Shogi Shogi variants

Wa shogi

Wa shogi (和将棋, wa shōgi, peaceful chess) is a large board variant of shogi (Japanese chess) in which all of the pieces are named for animals. It is played either with or without drops.

Rules of the game


The objective of the game is to capture your opponent's crane king.

Game equipment

Two players, Black and White (or 先手 sente and 後手 gote), play on a board ruled into a grid of 11 ranks (rows) by 11 files (columns). The squares are undifferentiated by marking or color.

Each player has a set of 27 wedge-shaped pieces, of slightly different sizes. From largest to smallest (most to least powerful) they are:

Each piece has its name in the form of two kanji marked on its face. On the reverse side of each piece (other than crane kings, cloud eagles and treacherous foxes) are two other characters, often in a different color (e.g., red instead of black); this reverse side is turned up to indicate that the piece has been promoted during play. The pieces of the two sides do not differ in color, but instead each piece is shaped like a wedge, and faces forward, toward the opposing side. This shows who controls the piece during play.


Each side places his pieces in the positions shown below, pointing toward the opponent.

That is, the first rank is:


Game play

The players alternate making a move, with Black moving first. (The traditional terms 'black' and 'white' are used to differentiate the sides during discussion of the game, but are no longer literally descriptive.) A move consists of moving a single piece on the board and potentially promoting that piece or displacing (capturing) an opposing piece. Each of these options is detailed below.

Movement and capture

An opposing piece is captured by displacement: That is, if a piece moves to a square occupied by an opposing piece, the opposing piece is displaced and removed from the board. A piece cannot move to a square occupied by a friendly piece (meaning another piece controlled by the moving player).

Each piece on the game moves in a characteristic pattern. Pieces move either orthogonally (that is, forward, backward, left, or right, in the direction of one of the arms of a plus sign, +), or diagonally (in the direction of one of the arms of a multiplication sign, x).

If an oxcart or sparrow pawn, which cannot retreat or move aside, advances across the board until it can no longer move, it must promote.

Many pieces are capable of several kinds of movement, with the type of movement most often depending on the direction in which they move. The movement categories are:

Step movers

Some pieces move only one square at a time. (If a friendly piece occupies an adjacent square, the moving piece may not move in that direction; if an opposing piece is there, it may be displaced and captured.)

The step movers are the crane king, violent wolf, violent stag, blind dog, climbing monkey, flying goose, flying cock, strutting crow, swooping owl and the 9 sparrow pawns on each side.

Limited ranging piece

The liberated horse and cloud eagle can move along a limited number (2 or 3) of free (empty) squares along a straight line in a certain directions. Other than the limited distance, they move like ranging pieces (see below).

Jumping piece

The treacherous fox can jump, that is, it can pass over any intervening piece, whether friend or foe, with no effect on either.

Ranging pieces

Many pieces can move any number of empty squares along a straight line, limited only by the edge of the board. If an opposing piece intervenes, it may be captured by moving to that square and removing it from the board. A ranging piece must stop where it captures, and cannot bypass a piece that is in its way. If a friendly piece intervenes, the moving piece is limited to a distance that stops short of the intervening piece; if the friendly piece is adjacent, it cannot move in that direction at all.

The ranging pieces are the cloud eagle, flying falcon, running rabbit, swallow’s wings, liberated horse and oxcart.


A player's promotion zone consists of the three farthest ranks, at the original line of the opponent's treacherous fox, running rabbit and beyond. If a piece crosses the board within the promotion zone, including moves into, out of, or wholly within the zone then that player may choose to promote the piece at the end of the turn. Promotion is effected by turning the piece over after it moves, revealing the name of its promoted rank.

Promoting a piece has the effect of changing how that piece moves.

Individual pieces

Below are diagrams indicating each piece's movement. Pieces are paired with their promotion. Pieces with a grey heading start out in the game; those with a blue heading only appear on the board after promotion. Pieces with an asterisk ("*") only appear as promoted pieces. Betza's funny notation has been included in brackets for easier reference.

