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Many variants of Shogi have been developed over the centuries, ranging from some of the largest Chess-type games ever played to some of the smallest. A few of these variants are still regularly played, though none are nearly as popular as Shogi itself.

It should be noted that the drop rule, often considered the most notable feature of Shogi, is absent from most Shogi variants, which therefore play more like other forms of Chess, with the board becoming less crowded as pieces are exchanged.

Predecessors of Modern Shogi[]

Some form of Chess had almost certainly reached Japan by the 9th century, if not earlier, but the earliest surviving Japanese description of the rules of Chess dates from the early 12th century, during the Heian period. Unfortunately, this description does not give enough information to actually play the game, but this has not stopped people from attempting to reconstruct this early form of Shogi, which is usually referred to as Heian Shogi (平安将棋). Piece movements were as in modern Shogi, but there was no Rook or Bishop. The board appears to have been 9×8 or 8×8. The setup is unknown, but can reasonably be assumed to have been the same as in modern Shogi (minus the Rook and Bishop, and minus a Gold General in the 8×8 case), although it's possible that the Pawns started on the second rank rather than the third. It can safely be assumed that the game was played without drops.

By the 16th century the game had taken a form closer to the modern game: it was played on a 9×9 board with the same setup as in modern Shogi except that an extra piece (a Drunken Elephant) stood in front of the King. This form of the game is known as Sho Shogi (小将棋), which means "Little Shogi". (While 9×9 may not seem 'little', it was smaller than the other Shogi variants prevalent at the time.) The Drunken Elephant was eliminated by the Emperor Go-Nara (reign 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.

Large-board Variants[]

There are a number of Shogi variants played on boards larger than 9×9. These variants are all (except for Okisaki shogi (queen shogi, 10x10), created c. 1996) quite old, and were probably all played without drops. It is thought that the really huge games (Dai Shogi and up) were never really played to any significant extent and were devised merely so that the creators could have the fun of inventing enormous games, amazing their friends and confounding their enemies. However, the games up to Tenjiku Shogi at least appear to be quite playable, assuming one has the time.

The same 12th century document which describes the Heian form of Shogi also describes a variant played on a 13×13 board, which is now called Heian Dai Shogi (平安大将棋). As with the smaller Heian Shogi, the rules for this game have not been completely preserved.

The most popular large-board variant is Chu Shogi (中将棋), played on a 12×12 board. The name means "Middle Shogi", and the game is sometimes so called in English. Chu Shogi has existed since at least the 14th century; there are earlier references, but it's not clear that they refer to the game as we now know it. Chu Shogi is best known for a very powerful piece called the lion, which moves like a King but twice per turn. The game was still commonly played in Japan in the early 20th century, but has now largely died out. It has, however, gained some adherents in the West. The main reference work in English is the Middle Shogi Manual by George Hodges.

Other large medieval Shogi variants were Wa Shogi (11×11, possibly played with drops), Dai Shogi (大将棋, "Great Shogi", 15×15), Tenjiku Shogi (天竺将棋, literally "Indian Shogi", but probably meant in the sense of "Exotic Shogi", 16×16), Dai Dai Shogi (大大将棋, "Great Great Shogi", 17×17), Maka Dai Dai Shogi (摩訶大大将棋, "Ultra Great Great Shogi", 19×19) and Tai Shogi (泰将棋, "Grand Shogi", 25×25). These variants date back at least to the 17th century. Tai Shogi was thought to be the world's largest Chess variant, but recently records of an even larger variant, Taikyoku Shogi (大局将棋, "Ultimate Shogi", 36×36), was discovered.

The most recent large board variant is Ko Shogi (廣将棋 or 廣象棋 "Wide (Elephant) Chess", 19×19), which is played on a Go board and incorporates elements of Chinese Chess. Ko Shogi is unusual for the interdependence of its pieces and the complex rules of promotion.

Modern Variants[]

Tori Shogi (禽将棋, "Bird Shogi") dates from the late 18th century. The game is played on a 7×7 board and uses the drop rule. This is one of the more popular Shogi variants.

Another comparatively popular variant is Minishogi (5五将棋), which is played on a 5×5 board, but is otherwise the same as Standard Shogi. Judkins Shogi is similar, but has a 6×6 board.

Annan Shogi is a Korean variation of Standard Shogi where pieces gain the powers of the pieces behind them.

There are also multiple-player variants: Sannin Shogi for three players, and Yonin Shogi for four.

Other modern variants include Kyoto Shogi (京都将棋, 5×5), Cannon Shogi (9×9), Microshogi (4×5) and Christian Freeling's Yari Shogi (7×9).

See also[]

Small variants
Standard-size variants
Large variants
  • Wa Shogi (11×11)
  • Chu Shogi (12×12)
  • Heian Dai Shogi (13×13)
  • Dai Shogi (15×15)
  • Tenjiku Shogi (16×16)
  • Dai Dai Shogi (17×17)
  • Maka Dai Dai Shogi (19×19)
  • Ko Shogi (19×19)
  • Tai Shogi (25×25)
  • Taikyoku Shogi (36×36)
Three- and four-player variants
  • Yonin Shogi (9×9, four-person shogi)
  • Sannin Shogi (7×7×7 hexagonal board, three-person Shogi)

External Links[]


Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Shogi variant", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.