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.


Mino Castle

A properly formed mino castle is strong during creation
and has several alternative forms available after creation.


Several move combinations can result in a Mino castle. For the beginner, it is easiest just to memorize how the pieces end up. One pawn, one gold general, one silver general, and the king move. The pieces on row i and g all stay in the location they started in. Just the three pieces on row h and the one pawn on row f have moved.

Many professionals shogi players use the Mino castle, because it is versatile. Many related castles can form during the creation of the Mino, and after the creation of the Mino. Mino is also popular in amateur shogi circles, because it is easy to learn.

Yagura Castle


Yagura castles are considered stronger than mino castles,
but not as strong as anaguma castles.


For many years, the Yagura castle was considered the strongest castle. Note that the bishop's diagonals are free (with one exception), so even though it often takes part in the castle it isn't boxed in. The bishop still has a free range of movement.

A silver general and both gold generals take up postion in the Yagura castle. A silver and two golds take part in the other common castles, as well. The gold generals have nearly the same movement strength as the king. They don't move well in closed spaces, but gold generals work very well as body guards in well formed castles.

Anaguma Castle

Anaguma is often called
the "badger" or the "bear in the hole."


The Anaguma castle evolved from the Mino castle. The Mino castle is very strong against side attacks, but not too strong against certain frontal attacks—specifically, the Vanguard Pawn attack. Anaguma came about as a way to fend off frontal attacks that Mino could not withstand.

Anaguma castle's popularity is relatively recent. It started out as a castle used mainly by amateurs. When the Vanguard Pawn attack became popular, professionals began using Anaguma to neutralize its effectiveness.

Anaguma is an amazingly strong castle. Note the position of the silver general in relation to the gold generals. Placing the silver in a position that should contain a gold general greatly weakens the Anaguma castle.

Several variations of moves can result in the creation of each of these castles. Rather than memorize the moves immediately, start by remembering basic principles behind common castling moves.
  1. While castling, keep your camp protected. The enemies promotion zone is your camp. Keep all the squares in your camp under attack by your pieces for as long as possible. An opponent's piece dropped into your camp can cause immense damage and possibly the the loss of the game. 
  2. Move the king early into the castle. Get your king away from the center of your camp. 
  3. As mentioned earlier, keep the rook away from your king. 

Each of the castles has benefits and weaknesses. Yagura and Mino castles leave room for the king to flee, if the castle falls to an opponents attack. Anaguma, leaves no room for failure. If the castle falls, the king is lost. Anaguma is also a slow castle to construct compared to other castles. Fast attacks often catch an Anaguma partially formed rather than finished. Quicker castles are sometimes more effective against quick attacks.

Good castles make a world of difference when you reach the middle and end game.

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