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A game of shogi using a magnetic travel set. Captured pieces in the tray (bottom-center) can be dropped into play on the board by the capturer.
Genre(s) Board game
Abstract strategy game
Players 2
Age range 5+
Playing time 30 mins. to 2 hours (typically)
Random chance None
Skill(s) required Strategy, tactics
Synonym(s) Japanese chess
The Generals' Game

Shogi (将棋 shōgi) (, Japanese:  or ), also known as Japanese chess or the Generals' Game, is a two-player strategy board game in the same family as Western (international) chess, chaturanga, makruk, shatranj and xiangqi, and is the most popular of a family of chess variants native to Japan. Shōgi means general's (shō 将) board game (gi 棋).

The earliest predecessor of the game, chaturanga, originated in India in the 6th century, and sometime in the 10th to 12th centuries xiangqi (Chinese chess) was brought to Japan where it spawned a number of variants. Shogi in its present form was played as early as the 16th century, while a direct ancestor without the "drop rule" was recorded from 1210 in a historical document Nichūreki, which is an edited copy of Shōchūreki and Kaichūreki from the late Heian period (c. 1120).

According to The Chess Variant Pages :

Perhaps the enduring popularity of shogi can be attributed to its "drop rule"; it was the first chess variant wherein captured pieces could be returned to the board to be used as one's own. David Pritchard credits the drop rule to the practice of 16th century mercenaries who switched loyalties when captured - no doubt as an alternative to execution.


A traditional shōgi-ban (shogi board) displaying a set of koma (pieces). The pieces on the far side are turned to show their promoted values. The stands on either side are komadai used to hold captured pieces. The board itself is raised for the comfort of players seated on tatami mats (background), and is hollowed underneath to produce a pleasing sound when the pieces are moved.

Two players, Sente 先手 (Black; more literally, person with the first move) and Gote 後手 (White; person with the second move), play on a board 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:

Several of these names 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 (Chinese characters used in Japanese), 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.

The suggestion that the Japanese characters have deterred Western players from learning shogi has led to "Westernized" or "international" pieces which use iconic symbols instead of characters. Most players soon learn to recognize the characters, however, partially because the traditional pieces are already iconic by size, with more powerful pieces being larger. As a result, Westernized pieces have never become popular. Bilingual pieces with both Japanese characters and English captions have been developed.

Following is a table of the pieces with their Japanese representations and English equivalents. The abbreviations are used for game notation and often when referring to the pieces in speech in Japanese.

Closeup of shogi pieces. Top: +R, R, K (reigning), K (challenging), B, +B. Bottom: +L, L, +S, S, G, N, +N, P, +P.

English name Image Kanji Rōmaji Meaning Abbreviations Betza notation
(higher ranked player or reigning champion)
  王將 ōshō king general K ō K
(lower ranked player or challenger)
  玉將 gyokushō jeweled general K gyoku K
Rook   飛車 hisha flying chariot R hi R
Promoted rook
  龍王 ryūō dragon king +R 龍 or 竜* ryū FR
Bishop 角行 kakugyō angle mover B kaku B
Promoted bishop
龍馬 ryūma or ryume dragon horse +B uma WB
Gold general
金將 kinshō gold general G kin WfF
Silver general
銀將 ginshō silver general S gin FfW
Promoted silver 成銀 narigin promoted silver +S (全) - WfF
Knight 桂馬 keima cassia horse N kei ffN
Promoted knight 成桂 narikei promoted cassia +N (圭 or 今) - WfF
Lance 香車 kyōsha incense chariot L kyō fR
Promoted lance 成香 narikyō promoted incense +L (杏 or 仝) - WfF
Pawn 歩兵 fuhyō foot soldier P fu fW
Promoted pawn
と金 tokin reaches gold +P と (or 个) to WfF

* The kanji 竜 is a simplified form of 龍.

English speakers sometimes refer to promoted bishops as horses and promoted rooks as dragons, after their Japanese names, and generally use the Japanese term tokin for promoted pawns. Silver generals and gold generals are commonly referred to simply as silvers and golds.

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.

Setup and gameplay

The starting setup of shogi; Black (at bottom) moves first.

Each player sets up his pieces facing forward (toward his opponent).

