A dash of shogi history

Shogi is Japan’s most popular strategy board game. In Japan, it is perceived as a game played by smart people, and much as western chess is in the West.

Both can trace their roots to the game of chaturanga in India in the 7th century, making its way to Japan and Europe via trade routes, and evolving within their local contexts.

And both shogi and western chess have been in their modern form for a fairly long time. For western chess, the rules have been more or less stable since the 19th century when a single interpretation of castling rules and the en passant capture became predominant, while for shogi the rules have remained essentially unchanged since the 17th century.

It comes as no surprise then that no different from western chess, shogi history is full of interesting characters, anecdotes and games. Yet in the English world, this cultural aspect is absent, for much of the material is only in Japanese, or in the case of some famous episodes, passed down by word-of-mouth.

The extra context embellishes and adds interest to the names and games of the masters new and old, and also humanises them. Who doesn’t know the intensity of having a rival, the excitement of pulling of a brilliant move, or the relief in salvaging a must-win game?

In this basic retelling of shogi history, I hope to convey some of that human interest, and bring another dimension of shogi to the English-speaking world.