What is Shogi(将棋)? Shogi is Japanese Chess

Posted: 02/02/2019 Updated:

What is "shogi"?
"Shogi" is the most popular board game in Japan, and it's like chess.

This article describes the feature of Japanese chess: shogi.

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What is Shogi? Japanese Chess

Shogi is a Japanese traditional board game called Japanese chess. It's the most popular board game in Japan. Most Japanese, especially males,  know the rule of shogi.

Shogi requires players to use eight kinds of pieces and one board. The pieces and board are made of wood. The pieces are pentagons, with kanji written (Kanji is a type of character used in Japan and China). The pieces and board are not just game equipment but are also enjoyed as a beautiful craft product.

【Fig1 Peices and a board of shogi】

【Fig1 Pieces and a board of shogi】

Kanji is so difficult that I can't read it.


Difference between Shogi and Chess

What is different between shogi and chess?

Captured Pieces

In chess, captured pieces are out of the game. In shogi, however, captured pieces are not out of the game, and are in hand of the capturing player. The player can drop the captured piece onto any vacant space of the board on any turn instead of moving pieces on the board. Therefore, in shogi, piece exchanges complicate the game.

Promotion Rule

In chess, only the pawn can promote, and it can promote to any other pieces like a queen. However, in shogi, almost all pieces can promote, and they can promote to one kind of pieces. In shogi, promotion is easier than chess, mainly because the promotion zone is larger than that in chess.

Special Movement

In chess, there is a special movement of pieces. For example, a pawn can move two squares at the beginning, a pawn can only move diagonally when capturing a piece, or a king can especially move with castling system. In shogi, there is no special movement rule.

Handicap System

Shogi has a handicap system. In any handicap game, some pieces of a stronger player are removed from the setup.

The biggest difference between shogi and chess is the rule of captured pieces. This rule complicates the shogi game


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Rating System

In chess, the rating system is generally adopted. However, in shogi, the rating system is not common, and "Dan(段)" and "Kyu(級)" ranking system is adopted. The weakest rank is 10 kyu, 9 kyu is higher than 10 kyu, and 8 kyu is higher than 9kyu. Next grade of 1kyu is 1 dan, 2 dan is higher than 1 dan, 3 dan is higher than 2 dan.

Many amateur shogi players aim for 1 dan. 1 dan is top 30% player.

This dan and kyu ranking system is also used in Japanese traditional sports like judo or karate.


Professional Shogi Player

In Japan, there is a professional league of shogi, and this league is broadcast on television. The two strongest players are called "Meijin(名人)" or "Ryuoh(竜王)," respectively. "Meijin(名人)" means "grand master," and "Ryuoh(竜王)" means "dragon king" in Japanese.



Did you understand what shogi is like?

Yes! I like Japanese culture, and I like board games. So I’m currently eager to be able to play shogi!

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I’m Konan, and I live in Tokyo, Japan. I would like to tell you how interesting shogi is on this blog.