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Shogi, The General’s Board Game – Shogi Rules and Strategies

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

This will be the last part of the Shogi series. In case you missed the first posts about shogi, here they are: History and Origin, Shogi Pieces, Board and Gameplay. In this post, we will learn more about the shogi rules and strategies.


Like the chess, shogi is enjoyed by the Japanese people of all ages. Image from AC-Illust

Shogi Terms


One characteristic of shogi that differentiates it from the chess is the idea of drops. Captured pieces are retained in hand, and can be brought back into play under the capturing player’s control. On any turn, instead of moving a piece on the board, a player may select a piece in hand and place it unpromoted side up and facing the opposing side on any empty square. The piece is then one of that player’s active pieces on the board and can be moved accordingly. This is called dropping the piece, or simply, a drop. A drop counts as a complete move.

Drop Restrictions

A drop cannot capture a piece, nor does dropping within the promotion zone result in immediate promotion. Capture and/or promotion may occur normally, however, on subsequent moves of the piece.

A pawn, knight, or lance may not be dropped on the furthest rank, since those pieces would have no legal moves on subsequent turns. For the same reason, a knight may not be dropped on the penultimate (player’s 8th) rank.

There are two additional restrictions when dropping pawns Nifu (二歩) and Uchifuzume (打ち歩詰め). Nifu restricts dropping of pawn onto a file (column) containing another unpromoted pawn of the same player (promoted pawns do not count). A player with an unpromoted pawn on every file is therefore unable to drop a pawn anywhere. Uchifuzume restricts dropping of a pawn to give an immediate checkmate. A pawn may, however, be dropped to give immediate check.

Checkmate (Tsumi)

When a player’s move threatens to capture the opposing king on the next turn, the move is said to give check to the king; the king is said to be in check. If a player’s king is in check, that player’s responding move must remove the check if possible; if no such move exists, the checking move is also checkmate (tsumi 詰み) and immediately wins the game. The losing player should resign out of courtesy at this point, although in practice this rarely occurs, as players normally resign as soon as a loss is deemed inevitable.

To announce “check!” in Japanese, one says “ōte!” (王手). This is an influence of international chess and is not required, however, even as a courtesy. In professional and serious amateur games, a player who makes an illegal move loses immediately.

Repetition and Impasse

There are two other possible, if uncommon, ways for a game to end: repetition and impasse. Repetition (千日手 sennichite) is if the same game position occurs four times with the same player to move, either player loses if his or her moves during the repetition are all checks, otherwise the game is considered a draw. Impasse (持将棋 jishōgi) is if both kings have advanced into their respective promotion zones and neither player can hope to mate the other or to gain any further material. If this happens, the winner is decided as follows: Each rook or bishop, promoted or not, scores 5 points for the owning player, and all other pieces except kings score 1 point each. A player scoring fewer than 24 points loses. Jishōgi is considered an outcome in its own right rather than no contest, but there is no practical difference.

1. Shogi Rules. Wikipedia

2. Featured image from Wikimedia Commons.

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