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Hand Shogi (手将棋 te shōgi, Hand Chess) is a variant of Shogi (Japanese Chess), however it is not Japanese. It was invented in early 1997 by John William Brown of Lewisville, AR, USA. The name “hand” comes from the fact that each player starts the game with most of their pieces in hand and that each round of a match plays like the hand of a card game.

Rules of the Game[]


The objective of the game is to win two consecutive hands. The objective of each hand is to capture your opponent's King.

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 19 wedge-shaped pieces, of slightly different sizes. From largest to smallest (most to least powerful) they are:

  • 1 King
  • 1 Tycoon
  • 1 Shogun
  • 2 Gold Generals
  • 2 Silver Generals
  • 1 Pard
  • 1 Onager
  • 1 Hasty
  • 2 Knights
  • 2 Lances
  • 5 Soldiers

Each piece has its name in the form of two kanji written on its face. On the reverse side of each Knight two other characters, often in a different color (commonly red instead of black); this reverse side is turned up to indicate that the piece has been promoted during play. The pieces of the two sides do not differ in color, but instead each piece is shaped like a wedge, and faces forward, toward the opposing side. This shows who controls the piece during play. The game is often played with "Westernized" (or "international") pieces, which replace the kanji with more intuitive symbols, such as pictorial icons.


9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1  
    G   K   G     a
    SO   PD   SO     b
      SO SO SO       c
      SO SO SO       g
    SO   PD   SO     h
    G   K   G     i

Each side places his pieces in the positions shown below, pointing toward the opponent.

  • In the rank nearest the player:
    • The King is placed in the center file.
    • The two Gold Generals are placed two files from the King.

That is, the first rank is |  |  |G|   |K|   |G|   |   |.

  • In the second rank, each player places:
    • The Pard in the same file as the King.
    • A Soldier in the same files as the Golden Generals.
  • In the third rank, the three remaining Soldiers are placed in the three center files.
  • All remaining pieces are held in hand.

Game Play[]

The players alternate making a move, with Black moving first. (The traditional terms 'black' and 'white' are used to differentiate the sides during discussion of the game, but are not literally descriptive.) A move consists of moving a single piece on the board and potentially promoting that piece, displacing (capturing) an opposing piece or dropping a captured piece onto an empty square of the board. Each of these options is detailed below.

Movement and Capture[]

An opposing piece is captured by displacement: That is, if a piece moves to a square occupied by an opposing piece, the opposing piece is displaced and removed from the board. A piece cannot move to a square occupied by a friendly piece (meaning another piece controlled by the moving player).

Each piece on the game moves in a characteristic pattern. Pieces move either orthogonally (that is, forward, backward, left, or right, in the direction of one of the arms of a plus sign, +), or diagonally (in the direction of one of the arms of a multiplication sign, ×). The Knight is an exception in that it does not move in a straight line.

If a Lance, which cannot retreat or move aside, advances across the board until it can no longer move, it must remain there until captured.

The movement categories are:

Step Movers[]

Some pieces move only one square at a time. (If a friendly piece occupies an adjacent square, the moving piece may not move in that direction; if an opposing piece is there, it may be displaced and captured.)

The step movers are the King, Gold General, Silver General and the 5 Soldiers on each side.

Limited Ranging Pieces[]

The Tycoon and Shogun can move along a limited number (3) of free (empty) squares along a straight line in certain directions. Other than the limited distance, they move like ranging pieces (see below).

Jumping Pieces[]

Several pieces can jump, that is, they can pass over any intervening piece, whether friend or foe, with no effect on either. These are the Knight, Onager and Hasty.

Ranging Piece[]

The Lance can move any number of empty squares along a straight line, limited only by the edge of the board. If an opposing piece intervenes, it may be captured by moving to that square and removing it from the board. A ranging piece must stop where it captures, and cannot bypass a piece that is in its way. If a friendly piece intervenes, the moving piece is limited to a distance that stops short of the intervening piece; if the friendly piece is adjacent, it cannot move in that direction at all.


A player's promotion zone consists of the three farthest ranks, at the original line of the opponent's soldiers and beyond (that is, the opponent's territory at setup). If a knight crosses the board and into the promotion zone then that player must promote the piece at the end of the turn. Promotion is effected by turning the piece over after it moves, revealing the name of its promoted rank.

Promoting a Knight has the effect of changing how that piece moves until it is removed from the board. The Knight, when promoted, loses its normal movement and gains the movement of a gold general.

When captured, Knights lose their promoted status.

