Chess… this is probably the most well-known comparison to Shogi in the western world. This game, played with 20 pieces has very similar rules to chess and the aim of the game is to capture the king. The term “Shogi” was created from the word “shogunate” and believed to mean “game of generals.” It was officially recognized by shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune who constantly had the game played in his castle and gave endowments to the undefeated players. Since its inception, Shogi has made its way into Japanese pop culture and anime such as Hunter x Hunter.
The first hint that early Shogi was played was in the year 1058 after shogi pieces were found at the pagoda of Kafuku-ji. It was thought to originate from the early form of Chinese chess. However, the game was not officially recognized by the Japanese government until 1612 and the rules were then established nationwide. This is why some believe its origin to be around the same time as European chess, approximately 500 years ago. However, from the evidence of the ancient pieces, early Shogi originated far beyond 1612. Now Shogi is played in many countries around the world after being popularized in the 1990’s. Shogi is a popular game in Japan and national tournaments are held annually. Since the shogun, Yoshimune made the game of Shogi all the rage, we now set November 17th as national Shogi Day as this is the date that he set the tournaments in his castle.
The game is played with two players, each with 20 pieces which include 1 king, 1 rook, 1 bishop, 2 gold generals, 2 lances, 2 silver generals, 9 pawns, and 2 knights. Each piece can move in a different pattern, some with the same rules as European chess and some different ones as well. Rather than the elaborately carved pieces you see in chess, Shogi pieces are flat with Japanese calligraphy on them indicating what rank the piece is. Your initial pattern tends to be spread over three lines, always with the same set up as your opponent. Once you are able to move your players into your opponent's three original rows, that piece can be promoted; this will allow the piece to move in different patterns and become more deadly. The aim is to capture your opponent’s king which will ultimately end the game.
While Shogi is an incredibly interesting game, its history prior the 1600s is still largely unknown. Shrouded in historical mystery, this game still contains many secrets. We bid you to take a break from your video games and try something a little different. These games still have their place in society and we hope that you will enjoy this one. As always, please feel free to leave comments below with your thoughts, feelings and musings. Thank you for reading and we hope that this article has encouraged you to try something new!