That is, the first rank is
 L   N   S   G   K   G   S   N   L 

Traditionally, even the order of placing the pieces on the board is determined. There are two commonly used orders, Ohashi and Ito. Placement sets pieces with multiples (generals, knights, lances) from left to right in all cases, and follows the order:

  1. king
  2. gold generals
  3. silver generals
  4. knights
In ito, the player now places:
5.  pawns (left to right starting from the leftmost file)
6.  lances
7.  bishop
8.  rook
In ohashi, the player now places:
5.  lances
6.  bishop
7.  rook
8.  pawns (starting from center file, then alternating left to right one file at a time)

One player takes Black and moves first; then players alternate turns. (The terms "Black" and "White" are used to differentiate sides although there is no difference in the color of the pieces.) For each turn a player may either move a piece that is currently on the board (and potentially promote it, capture an opposing piece, or both) or else "drop" a piece that has been previously captured onto an empty square of the board. These options are explained below.

Professional games are timed as in international chess, but professionals are never expected to keep time in their games. Instead a timekeeper is assigned, typically an apprentice professional. Time limits are much longer than in international chess (9 hours a side plus extra time in the prestigious Meijin title match), and in addition byōyomi (literally "second counting") is employed. This means that when the ordinary time has run out, the player will from that point on have a certain amount of time to complete every move (a byōyomi period), typically upwards of one minute. The final ten seconds are counted down, and if the time expires the player to move loses the game immediately. Amateurs often play with electronic clocks that beep out the final ten seconds of a byōyomi period, with a prolonged beep for the last five.

An illegal move results in an immediate loss of the game in professional and tournament shogi, even if play continued and the move was discovered later in game. However, if neither opposition nor third party points out, and the opposition later resigned, the resignation stands as the result.



Most shogi pieces can move only to an adjacent square. A few may move across the board, and one jumps over intervening pieces. Shogi pieces capture the same as they move.

Every piece blocks the movement of all other non-jumping pieces through the square it occupies. If a piece occupies a legal destination for an opposing piece, it may be captured by removing it from the board and replacing it with the opposing piece. The capturing piece may not continue beyond that square on that turn.

It is common to keep captured pieces on a wooden stand (or komadai) which is traditionally placed so that its bottom left corner aligns with the bottom right corner of the board from the perspective of each player. It is not permissible to hide pieces from full view. This is because captured pieces, which are said to be "pieces in hand" (持ち駒 mochi goma), have a crucial impact on the course of the game.

The knight jumps, that is, it passes over any intervening piece, whether friend or foe, without an effect on either. It is the only piece to do this.

The lance, bishop, and rook are ranging pieces: They can move any number of squares along a straight line limited only by intervening pieces and the edge of the board. If an opposing piece intervenes, it may be captured by removing it from the board and replacing it with the moving piece. If a friendly piece intervenes, the moving piece must stop short of that square; if the friendly piece is adjacent, the moving piece may not move in that direction at all.

All pieces but the knight move either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. These directions cannot be combined in a single move; one direction must be chosen.

Normally when moving a piece, a player snaps it to the board with the ends of the fingers of the same hand. This makes a sudden sound effect, bringing the piece to the attention of the opponent. This is also true for capturing and dropping pieces. On a traditional shogi-ban, the pitch of the snap is deeper, delivering a subtler effect.

Steps to an adjacent square
Jumps to a non-adjacent square, bypassing any intervening piece
Ranges along a straight line, crossing any number of empty squares


A king moves one square in any direction, orthogonal or diagonal.


A rook moves any number of squares in an orthogonal direction.


A bishop moves any number of squares in a diagonal direction.

Because they cannot move orthogonally, the players' unpromoted bishops can reach only half the squares of the board, unless one is captured and then dropped.

Gold general

A gold general moves one square orthogonally, or one square diagonally forward, giving it six possible destinations. It cannot move diagonally backwards.

Silver general

A silver general moves one square diagonally, or one square straight forward, giving it five possible destinations.

Because an unpromoted silver can retreat more easily than a promoted one, it is common to leave a silver unpromoted at the far side of the board (see Promotion).


A knight jumps at an angle intermediate to orthogonal and diagonal, amounting to one square straight forward plus one square diagonally forward, in a single move. Thus the knight has two possible forward destinations. The knight cannot move to the sides or in a backwards direction.

The knight is the only piece that ignores intervening pieces on the way to its destination. It is not blocked from moving if the square in front of it is occupied, but neither can it capture a piece on that square.

It is often useful to leave a knight unpromoted at the far side of the board. A knight must promote, however, if it reaches either of the two furthest ranks (see Promotion).


