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Shogi is a great game, but it is virtually unknown outside of Japan. If you undertook the task of designing equipment for Shogi with the sole objective of discouraging Chess players from wanting to learn it, it would be hard to improve on the traditional Shogi equipment. It is played on an 9 by 9 uncheckered board with flat five-sided pieces. Each piece has a Kanji character written on it, often in a cursive script that even Japanese people have difficulty reading. A new player must learn to read several Kanji characters, right-side-up and up-side-down.

To make this excellent game more attractive to the rest of the world, we have styled it to look more like Chess. Shogi and Chess have more similarities than differences. We recommend that you learn about the game in this form. If you like it, then you will want to learn the traditional form.

lanceknightsilver generalgold generalkinggold generalsilver generalknightlance
lanceknightsilver generalgold generalkinggold generalsilver generalknightlance

The Board

Shogi is played on a 9 by 9 uncheckered board. The three rows at the other end of the board form a promotion zone.


kingThe king (or Jade General) moves like the Chess king: one square horizontally or vertically or diagonally. There is no castling.

gold generalThe Gold General has moves similar to the king, except that it cannot take the back diagonals.

silver generalThe Silver General has moves similar to the king, except that it cannot move horizontally or directly backwards. It can move one space diagonally or forward.

knightThe knight (or Honored Horse) jumps like the Chess knight, except that it can only go two spaces forward and one space horizontally. It cannot jump back or to the side.

lanceThe lance (or Fragrant Chariot) moves like the Chess rook, except that it can only move forward. It cannot move horizontally or backwards.

rookThe rook (or Flying Chariot) moves like the Chess rook. It can go any number of spaces vertically or horizontally.

bishopThe bishop (or Horned Chariot) moves like the Chess bishop

pawn The pawn moves one space forward only. Unlike the pawn in Chess, this pawn does not capture diagonally. It captures the piece in front of it. It does not have the option to go two on its first move. There is no en passant capture.


In Chess, pawns can be promoted. In Shogi, all pieces except the king and the gold general can be promoted.

promoted pawn promoted lance promoted knight promoted silver general The promoted pawn, promoted lance, promoted knight, and promoted silver general all have the moves of the gold general.

dragon king The promoted rook becomes Dragon King (not to be confused with the king). It has the moves of the rook and the king.

dragon horse The promoted bishop becomes Dragon Horse (not to be confused with the knight). It has the moves of the bishop and the king.

Promotion can happen at the end of any move in which the piece enters, exits, or moves within the three-row promotion zone. Pawn and lance must be promoted when reaching the 9th row. Knight must be promoted when reaching the 8th or 9th row.


The most distinctive feature of Shogi is that captured pieces can be returned to play. Captured pieces change to the captor's color, and can be placed on an empty square (or "dropped") instead of moving a piece. Pieces are always dropped in their unpromoted state.

Pawns, lances, and knights cannot be dropped in the 9th row. Knights cannot be dropped in the 8th row.

You cannot drop a pawn into a column (or file) that already contains one of your unpromoted pawns.

A pawn cannot be dropped to give checkmate, although a pawn can be dropped to give check. Any other piece can be dropped to give checkmate.


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Cho-Yo. Shogi. Columbia University Press, 2001.

Falkener, David. Games Ancient and Oriental and How to Play Them. Dover, 1892.

Fairbairn, John. Shogi for Beginners. Kiseido Publishing Co., 1998.

Hooper, David and Whyld, Kenneth. The Oxford Companion to Chess. Oxford University Press, 1992.

Leggett, Trevor. Shogi: Japan's Game of Strategy. Charles E Tuttle Co., 1993.

Levy, David. Computer Gamesmanship. Simon and Schuster, 1983.

Li, David. The Genealogy of Chess. Premier Publishing, 1998.

Murray, H. J. R.. A History of Chess. Benjamin Press, 1913.

Parlett, David. The Oxford History of Board Games. Oxford University Press, 1999.

Pritchard, D. B.. The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants. Games and Puzzles Publications, 1994.

Pritchard, D. B.. Popular Chess Variants. B. T. Batsford Ltd, 2000.

See also