Steps a limited number of squares
Jumps to a non-adjacent square, bypassing any intervening piece
Ranges along a straight line, crossing any number of empty squares
Crane King 靏玉 kakugyoku Cloud Eagle 雲鷲 unjū
Treacherous Fox 隠狐 inko, onko  
  The treacherous fox does not promote.
Flying Falcon 飛鷹 hiyō *Tenacious Falcon 鶏鷹 keiyō
Running Rabbit 走兎 sōto Treacherous fox 隠狐 inko, onko
Violent Wolf 猛狼 mōrō *Bear's Eyes 熊眼 yūgan
Violent Stag 猛鹿 mōroku *Roaming Boar 行猪 gyōcho
Blind Dog 盲犬 mōken Violent Wolf 猛狼 mōrō
Climbing Monkey 登猿 tōen Violent Stag 猛鹿 mōroku
Flying Goose 鳫飛 ganhi Swallow's Wings 燕羽 en’u
Flying Cock 鶏飛 keihi *Raiding Falcon 延鷹 en’yō
Swallow's Wings 燕羽 en’u *Gliding Swallow 燕行 engyō
Strutting Crow 烏行 ukō Flying Falcon 飛鷹 hiyō
Swooping Owl 鴟行 shigyō Cloud Eagle 雲鷲 unjū
Liberated Horse 風馬 fūma *Heavenly Horse 天馬 temma
Oxcart 牛車 gissha *Plodding Ox 歬牛 sengyū
Sparrow Pawn 萑歩 jakufu *Golden Bird 金鳥 kinchō


Descriptions of wa shogi from historical texts make no mention that drops were ever used; however, many people in modern times enjoy playing this game with drops. The rules pertaining to drops are usually based on modern shogi.

Check and mate

When a player makes a move such that the opponent's crane king could be captured on the following move, the move is said to give check to the crane king; the crane king is said to be in check. If a player's crane king is in check and no legal move by that player will get the crane king out of check, the checking move is also mate, and effectively wins the game.

A player is not allowed to give perpetual check.

Game end

A player who captures the opponent's crane king wins the game. In practice this rarely happens, as a player will resign when checkmated, as otherwise when loss is inevitable.

A player who makes an illegal move loses immediately. (This rule may be relaxed in casual games.)

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

If the same position occurs four times with the same player to play, then the game is no contest. (Recall, however, the prohibition against perpetual check.) For two positions to be considered the same, the pieces in hand must be the same, as well as the position on the board.

The game reaches an impasse if both crane kings stand well fortified in their respective promotion zones (when played with drops) or when players run out of material (without drops), so that neither player can hope to mate the other or to gain any further material.

Game notation

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. Modifications have been made for wa shogi.

A typical example is SP-8f. The first letter represents the piece moved: SP = sparrow pawn, OC = oxcart, LH = liberated horse, CM = climbing monkey, BD = blind dog, SO = swooping owl, SC = strutting crow, FC = flying cock, FG = flying goose, VS = violent stag, VW = violent wolf, RR = running rabbit, TF = treacherous fox, SW = swallow’s wings, FF = flying falcon, CE = cloud eagle and, CK = crane king.

Promoted pieces have a + added in front of the letter e.g., +SP for a golden bird (promoted sparrow pawn).

The designation of the piece is followed by a symbol indicating the type of move: - for an ordinary move or x for a capture.

Next is the designation for the square on which the piece lands. This consists of a number representing the file and a lowercase letter representing the rank, with 1a being the top right corner (as seen from Black's point of view) and 11k being the bottom left corner. (This method of designating squares is based on Japanese convention, which, however, uses Japanese numerals instead of letters. For example, the square 2c is denoted by 2三 in Japanese.)

If a move entitles the player to promote the piece, then a + is added to the end to signify that the promotion was taken, or an = to indicate that it was declined. For example, FFx7c= indicates a flying falcon capturing on 7c without promoting.

In cases where the above notation would be ambiguous, the designation of the start square is added after the designation for the piece in order to make clear which piece is meant. This can only apply to golden birds.

Moves are commonly numbered as in chess.

Modern rules

In modern rules, Wa Shogi is played with drops. All other rules as the same as original rules.

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