A lance moves any number of squares directly forward. It cannot move backwards or to the sides.

It is often useful to leave a lance unpromoted at the far side of the board . A lance must promote, however, if it arrives at the furthest rank (see Promotion).


A pawn moves one square straight forward. It cannot retreat. Unlike international chess pawns, shogi pawns capture the same as they move.

A pawn must promote if it arrives at the furthest rank (see Promotion). In practice, however, a pawn is usually promoted whenever possible.

There are two restrictions on where a pawn may be dropped (see Drops).


A player's promotion zone (green)

A player's promotion zone consists of the furthest one-third of the board - the three ranks occupied by the opponent's pieces at setup. The zone is typically delineated on shogi boards by two inscribed dots. When a piece is moved, if part of the piece's path lies within the promotion zone (that is, if the piece moves into, out of, or wholly within the zone; but not if it is dropped into the zone - see Drops), then the player has the option to promote the piece at the end of the turn. Promotion is indicated by turning the piece over after it moves, revealing the character of the promoted piece.

If a pawn or lance is moved to the furthest rank, or a knight is moved to either of the two furthest ranks, that piece must promote (otherwise, it would have no legal move on subsequent turns). A silver general is never required to promote, and it is often advantageous to keep a silver general unpromoted. (It is easier, for example, to extract an unpromoted silver from behind enemy lines; whereas a promoted silver, with only one line of retreat, can be easily blocked.)

Promoting a piece changes the way it moves. The various pieces promote as follows:

When captured, a piece loses its promoted status. Otherwise promotion is permanent.

Promoted rook

A promoted rook ("dragon king", Ryūō) moves as a rook or as a king, but not as both on the same turn.

Promoted bishop

A promoted bishop ("dragon horse", Ryūma) moves as a bishop or as a king, but not as both on the same turn.

Promoted silver

A promoted silver (narigin) moves the same as a gold general.

Promoted knight

A promoted knight (narikei) moves the same as a gold general.

Promoted lance

A promoted lance (narikyō) moves the same as a gold general.

Promoted pawn

A promoted pawn (tokin) moves the same as a gold general.


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.

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:

  1. Nifu (Japanese: 二歩): A pawn cannot be dropped 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. For this reason it is common to sacrifice a pawn in order to gain flexibility for drops.
  2. Uchifuzume (Japanese: 打ち歩詰め): A pawn cannot be dropped to give an immediate checkmate. (Although other pieces may be dropped to give immediate checkmate.) A pawn may, however, be dropped to give immediate check.

It is common for players to swap bishops, which oppose each other across the board, early in the game. This leaves each player with a bishop in hand to be dropped later. The ability for drops in shogi give the game tactical richness and complexity. The fact that no piece ever goes entirely out of play accounts for the rarity of draws.


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.

There are two other possible, if uncommon, ways for a game to end: repetition (千日手 sennichite) and impasse (持将棋 jishōgi):

As this impasse generally needs to be agreed on for the rule to be invoked, a player may refuse to do so, on the grounds that the player could gain further material or position before an outcome has to be decided. If that happens, one player may force jishōgi upon getting his king and all his pieces protected in the promotion zone.

In professional tournaments the rules typically require drawn games to be replayed with colors (sides) reversed, possibly with reduced time limits. This is rare compared to chess and xiangqi, occurring at a rate of 1-2% even in amateur games. The 1982 Meijin title match between Makoto Nakahara and Hifumi Kato was unusual in this regard, with jishōgi in the first game (only the fifth draw in the then 40-year history of the tournament), a game which lasted for 223 moves (not counting in pairs of moves), with 114 minutes spent pondering a single move, and sennichite in the sixth and eighth games. Thus this best-of-seven match lasted eight games and took over three months to finish; Black did not lose a single game and the eventual victor was Kato at 4-3.

Player rank and handicaps

Amateur players are ranked from 15 kyū to 1 kyū and then from 1 dan and to 8 dan. Amateur 8 dan was only honorarily given to famous people. It's now possible to win amateur 8 dan by actual strength (winning amateur Ryu-oh 3 times), this has yet to be achieved.

Professional players operate with their own scale, from 6 kyū to 3 dan for pro-aspiring players and professional 4 dan to 9 dan for formal professional players. Amateur and professional ranks are offset (with amateur 4 dan being equivalent to professional 6 kyū).

