Shogi: Japan’s Game of Strategy

SHOGI Japan’s Game of Strategy

Extract

The Paratroops

 

Now that you have an idea of how the pieces work, it is time to introduce you to a revolutionary feature of Shogi, found in no other form of chess.

This is the “drop” – a sort of paratroop attack.

When you capture an enemy, it is not dead.

It becomes yours and you keep it by the side of the board.

Any time, instead of a move, you can drop one of these captured men on any vacant square. The piece points towards the enemy, and it is your piece and works for you.

 

The King moves like a chess king: the rook, bishop, knight have basically similiar moves to the corresponding chess pieces; the Lance is a Rook that can move only straight forward down a file.

shog2

The pieces are here shown with the Japanese character on top, and a Western-style icon (such as a crown for the King, and a castle for the Rook), and a big initial letter (K or R) below that. In this way players will gradually become accustomed to the Japanese characters, but having always the key on the piece. Two specifically Shogi pieces are the Gold and Silver Generals: they are like a weaker King.

Synopsis

Shogi is the only completely up-to-date form of chess. The original Indian game was fought out by Kings, their ministers, horsemen, and elephants, on the ground. It was all at close quarters, so to speak. This is still the game in the West. The Chinese introduced cannon, which fire long-range shells over the heads of intervening pieces. But it was the Japanese in the 16th century who anticipated air power and paratroops: in lieu of any move on the ground of the board, a player can drop a piece from his ‘store’ anywhere on the board.

 

The store consists of former enemy pieces, which he has captured, and which now become mercenaries and fight for their capturer.

In Western chess, where a captured piece is killed, the number of active pieces becomes fewer and fewer. In Japanese chess, on the other hand, all the pieces are active throughout the game; they are either on the board, or in the ‘stores’, waiting to be dropped.

 

The strategy is modern: a Home Guard round the King, to deal with paratroops, and an expeditionary force, supported by paratroops, attacking the other

King and his Home Guard. So in a typical game, both sides are simultaneously attacking and defending. The end-game is intensely exciting, and in practice there are no draws.

 

The book gives step-by-step instruction with easy-to-follow diagrams. The board, pieces, paratroops, and basic attacks and defences are fully explained, as also the main openings and endgame strategies. The Chinese characters of the Japanese game are simplified and identified with their chess equivalents: King, Knight, Rook, Bishop, Pawn. The extra ones are also clearly marked: G for Gold General (Kin-sho), S for Silver General (Gin-sho) and so on.

Trevor Leggett holds the high degree of Fifth Dan in Shogi, the brush-strokes of his diploma being those of the legendary Past Master Yasuharu Oyama. This is a rare honour; Master Oyama has also written an introduction recommending the book.

Contents

Historical Introduction

The Board and the Men

Learning to use the pieces

The PARATROOPS

The Value of the Pieces

Novices’ Game

Introduction to the Openings

The Static Rook openings

The Yagura

The Ranging Rook openings

A few Game Positions

Appendix: How to read a Japanese score

Recommendation of the book by Past Master Yasuharu OYAMA, many times all-Japan champion, who on behalf of the all-Japan Shogi Association conferred on Trevor Leggett the grade of Fifth Dan, brushing the diploma with his own hand, a rare honour.

Reviews

The step-by-step instructions and thorough diagrams make this book invaluable both as a guide for beginners and a review for seasoned players …

The Oriental Economist

The explanations are easy to understand and easy to follow … Recommended…

Library Journal

The book is as well got up as we expect all publications of the House of Tuttle to be, and the thorough diagrams carry step-by-step instructions

South China Morning Post

Leggett writes succinctly and well; his love and fascination for the game become apparent on every page.

Shipping &Trade News (Tokyo) …

the author Trevor Leggett is one of the few highly qualified and recognized authorities and the first foreigner to compile a book on the ancient Japanese version of the chess game.

California Daily News

Ihe Game of Shogi was first published in 1966, it played a pioneering role in helping to spread awareness of this unique member of the chess family outside its country of origin. It was the first book on shogi by a nonJapanese author. There have been many changes in the world of shogi over the past four decades, including the appearance of several other shogi-related books in English, yet Leggett’s book has several unique features which make the appearance of this new edition a welcome event and which will give it a continuing part to play in the worldwide popularization of shogi. The most striking feature of shogi, and what distinguishes it from all other regional variants of chess, is that pieces captured from the opponent are retained and may be ‘dropped’ back onto the board as one’s own. This single feature affects the nature of the game in a number of ways in comparison with Western chess: play tends to be more dynamic, with material advantage being less important than the momentum of an effective attack; very few games end in draws (less than 1 % for games between professionals); and players of significantly different strength can play each other on equal terms through a carefully calibrated ‘handicapping’ system in which the stronger player removes certain pieces from the starting line-up. Arguing about whether chess or shogi is the ‘better’ game seems pointless. But it is certainly true that a large proportion of chess players who take the time to learn shogi end up becoming fascinated with the Japanese version of the game. Despite its undeniable strengths as a strategic game, the spread of shogi outside Japan has been slow. There are, I think, three main barriers. Firstly, the vast majority of the literature on shogi – including openings manuals, collections of games by professional players, and checkmating problems – is written in Japanese only. Secondly, the Chinese calligraphy that appears on each shogi piece, and which distinguishes one kind of piece from another, can be initially off-putting to those learning the game. Thirdly, outside Japan it is difficult to get hold of shogi sets and boards on which to play the game. What makes Leggett’s book pioneering was not just the early date of its initial publication, but that the author takes steps to address all three of the abov-e issues. For one thing, the book is itself (of course) written in English! In addition, Leggett minimizes the confusion caused by the appearance of the pieces by printing both the calligraphy and an identifying letter from the roman alphabet (for example, “G’ for ‘Gold General’) on each piece in every diagram in the book. Finally, each book includes a paper shogi board and punch-out cardboard pieces. Harder to pin down, perhaps, but no less important, is the way in which the book is infused with Leggett’s own familiarity with Japanese language and culture. Trevor Leggett was an influential teacher and practitioner of judo, and he also had a deep knowledge of Zen. In an article written in 2000 for the Bulletin of the Kano Society, Leggett writes of achieving a state of mind that involves “giving up all thoughts of win-or-loss …. If the mind can be emptied of such thoughts, a clear and unexpected result comes about. … The great shogi grand-master, Yasuharu Oyama, told me that he did this mokoso at the beginning of a match. He used to sit perfectly still, sometimes for several minutes, before making his first move.”