Individual Pieces[]

Below are diagrams indicating each piece's movement. Pieces with a grey heading start out in the game; those with a blue heading only appear on the board after promotion.

Steps to an adjacent square
Jumps to a non-adjacent square, bypassing any intervening piece
Ranges along a straight line, crossing any number of empty squares
King Pard
Step: The King can step one square in any direction, orthogonal or diagonal.
Jump: The pard jumps to the second square in any direction, orthogonal or diagonal.
Gold General Silver General
Step: The Gold General can step one square in one of the four orthogonal directions; or, one square diagonally forward, giving it six possibilities.
Step: The Silver General can step one square in one of the four diagonal directions; or, one square straight forward, giving it five possibilities.
Knight Promoted Knight
Jump: The Knight jumps at an angle intermediate between orthogonal and diagonal, amounting to one square forward plus one square diagonally forward, in a single motion, ignoring any intervening piece. That is, it has a choice of two forward destinations.

A Knight that reaches one of the two furthest ranks must promote.

Step: The promoted Knight can step one square in one of the four orthogonal directions; or, one square diagonally forward, giving it six possibilities.
Lance Tycoon
Range: The Lance can move any number of free squares straight forward.

A Lance that reaches the furthest rank is trapped.

Limited range: The Tycoon can move one to three squares along one of the four diagonal directions.
Shogun Onager
Limited range: The Shogun can move one to three squares along one of the four orthogonal directions.
Jump: The Onager can jump to the second square in one of the four orthogonal directions.
Hasty Soldier
Jump: The Hasty can jump to the second square in one of the four diagonal directions.
Step: The Soldier can step one square forward or sideways.


Captured pieces are truly captured in Hand Shogi. They are retained "in hand", and can be brought back into play under the capturing player's control. Add to this the fact that each player starts the game with ten pieces in hand. On any turn, instead of moving a piece across the board, a player can take a piece he has previously captured or has in hand and place it on any empty square, facing the opponent. The piece is now part of the forces controlled by that player. This is termed dropping the piece, or just a drop.

A drop cannot capture a piece; that requires an additional move.

A Knight cannot be dropped into the promotion zone.

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

A Soldier cannot be dropped into the same file (vertical column) as another unpromoted Soldier controlled by the same player. A player who has an unpromoted Soldier on every file is therefore unable to drop a Soldier anywhere.

A Hasty or Onager must be dropped so that it gives check (see below).

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. If a player's King is in check and no legal move by that player will get the King out of check, the checking move is also mate, and effectively wins the hand.

A player is not allowed to give perpetual check.

Game End[]

A player who captures the opponent's King wins the hand. In practice this rarely happens, as a player will resign when checkmated, as otherwise when loss is inevitable.

A player who makes an illegal move loses immediately. (This rule may be relaxed in casual games.)

There are two other possible (but fairly uncommon) ways for a hand to end: repetition and impasse.

If the same position occurs four times with the same player to play, then the hand is a draw. (Recall, however, the prohibition against perpetual check.) For two positions to be considered the same, the pieces in hand must be the same, as well as the position on the board.

The hand reaches an impasse if both Kings have advanced into their respective promotion zones and neither player can hope to mate the other or to gain any further material. If this happens then the hand is a draw.

Game Notation[]

The method used in English-language texts to express Shogi moves was established by George Hodges in 1976. It is derived from the algebraic notation used for Chess, but differs in several respects.

A typical example is S-8f. The first letter represents the piece moved: SO = Soldier, L = Lance, N = Knight, S = Silver, G = Gold, PD = Pard, O = Onager, H = Hasty, T = Tycoon, SH = Shogun, K = King. Promoted pieces have a + added in front of the letter. e.g., +N for a Promoted Knight. The designation of the piece is followed by a symbol indicating the type of move: - for an ordinary move, x for a capture, or * for a drop. Next is the designation for the square on which the piece lands. This consists of a number representing the file and a lowercase letter representing the rank, with 1a being the top right corner (as seen from Black's point of view) and 9i being the bottom left corner. (This method of designating squares is based on Japanese convention, which, however, uses Japanese numerals instead of letters. For example, the square 2c is denoted by 2三 in Japanese.)

If a move forces the player to promote the piece, then a + is added to the end to signify that the promotion was taken. For example, Nx7c+ indicates a Knight capturing on 7c and promoting.

In cases where the above notation would be ambiguous, the designation of the start square is added after the designation for the piece in order to make clear which piece is meant.

Moves are commonly numbered as in Chess.

See also[]

External Links[]

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