Games between players of disparate strengths are often played with handicaps. In a handicap game, one or more of White's pieces are removed from the setup, and in exchange White plays first. Note that the missing pieces are not available for drops and play no further part in the game. The imbalance created by this method of handicapping is not as strong as it is in international chess because material advantage is not as powerful in shogi.

Common handicaps, in increasing order of severity, include the following:

Other handicaps are also occasionally used, especially when teaching the game to new players. The relationship between handicaps and differences in rank is not universally agreed upon, with several systems in use.

If a jishōgi occurs in a handicap game, the removed pieces are counted towards White's total.


The method used in English-language texts to express shogi moves was established by George Hodges in 1976. It is derived from the algebraic notation used for chess, but differs in several respects. It is not used in Japanese-language texts, as it is no more concise than traditional notation with kanji and two ciphers which was originated in Edo period.

A typical move might be notated P-8f. The first letter represents the piece moved: P for Pawn. (There is also L/lance, N/knight, S/silver, G/gold, B/bishop, R/rook, and K/king.) Promoted pieces are indicated by a + preceding the letter: +P is a tokin (promoted pawn).

Following the abbreviation for the piece is a symbol for the type of move: - (hyphen) for a simple move, x for a capture, or * (asterisk) for a drop. Next is the square on which the piece lands. This is indicated by a numeral for the file and a lowercase letter for the rank, with 1a being the top right corner (Black's perspective) and 9i being the bottom left corner. This is based on Japanese convention, which, however, uses Japanese numerals instead of letters. (For example, square 2c is "2三" in Japanese.)

If a move entitles the player to promote, then a + is added to the end if the promotion was taken, or an = if it was declined. For example, Nx7c= indicates a knight capturing on 7c without promoting.

In cases where the piece is ambiguous, the starting square is added to the letter for the piece. For example, at setup Black has two golds which can move to square 5h (in front of the king). These are distinguished as G6i-5h (from the left) and G4i-5h (from the right).

Moves are numbered per player's move, unlike chess which counts each pair of moves as one move. For example, the start of a game might look like this:

Notation in Roman characters Notation in Japanese
1. P-7f   2. P-3d
3. P-2f   4. G-3b
5. P-2e   6. Bx8h+
7. Sx8h   8. S-2b
1. 7六歩 (7-6; P)      2. 3四歩 (3-4; P)
3. 2六歩 (2-6; P)      4. 3二金 (3-2; G)
5. 2五歩 (2-5; P)      6. 8八角成 (8-8; B Promoted)
7. 同銀  (Re-capture; S) 8. 2二銀 (2-2; S)

In handicap games White plays first, so Black's move 1 is replaced by an ellipsis.

Strategy and tactics

Read main article: Shogi strategy and tactics

Shogi is similar to chess but has a much larger game tree complexity because of the use of drops. Like chess, however, the game can be divided into the opening, middle game and endgame, each requiring a different strategy. The opening consists of arranging one's defenses and positioning for attack, the mid game consists of attempting to break through the opposing defenses while maintaining one's own, and the end game starts when one side's defenses have been compromised.


Read main article: History of shogi

Shogi variants
Standard shogi (9x9, drops)
Small variants
Standard-size variants
Large variants
Multiplayer variants
3D variants

From The Chess Variant Pages:

The world's first chess variant chaturanga arose in India in approximately the seventh century AD. From there it migrated both westward and northward, mutating along the way. The western branch became shatranj in Arabia and Orthodox Chess in Europe. The northern branch became xiangqi in China and janggi in Korea. Sometime in the 10th to 12th centuries, 'chess' crossed the channel to Japan where it spawned a number of interesting variants. One of these was called 'Small Shogi'. Eventually, Small Shogi (though it went through many forms) won out over the larger variants and is now referred to simply as 'Shogi'. It is certain that Shogi in its present form was played in Japan as early as the 16th century.

It is not clear when chess was brought to Japan. The earliest generally accepted mention of shogi is Shin Saru Gakuki (新猿楽記) (1058-64) by Fujiwara Akihira. The oldest archaeological evidence is a group of 16 shogi pieces excavated from the grounds of Kōfuku-ji in Nara Prefecture. As it was physically associated with a wooden tablet written on in the sixth year of Tenki (1058), the pieces are thought to date from that period. These simple pieces were cut from a writing plaque in the same five-sided shape as modern pieces, with the names of the pieces written on them.

