Sho shogi

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Shō Shōgi (小将棋 'small chess') is a 16th century form of shogi (Japanese chess), and the immediate predecessor of the modern game. It was played on a 9x9 board with the same setup as in modern shogi, except that an extra piece stood in front of the king: A 'drunk elephant' that promoted into what was effectively a second king. (While 9x9 may not seem 'small', it was smaller than the other shogi variants prevalent at the time.) The drunk elephant was eliminated by the Emperor Go-Nara (reigned 1526-1557), and it is assumed that the drop rule was introduced at about the same time, giving rise to shogi as we know it today.

Rules of the game


The objective of the game is to capture your opponent's king and crown prince (if present) or all other pieces.

Game equipment

Two players, Black and White (or 先手 sente and 後手 gote), play on a board ruled into a grid of 9 ranks (rows) by 9 files (columns). The squares are undifferentiated by marking or color.

Each player has a set of 21 wedge-shaped pieces, of slightly different sizes. From largest to smallest (most to least powerful) they are:

  • 1 king
  • 1 drunken elephant
  • 1 rook
  • 1 bishop
  • 2 gold generals
  • 2 silver generals
  • 2 knights
  • 2 lances
  • 9 pawns

Most of the English names were chosen to correspond to rough equivalents in Western chess, rather than as translations of the Japanese names.

Each piece has its name in the form of two kanji written on its face. On the reverse side of some pieces are...
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