’re lucky enough to still own a computer that works with Applets, this shogi Applet is a great way to get started learning shogi. I taught my children shogi using it, so it gets the job done.