Shogi game (picture by Andre Engels)

Shogi

Shogi is a Japanese variant of chess. Shogi was present in current form in the 16th century, so it's a pretty old game. It resembles Western chess perhaps a bit more than xiangqi, but has some pecularities. In general, shogi pieces are pretty slow, so the game begins very slowly. Things get heated and attrition never bites like in Western chess, because once you capture a piece, you can drop in on the board and it becomes your piece. This small change makes a huge difference.



Japanese Chess Shogi 8 foldable magnetic mini board
Japanese Chess Shogi 8 foldable magnetic mini board
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Wooden Shogi Japanese Chess Table w Drawers and Chessmen Game Set New
Wooden Shogi Japanese Chess Table w Drawers and Chessmen Game Set New
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JAPANESE SHOGI wood Koma pieces with Box from Japan
JAPANESE SHOGI wood Koma pieces with Box from Japan
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New Bell SHOGI Japanese chess Japan import
New Bell SHOGI Japanese chess Japan import
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Hanayamaese Traditional Chess Board Game Shogi
Hanayamaese Traditional Chess Board Game Shogi
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KUMON Study SHOGIJapanese Chess Board wood koma pieces SET
KUMON Study SHOGIJapanese Chess Board wood koma pieces SET
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New Japanese Chess Shogi Set Board  Wooden Koma Piece with Box
New Japanese Chess Shogi Set Board Wooden Koma Piece with Box
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Single Piece Real Kaya Shogi Board 6
Single Piece Real Kaya Shogi Board 6
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Master SHOGI Set Japanese Chess for beginners Board  Koma NEW
Master SHOGI Set Japanese Chess for beginners Board Koma NEW
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Shogi  Chess magnetic pieces 2 in 1 foldable board
Shogi Chess magnetic pieces 2 in 1 foldable board
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HANAYAMA JAPANESE SHOGI Plastic Koma Board SET from JAPAN
HANAYAMA JAPANESE SHOGI Plastic Koma Board SET from JAPAN
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Wooden Shogi Japanese Chess Game Table Set w Drawers
Wooden Shogi Japanese Chess Game Table Set w Drawers
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Japanese Hanayama Authentic Shogi set Board Game Japan Table game F S
Japanese Hanayama Authentic Shogi set Board Game Japan Table game F S
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Wooden Shogi Game Set Japanese Chess w Folding Board
Wooden Shogi Game Set Japanese Chess w Folding Board
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Travel Magnetic Shogi Set 975
Travel Magnetic Shogi Set 975
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Since both players can use the same pieces, shogi pieces aren't color-coded like chess pieces. The pieces lie flat on the board, with a pointed edge showing who controls them. They are double-sided, too, since all pieces can be promoted to better pieces on the opponent's end of the board.

Both players have 20 pieces and the board is 9 x 9, so the game is a bit larger than chess. However, this is not the largest version of shogi: largest known shogi game, taikyoku shogi, was played on 36 x 36 board. Each player has 402 pieces, 209 different types of pieces and 253 different ways to move the pieces. We can only assume the game was created by people with extraordinary amounts of free time. Smallest shogi game is dobutsu shogi, played on a 3 x 4 board. Tori shogi, played on a 7 x 7 board, is one of the most popular variants.

There are some Western shogi sets available. Most shogi sets, however, use Japanese calligraphy to mark the pieces. That's a bit of a barrier for most Western folks and the game may seem incredibly difficult to learn. It is not, but it takes some patience and dedication. Shogi, particularly with Japanese pieces, is not a game you can play casually every now and then, it takes dedicated players willing to put some effort into it. However, effort is rewarded, as shogi is a pleasing game and refreshing change to Western chess.

Most cheap Japanese shogi sets are actually pretty nice, with wooden pieces and clever wooden boards. The board is thin wood, placed on top of supporting pieces, so that there's hollow space beneath the board. That means the pieces make a really nice sound when they are placed on the board. Simple , but clever!