2.5 Differences between shogi and chess
Some differences between shogi and international chess have been
mentioned elsewhere in this document; I summarize them here for people
who are interested in game comparisons. I won’t try to deal with the
thorny question of which game is “better” although my bias may have
already come through :-) In fact, the drop rule makes the two games so
different in character that arguing over which game is better is like
comparing apples to oranges (you’d be better off comparing chess to Chu
shogi (see Shogi variants). However, I believe that if you are a
chess fan you’ll really like shogi as well, and shogi is also popular
with many people who don’t particularly like chess.
Here are the significant differences between chess and shogi:
- In shogi, captured pieces become the property of the capturer and can
re-enter play by being dropped onto almost any vacant square. In chess,
captured pieces are out of the game. Thus, in shogi, piece exchanges
complicate the play significantly while in chess they simplify it.
- The shogi board is 9x9; the chess board is 8x8.
- Shogi has five pieces with no counterpart in chess: the gold and silver
generals, the lance, the promoted rook and the promoted bishop. Chess
has one piece with no counterpart in shogi: the queen. The knight’s
move in shogi is much more restrictive than in chess. Pieces in shogi
generally have a much smaller range of movement than in chess (unless
they are in hand).
- In shogi, all pieces except the gold general and the king can promote,
but only to one kind of piece. Promotion is easier in shogi because the
promotion zone is closer to the starting position of the pieces
(especially pawns). In chess, only the pawn can promote, but it can
promote to any other piece except the king.
- In shogi, pawns capture the same way they move. There is no initial
two-space pawn move and hence no en-passant captures. In chess,
pawns capture diagonally which means that opposing pawns can block each
- In shogi, you only have one rook and one bishop. Note that the bishop
is not restricted to only one “color” square (squares in shogi aren’t
colored, but never mind) because promoted bishops can also move one
- There is no special castling move in shogi. The term “castle” is
used in shogi to denote a defensive formation consisting of (usually)
three generals which protect the king. There are many such castles
(about 40 or so have names). See Sample game.
- Draws are much rarer in shogi than in chess. Perpetual check is not
allowed. Stalemate is a virtual impossibility, and is a loss for the
- Since pieces are never out of play in shogi, chess-type endgames
involving only a few pieces do not occur.
- Shogi games are generally longer than chess games (about 60-70 moves is
- Shogi has a well-developed handicap system which is in general use;
chess does not.
The effects of all these differences on play include (in my opinion):
- Piece/pawn structures in chess are more rigid than in shogi. Pawns
block each other and pawns, once advanced, cannot ever retreat. In
shogi, you can repair the hole caused by a pawn advance by exchanging
the pawn and dropping it back where you want it. Thus shogi is more
fluid than chess and less “structural”.
- Counterattack is MUCH more common in shogi than in chess. Games
typically end in mutual mating attacks, where each player is trying to
checkmate the other player before being checkmated himself. This makes
tempo incredibly important and also makes sacrificial play quite common.
- Attacks involving only ranging pieces are more a feature of chess than
of shogi. A shogi attack typically uses a ranging piece or pieces to
support an attack by short-range pieces (especially generals). It is
very rare to mate a king with a non-adjacent ranging piece in shogi
since the player whose king is threatened can almost always interpose by
dropping a piece.