Five Shogi Tips for Novices

You’ve played your first few games of shogi, and want some quick tips to impove your game. Shogi players range in skill from first-time players to fully professional players making their living off shogi play. Advanced strategies aren’t a good starting point for novice players. Here are five tips tailored for shogi begginers. These tips just might save your king.

Tip #1: Don’t Forget Drops

Every new shogi player has said it. “I forgot you could drop.” With a 9×9 board, and most pieces only moving one square at a time, it’s easy to mistakenly think of shogi as a slow moving game.

With the proper exchange and drop, a shogi pawn can cross the entire 9×9 board and assume the powers of a gold general in just a few moves. Drops make shogi an extremely fast paced game.

Watch out for drops!

Tip #2: A Sitting King is a Sitting Duck

Castling in Shogi is of prime importance. One of the worst places a king can be is where he starts the game. Get him out of there!

Three basic castle techniques are the mino, yagura, and the anaguma castles. Become familiar with these three castles and you will have a huge advantage over casual players that have not done their homework.

All three of the common shogi castling patterns place the king in a corner of the board. Common lightning fast attacks against kings in shogi involve dropping pieces to place the king in check. Mino, yagura, and anaguma castles all protect against dropped pieces as well as attacks from pieces already on the board.

Professional shogi players agree, around half of your pieces should defending your king in a castle. Send the rest of your pieces off to capture your opponent’s king. Once you choose your castling technique, you’ll know which pieces are free to attack and which pieces need to stay on defense.

Tip #3: Learn to Move Your Rook

There is an old shogi proverb that states, “Don’t put King and Rook close together.” The rook and king are your most important pieces. If they are close together, it becomes very easy for your opponent to set up a split. Nothing is more disheartening than having to sacrifice your rook to save your king. Get the king and rook apart early in the game, and try to keep them apart.

Tip #4: Clear Your Bishop’s Diagonals

Bishops start the game trapped. A lowly pawn can take out a bishop, if it’s diagonals are not cleared. Obviously, opening your diagonals invites attacks from your opponent’s bishop, if you are not careful, so keep that in mind while freeing up your bishop’s diagonals. While you’re at it, make sure your King stays off the diagnols that your opponent’s bishop can move along.

Tip #5: Play regularly

Shogi skills degrade quickly. Find people to practice with. There are plenty of online sites to play against people or computers. Also, there are plenty of apps out there that are strong enough to give a beginner a good challenge.

If you prefer to play in person, but only friends or family that differ in skill greatly from you, look into shogi’s handicap system. Shogi has a well developed handicap system that makes play again superiour or inferiour opponents fun and challenging.

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