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Shogi (将棋) is one of a family of strategic board games of which Chess and Xiangqi are members. Shogi is native to Japan, and is often called Japanese chess.

Rules of the game


The objective in Shogi, as in most other Chess variants, is to maneuver the pieces so that the opponent's King cannot avoid capture (mate). The winner is the first player to achieve this.

Game equipment

Two players, Black and White, play on a board comprised of squares in a grid of 9 ranks (rows) by 9 files (columns). The squares are undifferentiated by marking or colour.

Each player has a set of 20 pieces, listed below.

  • 1 King
  • 2 Gold Generals
  • 2 Silver Generals
  • 2 Knights
  • 2 Lances
  • 1 Bishop
  • 1 Rook
  • 9 Pawns

The English-language names are chosen to correspond to their rough equivalents in Western chess, not necessarily as translations of the Japanese names. Each piece has a Japanese character marked on its face. On the reverse side of each piece is a different character, but visually differentiated in some way (e.g. using red ink instead of black); this is used to indicate pieces that have been promoted during play. See Ricoh Shogi Rules page for (small, alas) pictures of the pieces, both normal and promoted.

The pieces do not differ in colour. Each piece is shaped to show its direction, and this determines who controls that piece during play.


Each side places all his pieces in the positions shown below, with their direction facing toward the opponent.

  • In the rank nearest the player:
    • The King is placed in the centre file.
    • The two Gold Generals are placed in the adjacent files to the King.
    • The two Silver Generals are placed adjacent to each Gold General.
    • The two Knights are placed adjacent to each Silver General.
    • The two Lances are placed in the corners, adjacent to each Knight.
  • In the second nearest rank, each player places:
    • The Bishop in the same file as the Knight on the player's left.
    • The Rook in the same file as the Knight on the player's right.
  • In the third nearest rank, the nine Pawns are placed one in each file.

Game play

The players alternate making a move, with Black moving first (the pieces are not differentiated by colour, so the only effect of choosing Black or White is to decide who plays first, and to differentiate the sides during discussion about the game.) A move consists of moving a piece on the board and optionally promoting the piece, or dropping a captured piece onto an empty square of the board. Each of these options is detailed below.

Movement and Capture

Each piece moves in a distinct way. No piece except the Knights may move beyond an intervening piece. If an opponent's piece intervenes where a piece may move, the opponent's piece may be captured by moving the piece to occupy the square where the opponent's piece was and removing the opponent's piece from the board. If a friendly piece (controlled by the same player) intervenes where a piece may move, the piece is limited to moves that stop short of the intervening piece (or no move at all in that direction if the intervening piece is adjacent).


A King can move one square in any direction, forward, backward, horizontally, or any diagonal.

Gold General

A Gold General can move one square in any of the following directions: forward, backward, horizontally, or diagonally forward (left or right). The piece does not move diagonally backward.

Silver General

A Silver General can move one square in any of the following directions: forward, or any diagonal.


A Knight can move one square forward and one square diagonally left or right, in a single motion. It cannot move backward.

The Knight is the only piece that can ignore (jump) intervening pieces on the way to its destination, though its destination square must be either empty, or occupied by an opponent's piece (in which case the opponent's piece is captured).


A Lance can move any number of squares forward. It cannot move backward.


A Bishop can move any number of squares in any diagonal.


A Rook can move any number of squares forward, backward, or horizontally.


A Pawn can move one square forward. It cannot move backward.


If a piece's move begins anywhere on the board and ends beyond the promotion line, the controlling player may choose to promote the piece at the end of the turn. The promotion line for each player is the line between the sixth and seventh ranks away from the player (i.e., the furthest three ranks from each player are beyond that player's promotion line). If the player chooses to promote a piece, this is indicated by turning the piece over after it moves, to show the alternate representation of the character.

Promoting a piece has the effect of changing how that piece moves until it is removed from the board. Each piece promotes as follows:

  • A King or a Gold General cannot promote.
  • A Silver General, Knight, Lance or Pawn, when promoted, loses its normal movement and gains the movement of a Gold General.
  • A Bishop or Rook, when promoted, keeps its normal movement and gains the ability to move one square in any direction (like a King).

If a Pawn, Knight or Lance reaches the furthest rank, it must be promoted (to a Gold General) since it would otherwise have no legal move on subsequent turns.

When captured, pieces lose their promoted status.


Captured pieces are retained and can be brought back into play under the capturing player's control. On any move, instead of moving a piece on the board, a player can take a piece he has previously captured and place it on any empty square, facing the opponent. The piece now counts as any other piece controlled by that player. This is termed dropping the piece, or just a drop.

Pieces that drop beyond the promotion line cannot be promoted as a result. Promotion requires that piece making a normal movement on a subsequent turn, as detailed under "Promotion", above.

A Pawn, Knight or Lance may not be dropped to the furthest rank, since it would have no legal move on subsequent turns.

A Pawn cannot be dropped into the same file as any other Pawn controlled by that player. If there are no files that do not currently have a Pawn controlled by the player, that player cannot drop a Pawn at all and must make some other move.

A Pawn cannot be dropped to give mate to the opponent's King. Such a move is invalid and cannot be played. Dropping a Pawn to give check (not mate) is valid.

Check and Mate

When a player makes a move such that the opponent's King could be captured on the following move, the move is said to give check to the King; the King is said to be in check. A player whose King is in check must make a move to save the King, either by capturing the threatening piece (using the King or another piece), placing or dropping an own piece to intervene, or moving the King to a square which is not threatened by check.

If a player's King is in check and no legal move by that player will avoid check, the checking move is also a mate and wins the game.

Game end

When a player mates the opponent's King, that player immediately wins the game.

Game notation

Strategy and Tactics


Chu Shogi


Additional Resources