Monday, May 4, 2015

Teaching Shogi to Family

I learned shogi a couple of years after finishing high school. I had just turned twenty, and a Japanese friend who was tired of losing chess games to me pulled out his shogi board and taught me Japanese Chess. Of course, he won all the shogi matches we played.

When he and I were no longer living together, we never found time to play shogi. This was in the days before the Internet, so finding anyone new to play shogi with was nearly impossible. So few Americans even know what shogi is, that it is very difficult to meet new shogi players.

Shogi Cat
My cat prefers to play ranging rook. In fact, all the pieces tend to range very quickly with her paws on the board.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Tsume Database Instructions

Shogi mating puzzles are called tsume. As is common knowledge, I wrote the first English tsume book ever published, just a few years ago. I thought about writing a second shogi mating puzzles book, but realized that not everyone has the money to buy a book. I opted instead to create an online collection of puzzles for everyone to study shogi for free.

I like the "free" part best.

I've been working on building my tsume database at Now I have hundreds of shogi mating problems of my own creation entered. A lot of people may not realize how many features the tsume database has. Not only are there hundreds of tsume puzzles to solve, but you can filter on search criteria, view them in random orders, change the board view to kanji, western, or other piece styles, and you can remove the label that tells you how many moves are required to mate the king.

Tsume from Database
This is one of the hundreds of tsume found in my free online tsume collection.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tsumeshogi (詰将棋)

Tsumeshogi (詰将棋) is the shogi equivalent of chess puzzles. Chess puzzles and Japanese chess puzzles are both mentally stimulating, and just plain fun. Since I just finished creating my 200th tsume (詰) for my Japanese chess site, I figured this is a great time to share a few more of my thoughts on shogi (将棋) puzzles.

If your'e reading this, you probably know about my book on Japanese chess puzzles. I sell it on amazon and basically every other outlet worldwide. Creating all those puzzles for the book was a real eye opener. I learned a lot more about the movement of knights (桂馬), silver generals (銀将), and capturing kings (王) than I every knew before. The most exciting thing was learning novel ways that the pieces work together. The game is a lot more intricate than the rules imply.

One of the most surprising results of writing the book is the new insights I have. Now, when I examine tsume (詰) created by other people, I see hints of the solution that they did not intend to give away. For example, there are certain ways rooks (飛車) and bishops (角行) are used in tsumeshogi (詰将棋) that hint that the creator of that puzzle was trying to limit the number of solutions. I spot those placements very quickly, now.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Tsume: Japanese Chess Mating Puzzles

Tsume shogi, or just tsume for short, are Japanese chess mating puzzles. I just created a browsable tsume shogi database, so I thought it might be a good idea to explain tsume rules, background, and their benefits.

Imagine a situation where you are playing a much more skilled shogi player than yourself. You are losing. Your opponent will place you in checkmate in one move. You are desperate. Your only chance is to check your opponent, and keep him in check until you have a checkmate. Otherwise, you will lose the shogi game.

One-move shogi tsume
This is a one-move tsume of my own creation.
See if you can spot the checkmate.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Big Three Shogi Castles

Shogi castling involves forming a stronghold to protect the king. Most shogi pieces don't move very fast, but as soon as a pieces start getting captured, lightning fast plays involving drops change the pace of the game. Placing your king in a castle allows you to focus on attack.

The most deadly location for a king in shogi is the square it starts on. Dead center means a dead king! Get the king off to a corner and protected, quickly.

Shogi castles keep the rook and king apart. A common tactic of advanced shogi players is setting up a split with the king and rook so that a knight or other piece attacks both the rook and king. Of course, losing the rook in such a split makes winning more of a challenge.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Shogi Arrives in America

The first known game of shogi in America took place in June of 1860 at the Athenaeum of Philadelphia. Japan had recently ended its 250 years of isolation, and sent a mission to the USA to ratify the Treaty of Friendship.

The attire worn to the Athenaeum by the Japanese delegation likely looked
similar to what is worn by these 1860 delegates. It is not known if any of
these delegates where among those visiting the Athenaeum.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hidetchi's Shogi Dictionary

Any English speaker attempting serious study of shogi knows the biggest issue involved. It's language. Most of the primary source material that shogi masters study is still only published in Japanese.

Those of us that take up the study of Japanese in an effort to overcome the language barrier learn very quickly, shogi has a unique vocabulary. Shogi specific phrases don't translate well with online translation engines, and Japanese-English dictionaries don't have many of the shogi specific terms needed for reading Japanese shogi texts. Not only do we have to overcome the barrier of learning Japanese, but we also have to learn a specific niche of Japanese vocabulary that isn't found in standard textbooks and dictionaries.

Shogi Dictionary by Hidetchi
Some of the frustration has come to an end. We now have access to a shogi dictionary thanks to the hard work of Tomohide Kawasaki.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Speeding up Shogi

I'd love to play a game of shogi, but I don't have time.

That's a common complaint. We all have limited time, and an hour to play, even our favorite game, is hard to come by. And if one or more of the players tend to think for a long time on each move, forget about a quick game.

Shogi games between evenly matched opponents often take over a hundred moves to complete. They can even take hundreds of moves to finish. And, with shogi's highly developed handicap system, all games tend to be between evenly matched opponents. The number of moves adds up to a long game, very quickly.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Five Shogi Tips for Novices

You've played your first few games of shogi, and want some quick tips to impove your game. Shogi players range in skill from first-time players to fully professional players making their living off shogi play. Advanced strategies aren't a good starting point for novice players. Here are five tips tailored for shogi begginers. These tips just might save your king.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

In remembrance of George Hodges (1934-2010)

George Hodges first learned shogi from Trevor Leggett's book, Shogi: Japan's Game of Strategy (1966). He felt Westerners would love shogi, so arranged the creation of westernized shogi sets, and imported traditional shogi sets from Japan. With the help of Glyndon Townhill, he devised the common English shogi game notation still used globally.