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  The Unique Features of Japanese Chess Explained

Author: David Hurley

The game of Japanese Chess is called "Shogi" in Japan. Shogi shares some similarities with Chess and both games are believed to be derived from the Indian game of Chaturanga. However, there are several unique features to Shogi that distinguish it from Chess.

The first couple of things Chess players are likely to notice about Shogi are the size of the board and the number of pieces. Chess players who are used to playing with sixteen pieces each on an 8 x 8 board may be surprised to find that Shogi is played on a 9x9 board and that each player starts with twenty pieces.

Also, typical Chess pieces are representations of soldiers, knights, bishops and so forth and consequently they are designed to stand upright, whereas Shogi pieces are made to lie flat on the board and are wedge-shaped, with a pointed edge facing forwards to enable the players to tell at a glance whose pieces are whose!

The rank of a piece is indicated by its size and by one or two Japanese characters painted on its upper face.

Depending on which piece is being played, when it advances to one of the back three rows it may be promoted. This is done by turning the piece over to reveal a different character that indicates its new status.

Chess players will be surprised to learn that in Shogi captured pieces may be "dropped" back on the board and used by the player who captured them! The "drop" rule is a unique development of the Japanese game. After capturing a piece the player sets it aside (or place it on a tray especially designed for captured pieces). A player who has one or more captured pieces in hand may choose on his turn to move a piece that is on the board, or to bring a captured piece into play by "dropping" it onto one of the empty spaces on the board. Because of this innovation the pieces are not distinguished by colour as they are in Chess, Igo, or other games.

A game of Shogi tends to take longer to get going than a game of Chess as some of the pieces have limited movement ranges and also because players commonly prefer to build a defensive organization around the King before attacking.

Nevertheless, Shogi has an opening, middle and end phase as does Chess, but the "drop" rule gives Shogi a more open-ended character as the board can suddenly fill up with pieces again if the players engage in a battle of "drop" and "counter-drop".

The drop rule allows for the truth that captured soldiers may be turned against their former masters. A Shogi piece dropped deep inside enemy territory can cause major disruption. It is rather like having a hostile Ninja fighter suddenly appear armed to the teeth in the Daimyo's bedchamber!

Shogi offers an early example of how a foreign invention is introduced into Japan and modified and refined to become something unique to the Japanese.

In recent years Shogi has begun to attract a following outside of Japan, in China, Europe and America. If you enjoy playing Chess, I recommend that you try playing Shogi and experience something of the unique spirit the Japanese have imparted to this ancient family of games.

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/art-and-entertainment-articles/the-unique-features-of-japanese-chess-explained-363009.html

About the Author David Hurley
David Hurley lives in Japan and runs a website supplying Japanese games and goods including Shogi sets, exclusive hand crafted Shogi pieces, Shogi boards and koma trays direct to customers all over the world. Visit => http://japanese-games-shop.com/shogi.html for more specific information about Japanese Shogi.



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