Traditional Board Games


A modern travel shogi set.
A modern travel shogi set.

Shogi, or “the general's game”, is the form of chess popular in Japan. It is played on a board of nine rows of nine squares, each side having twenty pieces. It is unusual among chess variants in that captured pieces may be re-entered into the game on the captor's side; the pieces are formed in such a way that the piece's ownership is indicated by its direction of facing, not its colour.

History of Shogi

History of Shogi
Tradition says that shogi entered the country from China, probably after 1000 AD, though newer theories say it came from south-east Asia in somewhat earlier times. The board is usually made of wood, but occasionally paper diagrams are used instead. Pieces are punt-shaped and are of wood or ivory. Traditional sets are marked with Japanese characters, though westernised sets are available.

From the time of the shoguns, annual tournaments have been held, with the title of meijin going to the winner. In the past the game was most popular with the literate classes, but today the intellectual elite prefer go. There are about 10 million shogi players in Japan.

Rules for Shogi

Rules for Shogi
1. Shogi is played on a board of nine rows of nine cells, rectangular in shape, with four small marks dividing each player's territory from the neutral zone in the middle.

2. There are forty pieces all of the same colour, each having its original name on one side, and a promoted name on the other.

3. Each player starts with twenty pieces pointing towards his opponent: a jewelled general, two gold generals, two silver generals, two horses, two lancers, a chariot, a dragon and nine soldiers, laid out as shown in the diagram

4. The first move is decided by tossing a soldier, though subsequent games are begun by the previous winner.

5. The moves of the pieces are as follows:

(i). the jewelled general moves one square in any direction;

(ii). the gold general moves one square forward, backward, left, right or diagonally forward;

(iii). the silver general moves one square forward or one square diagonally;

(iv). the horse moves two squares forward then one square left or right, jumping over any intervening piece;

(v). the chariot moves any distance forward, backward, left or right, though cannot jump;

(vi). the dragon moves any distance diagonally, but cannot jump;

(vii). the lancer moves any distance forward, without jumping;

(viii). the soldier moves one square forward.

6. When a piece other than the jewelled or gold general moves into, within or out of enemy territory, it may optionally be promoted. Most pieces promote to a gold general, except the following:

(i). the chariot becomes a flying chariot, moving as before or one square diagonally;

(ii). the dragon becomes a dragon horse, moving as before or one square forward, backward, left or right.

7. A piece moving in enemy territory must promote if it could not move further in its present form. 8. An enemy piece is captured by landing on it.

9. Soldiers, as other pieces, move the same way in capturing as in making ordinary moves.

10. Instead of moving a piece, a player may opt to drop a piece he has previously captured, placing it as one of his own on any empty square of the board, with a few exceptions:

(i). only one unpromoted soldier may occupy a file at once;

(ii). a soldier may not be so placed as to give immediate check-mate, though giving check is allowed (see rule 12 for definitions);

(iii). a soldier, lance or horse cannot be placed on a square from which it could never move.

11. A piece so dropped takes its original value, even if dropped into enemy territory. 12. A player wins by threatening the enemy's jewelled general with capture (check) that the enemy has no way to avoid (check-mate).

13. A jewelled general threatened with capture must be moved or protected; failure to do so is considered as resignation of the game.

14. Similarly, moving the jewelled general into immediate danger also signifies resignation.

15. The game is drawn if a jewelled general enters enemy territory.

16. Perpetual check is not permitted; the player giving check must vary his move to avoid repetition.

17. Stalemate is not permitted; a player must leave his enemy room to move unless giving check-mate.


角 is usually translated as a Bishop instead of a Dragon. A Dragon is usually a promoted 飛.

飛 is usually translated as a Rook instead of a Chariot.

桂 is usually translated as a Knight instead of a Horse. A Horse is usually a promoted 角.

15 is wrong. The game is not always drawn if a jewelled general enters enemy territory. Please refer to the rules in English here.

As to 17, shogi does not have a concept of Stalemate. It's a concept of FIDE chess.

takodori - 22:17, 22/07/2015

Thanks for these corrections, takodori! I'll do the research and correct the page as soon as I can.

Damian Walker - 15:02, 10/09/2015

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