The dictionary of common folk culture, Nichūreki (二中歴) (c. 1210-21), a collection based on the two works Shōchūreki (掌中歴) and Kaichūreki (懐中歴), describes two forms of shogi, large (dai) shogi and small (shō) shogi. These are now called Heian shogi (or Heian small shogi) and Heian dai shogi. Heian small shogi is the version on which modern shogi is based, but the Nichūreki states that one wins if one's opponent is reduced to a single king, indicating that drops had not yet been introduced. According to Kōji Shimizu, chief researcher at the Archaeological Institute of Kashihara, Nara Prefecture, the names of the Heian shogi pieces keep those of chaturanga (general, elephant, horse, chariot and soldier), and add to them the five treasures of Buddhism (jade, gold, silver, katsura tree, and incense).

Around the 13th century the game of dai shogi developed, created by increasing the number of pieces in Heian shogi, as was sho shogi, which added the rook, bishop, and drunken elephant from dai shogi to Heian shogi. Around the 15th century, the rules of dai shogi were simplified, creating the game of chu shogi in a form close to the modern game. It is thought that the rules of standard shogi were fixed in the 16th century, when the drunken elephant was removed from the set of pieces. There is no clear record of when drops were introduced, however.

In the Edo period, shogi variants were greatly expanded: tenjiku shogi, dai dai shogi, maka dai dai shogi, tai shogi, and taikyoku shogi were all invented. It is thought that these were played to only a very limited extent, however. Both standard shogi and Go were promoted by the Tokugawa shogunate. In 1612, the shogunate passed a law giving endowments to top shogi players (Meijin (名人)). During the reign of the eighth shogun, Tokugawa Yoshimune, castle shogi tournaments were held once a year on the 17th day of Kannazuki, corresponding to November 17, which is Shogi Day on the modern calendar.

The title of meijin became hereditary in the Ōhashi and Itō families until the fall of the shogunate, when it came to be passed by recommendation. Today the title is used for the winner of the Meijin-sen competition, the first modern title match. From around 1899, newspapers began to publish records of shogi matches, and high-ranking players formed alliances with the aim of having their games published. In 1909, the Shogi Association (将棋同盟社) was formed, and in 1924, the Tokyo Shogi Association (東京将棋連盟) was formed. This was an early incarnation of the modern Japan Shogi Association (日本将棋連盟 nihon shōgi renmei), or JSA, and 1924 is considered by the JSA to be the date it was founded.

In 1935, meijin Kinjirō Sekine stepped down, and the rank of meijin came to be awarded to the winner of a Meijin title match (名人戦 meijin-sen). Yoshio Kimura (木村義雄) became the first Meijin under this system in 1937. This was the start of the shogi title matches (see titleholder system). After the war other tournaments were promoted to title matches, culminating with the Ryūō title match (竜王戦 ryūō-sen) in 1988 for the modern line-up of seven. About 200 professional shogi players compete. Each year, the title holder defends the title against a challenger chosen from knockout or round matches.

After the Second World War, SCAP (occupational government mainly led by US) tried to eliminate all "feudal" factors from Japanese society and shogi was included in the possible list of items to be banned along with Bushido (philosophy of samurai) and other things. The reason for banning shogi for SCAP was its exceptional character as a board game seen in the usage of captured pieces. SCAP insisted that this could lead to the idea of prisoner abuse. But Kozo Masuda, then one of the top professional shogi players, when summoned to the SCAP headquarters for an investigation, criticized such understanding of shogi and insisted that it is not shogi but western chess that potentially contains the idea of prisoner abuse because it just kills the pieces of the opponent while shogi is rather democratic for giving prisoners the chance to get back into the game. Masuda also said that chess contradicts the ideal of gender equality in western society because the king shields itself behind the queen and runs away. Masuda’s assertion is said to have eventually led to the exemption of shogi from the list of items to be banned.

The closest cousin of shogi in the chaturanga family is makruk of Thailand. Not only the similarity in distribution and movements of the pieces but also the names of shogi pieces suggest intimacy between shogi and makruk by its Buddhist symbolism (gold, silver, Cassia and Incense), which is not recognized in Chinese chess at all. In fact, Chinese chess and its East Asian variants are far remoter relatives than makruk. Though some early variants of chaturanga more similar to shogi and makruk are known to have been played in Tang dynasty China, they are thought to have been extinguished in Song dynasty China and in East Asia except in Japan probably owing to the popularity of Chinese chess.

