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Shogi, The General’s Board Game – Board and Gameplay

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/22 Traditional Culture

In our previous posts about shogi, we learned its history and the pieces that make the game. In this post, we will learn more about the moves of each piece.

Shogi Game Setup

Each player sets up his pieces facing forward (toward his opponent).

shogi

The traditional setup of shogi.

 

In the rank/line nearest the player:

  • the king is placed in the center file;
  • the two gold generals are placed in files adjacent to the king;
  • the two silver generals are placed adjacent to each gold general;
  • the two knights are placed adjacent to each silver general;
  • the two lances are placed in the corners, adjacent to each knight.

In the second rank, each player places:

  • the bishop in the same file as the left knight;
  • the rook in the same file as the right knight.

In the third rank, the nine pawns are placed one per file.

Traditionally, even the order of placing the pieces on the board is determined. There are two commonly used orders, Ohashi and Ito.[2] Placement sets pieces with multiples (generals, knights, lances) from left to right in all cases, and follows the order: king, gold generals, silver generals, knights. In ito, the player now places: pawns (left to right starting from the leftmost file), lances, bishop, and rook. In ohashi, the player places first the lances, bishop, rook, and then the pawns (starting from center file, then alternating left to right one file at a time).

One player takes Black and moves first; then players alternate turns. (The terms “Black” and “White” are used to differentiate sides although there is no difference in the color of the pieces.) For each turn a player may either move a piece that is currently on the board (and potentially promote it, capture an opposing piece, or both) or else “drop” a piece that has been previously captured onto an empty square of the board.

Shogi Pieces Movements

Like the chess, each different piece has its own movement.

King – Can move one space in any direction.

king

Rook – Can move any number of spaces horizontally or vertically. When promoted, can also move one space diagonally.

rookpromoted rook

Bishop – Can move any number of spaces diagonally. When promoted, can also move one space horizontally.

bishop

Gold General – Moves one space, but not backwards diagonal.

gold general

Silver General – Can’t move sideways or backwards. Becomes a Gold General upon promotion.

silver generalpromoted silver

Knight – Moves like a knight in chess, but only in a forward direction. Becomes a Gold General upon promotion.

knightpromoted knight

Lance – Can only move forward. Becomes a Gold General upon promotion.

lancepromoted lance

Pawn – Can only move one step forward. Becomes a Gold General upon promotion.

pawnprmoted pawn

Normally when moving a piece, a player snaps it to the board with the ends of the fingers of the same hand. This makes a sudden sound effect, bringing the piece to the attention of the opponent. This is also true for capturing and dropping pieces. On a traditional shogi-ban, the pitch of the snap is deeper, delivering a subtler effect.

Shogi Promotion

As you noticed, a piece’s move can be altered through promotion. What is promotion?

A player’s promotion zone consists of the furthest one-third of the board – the three ranks occupied by the opponent’s pieces at setup. When a piece is moved, if part of the piece’s path lies within the promotion zone, then the player has the option to promote the piece at the end of the turn. Promotion is indicated by turning the piece over after it moves, revealing the character of the promoted piece.

If a pawn or lance is moved to the furthest rank, or a knight is moved to either of the two furthest ranks, that piece must promote (otherwise, it would have no legal move on subsequent turns). A silver general is never required to promote.

We’ll discuss more of shogi terms in our next post!

References:

1. Shogi. Wikipedia.

2. Images from Wikimedia Commons.

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