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!

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Speeding up Shogi

I’d love to play a game of shogi, but I don’t have time.

That’s a common complaint. We all have limited time, and an hour to play, even our favorite game, is hard to come by. And if one or more of the players tend to think for a long time on each move, forget about a quick game.

Shogi games between evenly matched opponents often take over a hundred moves to complete. They can even take hundreds of moves to finish. And, with shogi’s highly developed handicap system, all games tend to be between evenly matched opponents. The number of moves adds up to a long game, very quickly.

Speed up your games with a good digital clock and using byoyomi rules. These rules are typically applied to tournaments, but with small adjustments to the time allocations, can make a normally long game more manageable for anyone’s tight schedule.

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Hidetchi’s Shogi Dictionary

Any English speaker attempting serious study of shogi knows the biggest issue involved. It’s language. Most of the primary source material that shogi masters study is still only published in Japanese.

Those of us that take up the study of Japanese in an effort to overcome the language barrier learn very quickly, shogi has a unique vocabulary. Shogi specific phrases don’t translate well with online translation engines, and Japanese-English dictionaries don’t have many of the shogi specific terms needed for reading Japanese shogi texts. Not only do we have to overcome the barrier of learning Japanese, but we also have to learn a specific niche of Japanese vocabulary that isn’t found in standard textbooks and dictionaries.

Shogi Dictionary Cover
Shogi Dictionary by Hidetchi

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Shogi, shogi, shogi !!!

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 Naruto, 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.

Shogi has been a central plot point in the manga and anime Shion no Ō, the manga and anime March Comes in Like a Lion, and the manga and television drama 81diver.

In the manga and anime Durarara!!, 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.

In the video game Persona 5, 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.

I have to recommend March Comes in Like a Lion, 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.

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Shogi Arrives in America

The first known game of shogi in America took place in June of 1860 at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Japan had recently ended its 250 years of isolation, and sent a mission to the USA to ratify the Treaty of Friendship.

Japanese Embassy 1860
The attire worn to the Athenaeum by the Japanese delegation likely looked similar to what is worn by these 1860 delegates. It is not known if any of these delegates where among those visiting the Athenaeum.

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The Big Three Shogi Castles

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. Dead center means a dead king! Get the king off to a corner and protected, quickly.

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

Mino Shogi Castle
A properly formed mino castle is strong during creation
and has several alternative forms available after creation.

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Paper Shogi Boards

Years ago, I made up some PDFs you can print out to make shogi tokens and boards. Lots of people around the world have used these to learn shogi without incurring the expense of buying a board and pieces. They are a great cheap way of getting extra shogi boards for a school shogi club, too.

Shogi boards are a little hard to come by outside of Japan. If you’re looking to find one, I would recommend checking any local Oriental/Japanese specialty stores or ask a Japanese friend where he/she would look. Another good source is Ebay. Do a search on Shogi and see what offerings are out there. There are also some sites on the web that sell Shogi boards, but I’ve never used them so can’t give any advise about them.

Shogi boards tend to be made in Japan, for now, so are expensive imports. A good alternative is to make your own. That’s the focus of this page.

English speakers are use to board games that are played on boards made with a similar process as book covers. Think about it. If you examine many board games and compare them to the cover of hard cover books you’ll find they’re the same. Read more

Tsume: Japanese Chess Mating Puzzles

Tsume shogi, or just tsume for short, are Japanese chess mating puzzles. I just created a browsable tsume shogi database, so I thought it might be a good idea to explain tsume rules, background, and their benefits.

Imagine a situation where you are playing a much more skilled shogi player than yourself. You are losing. Your opponent will place you in checkmate in one move. You are desperate. Your only chance is to check your opponent, and keep him in check until you have a checkmate. Otherwise, you will lose the shogi game.

1 Move Tsume
This is a one-move tsume of my own creation. See if you can spot the checkmate.

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Tsumeshogi (詰将棋)

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.

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Teaching Shogi to Family

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.

Shogi Cat
My cat prefers to play ranging rook. In fact, all the pieces tend to range very quickly with her paws on the board.

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