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Shogi, The General’s Board Game – Shogi Pieces

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

Last time, we talked about the history and origin of the game shogi. In this post, we will learn the pieces use in shogi.

Shogi Overview

Shogi is a game played between two players: Sente (先手, Black) and Gote (後手, White). The shogi board is composed of rectangles in a grid of 9 ranks (rows) by 9 files (columns). The rectangles are undifferentiated by marking or color. The board is nearly always rectangular; square boards are uncommon. Pairs of dots mark the players’ promotion zones.

Each player has a set of 20 wedge-shaped pieces of slightly different sizes. Except for the kings, opposing pieces are undifferentiated by marking or color. Pieces face forward (toward the opponent’s side); this shows who controls the piece during play. The pieces from largest (most important) to smallest (least important) are: 1 king, 1 rook, 1 bishop, 2 gold generals, 2 silver generals, 2 knights, 2 lances, and 9 pawns. Some of the names mentioned above were chosen to correspond to their rough equivalents in international chess, and not as literal translations of the Japanese names.

Each piece has its name written on its surface in the form of two kanji, usually in black ink. On the reverse side of each piece, other than the king and gold general, are one or two other characters, in amateur sets often in a different color (usually red); this side is turned face up during play to indicate that the piece has been promoted.

Shogi Pieces

  1. King (higher ranked player or reigning champion), Kanji: 王將 (ōshō)

Shogi_osho

  1. King (lower ranked player or challenger), Kanji: 玉將 (gyokushō)

Shogi_gyokusho

  1. Rook, Kanji: 飛車 (hisha)

Shogi_hisha

  1. Promoted rook (“Dragon”), Kanji: 龍王 (ryūō)

Shogi_ryuo

  1. Bishop, Kanji: 角行 (kakugyō)

Shogi_kakugyo

  1. Promoted bishop (“Horse”), Kanji: 龍馬 (ryūma or ryume)Shogi_ryuma
  1. Gold general (“Gold”), Kanji: 金将 (kinshō)Shogi_kinsho
  1. Silver general (“Silver”), Kanji: 銀将 (ginshō)Shogi_ginsho
  1. Promoted silver, Kanji: 成銀 (narigin)Shogi_narigin
  1. Knight, Kanji: 桂馬 (keima)Shogi_keima
  1. Promoted knight, Kanji: 成桂 (narikei)Shogi_narikei
  1. Lance, Kanji: 香車 (kyōsha)Shogi_kyosha
  1. Promoted lance, Kanji: 成香 (narikyō)Shogi_narikyo
  1. Pawn, Kanji: 歩兵 (fuhyō)Shogi_fuhyo
  1. Promoted pawn (“tokin”), Kanji: と金 (tokin)Shogi_tokin

Notes

The characters inscribed on the reverse sides of the pieces to indicate promotion may be in red ink, and are usually cursive. The characters on the backs of the pieces that promote to gold generals are cursive variants of 金 ‘gold’, becoming more cursive (more abbreviated) as the value of the original piece decreases. These cursive forms have these equivalents in print: 全 for promoted silver, 今 for promoted knight, 仝 for promoted lance, and 个 for promoted pawn (tokin). Another typographic convention has abbreviated versions of the original values, with a reduced number of strokes: 圭 for a promoted knight (桂), 杏 for a promoted lance (香), and the 全 as above for a promoted silver, but と for tokin.

 In the next post, we will learn about the gameboard and how each piece moves.

Reference:

1. Shogi. Wikipedia.

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