Shogi (also known as Japanese chess) is a two-player board game in the same family as Western chess, Chaturanga, Chinese Xiangqi, and Korean Janggi, and is the most popular of a family of chess variants native to Japan.

The goal of Shogi is to attack the opponent's King in such a way that the opponent cannot escape from the attack and cannot block it on his next turn.


At the beginning of the game each player has 20 pieces. The pieces of both players are exactly the same. The pieces of the two players do not differ in colour, but instead each faces forward, toward the opposing side. This shows who controls the piece during play. Each piece has its name written on its surface in the form of two kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese). "Westernized" pieces with iconic pictures can also be used.

Dark pieces Light pieces
or - a King or - a King
or - a Rook or- a Rook
or - a Bishop or- a Bishop
or - two Gold Generals or- two Gold Generals
or - two Silver Generals or- two Silver Generals
or - two Knights or- two Knights
or - two Lances or- two Lances
or - nine Pawns or- nine Pawns

On the reverse side of each piece (except the king and gold general) are one or two other characters (often in a different colour). This side is turned face up during play to indicate that the piece has been promoted.

Dark promoted pieces Light promoted pieces
or - a promoted Silver General or- a promoted Silver General
or - a promoted Rook or- a promoted Rook
or - a promoted Bishop or- a promoted Bishop
or - a promoted Knight or- a promoted Knight
or - a promoted Lance or- a promoted Lance
or - a promoted Pawn or- a promoted Pawn



Shogi is played on a square board of 9x9 cells.

The initial position of the pieces on the board is shown on the next picture:

Traditional Japanese pieces "Westernized" pieces




Players move alternatively, starting from the Black player (the terms "Black" and "White" are used to differentiate the two sides, but there is no actual difference in the color of the pieces).

No piece can move to a cell occupied by another piece of the same player.

If a piece moves to a cell occupied by an enemy piece the latter is considered to be captured, taken by the capturing player and removed from the board (see Drops). The capture is not mandatory, i.e. if one of the player's pieces can capture some enemy piece it's not required to do so.

If a piece A can capture an enemy piece B it's said that the A attacks B or that the B is under attack.

The King is said to be "in check" if it is under attack of some enemy piece (even if the attacking piece cannot move for some reason).

A player may never leave his king "in check" at the end of his move. The "in check" situation can be eliminated in one of the following ways:

  • The king can move to a cell that is not under attack.
  • The attacking enemy piece can be captured by one of the player's pieces (even by the king, if doing so does not put the king in check).
  • The attack can be blocked by placing another player's piece between the king and attacking enemy piece (this is not possible if the attacking piece is a knight).

All possible moves for each type of the pieces are explained below.

The King can move to any adjacent onoccupied cell that is not under attack. It is considered that these cells are under attack even if the attacking piece cannot move for some reason:

The Gold General can move one cell orthogonally, or one cell diagonally forward, giving it six possible destinations. It cannot move diagonally backward:

The Silver General can move one cell diagonally in four directions or one cell directly forward, giving it five possibilities.

The Knight can jump two cells vertically forward and one cell sideways from its current position in a single move, giving it two possibilities.The Knight is the only piece that can jump over other pieces.

The Bishop can move any number of empty cells in any diagonal direction. The bishop cannot jump over other pieces.

The Rook can move any number of empty cells horizontally or vertically. The rook cannot jump over other pieces.

The Lance can move any number of empty cells vertically forward. The lance cannot jump over other pieces.

The Pawn can move one cell forward on the same vertical column.


A player's promotion area is the last three rows of the board. If a piece starts or ends its move on one of the cells in the promotion area then the player may choose to promote the piece at the end of the turn. Promotion is indicated by turning the piece over after it moves, revealing the character for the promoted rank.

If a pawn or lance reaches the last row or a knight reaches any of the two last rows, it must promote, as it would otherwise have no legal move on subsequent turns.

A promoted piece moves in a different way than the original piece:

  • A promoted silver general, a promoted knight, a promoted lance or a promoted pawn move like a gold general.
  • promoted rook (dragon king) can move both like a non-promoted rook and like a king:
  • A promoted bishop (dragon horse) can move both like a non-promoted bishop and like a king:
  • A king or a gold general cannot promote.


Unlike standard Chess, captured pieces in Shogi are taken by the capturing player and can be reused later in the game. On any turn, instead of moving a piece on the board, a player may take a previously captured opponent's piece and place it on any empty cell of the board facing the opposite side. This kind of move is called a Drop.

Dropping a piece must follow the next rules:

  • A captured piece loses its "promoted" status. It means that even if the player had captured a promoted piece, he can drop the corresponding unpromoted piece.
  • If a piece is dropped in the promotion area the piece cannot be promoted on the same turn (however, a promotion can occur on one of the subsequent moves made by the player).
  • pawn, knight or lance cannot be dropped on the last row because it would leave them without legal moves on subsequent turns. For the same reason a knight cannot be dropped on the row before the last one.
  • pawn cannot be dropped in the same column as another unpromoted pawn of the same player. As the result of this rule a player having an unpromoted pawn in every column is unable to drop a pawn anywhere.
  • A pawn cannot be dropped to give an immediate checkmate. However, other pieces may be dropped to give immediate checkmate.

End of Game

If a player puts an enemy king in check and the opponent cannot eliminate it on his next move, then the game ends and the player wins. Such position is called a checkmate. On the following picture the black king  is in check (under attack of white gold general) and there is no way for blacks to escape from this situation or capture the attacking piece (the white gold general is protected by the white knight):

A player loses the game if he gives a perpetual check to his opponent, i.e. if the same board position has been repeated four times and each player's move put an enemy king in check.

Without perpetual check, repeating the same board position four times ends the game in a draw..

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