Tournament play

There are two organizations for shogi professional players in Japan: the JSA, and the Ladies Professional Shogi-players' Association of Japan (日本女子プロ将棋協会 nihon joshi puro shōgi kyōkai), or LPSA. The JSA is the primary organization for men and women's professional shogi while the LPSA is a group of women professionals who broke away from the JSA in 2007 to establish their own independent organization. Both organize tournaments for their members and have reached an agreement to cooperate with each other to promote shogi through events and other activities.

The JSA recognizes two categories of shogi professionals: Professional (棋士 "Kishi"), and Female Professional (女流棋士 "Joryūkishi"). Sometimes "kishi" are addressed as Seikishi (正棋士), a term from Go used to distinguish "kishi" from other classes of players. JSA professional ranks and female professional ranks are not equivalent and each has their own promotion criteria and ranking system. In 2006, the JSA officially granted women "professional status". This is not equivalent, however, to the more traditional way of "gaining professional status", i.e., being promoted from the "Shoreikai System" (奨励会): leagues of strong amateur players aspiring to become a professional. Rather, it is a separate system especially designed for female professionals. Qualified amateurs, regardless of gender, may apply for the "Shoreikai System" and all those who successfully "graduate" are granted "kishi" status; however, no woman has yet to accomplish this feat (the highest women have reached is Kana Satomi in "Shoreikai 3 dan league", currently one step away from "kishi" status), so "kishi" is de facto only used to refer to male shogi professionals.

The JSA is the only body which can organize tournaments for "professionals", e.g., the seven major tournaments in the titleholder system and other professional tournaments. In 1996, Yoshiharu Habu became the only "kishi" to hold all existing seven major titles at the same time. For female professionals, both the JSA and LPSA organize tournaments, either jointly or separately. Tournaments for amateurs may be organized by the JSA and LPSA as well as local clubs, newspapers, private corporations, educational institutions or municipal governments for cities or prefectures under the guidance of the JSA or LPSA.

Since the 1990s, shogi has grown in popularity outside Japan, particularly in the People's Republic of China, and especially in Shanghai. The January 2006 edition of Kindai Shogi (近代将棋) stated that there were 120,000 shogi players in Shanghai. The spread of the game to countries where Chinese characters are not in common use, however, has been slower.


Shogi players are expected to follow etiquette in addition to rules explicitly described. Commonly accepted etiquette include following:

Shogi piece set may contain two types of king pieces, 王 (king) and 玉 (jewel). In this case, the higher classed player, in either social or genuine shogi player rank, may take the king piece. For example, in titleholder system games, the current titleholder takes the king piece as the higher.

Computer shogi

Read main article: Computer shogi

Shogi has the highest game complexity of all popular chess variants. Computers have steadily improved in playing shogi since the 1970s. In 2007, champion Yoshiharu Habu estimated the strength of the 2006 world computer shogi champion Bonanza at the level of two-dan shoreikai.

The JSA prohibits its professionals from playing computers in public without prior permission, with the reason of promoting shogi and monetizing the computer-human events.

On October 12, 2010, after some 35 years of development, a computer finally beat a professional player, when the top ranked female champion Ichiyo Shimizu was beaten by the Akara2010 system in a game lasting just over 6 hours.

On July 24, 2011, computer shogi programs Bonanza and Akara crushed the amateur team of Kosaku and Shinoda in two games. The allotted time for the amateurs was one hour and then three minutes per move. The allotted time for the computer was 25 minutes and then 10 seconds per move.

On April 20, 2013, GPS Shogi defeated 8-dan professional shogi player Hiroyuki Miura in a 102-move game which lasted over 8 hours.

The highest rated player on Shogi Club 24 is computer program Bonkras, rated 3335 on December 2, 2011.

Shogi video games

Hundreds of video games were released exclusively in Japan for several consoles.

In popular culture

Shogi has been a central plot point in manga and anime Shion no Ō, manga and television series 81diver and manga March Comes in Like a Lion.

In the manga series Naruto, shogi plays an essential part in Shikamaru Nara's character development. He often plays it with his teacher, Asuma Sarutobi, apparently always beating him. When Asuma is fatally injured in battle, he reminds Shikamaru that the shogi king must always be protected, and draws a parallel between the king in shogi and his yet-unborn daughter, Mirai, whom he wanted Shikamaru to guide. After Asuma's death, Shikamaru realizes that Asuma really meant that the entire next generation of ninja should be protected.

The Japanese culture and lifestyle television show Begin Japanology aired on NHK World featured a full episode on shogi in 2009.

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