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2.2 Sample game

This game was annotated by Pieter Stouten (see References and links). I have made some minor corrections. Note that captures are denoted by the “x” symbol e.g. Rx3f and drops are denoted by the “*” symbol e.g. R*3f. Check is indicated by a “+” after the move, e.g. R3f+. I recommend you use gnushogi/xshogi to play along with this game. In xshogi simply hit the “Force Moves” button after starting up, while in gnushogi enter the word “force” at the prompt. This will allow you to enter moves for both sides.

Note also that the move numbering system used here is the chess-type system where one move means one move by each player. The Japanese count one move made by each player as two moves.


Below you will find (the English translation of) an annotated game which was published in the Dutch Shogi magazine “81” and in the Dutch beginners booklet. It has proven to be a very useful game to explain some basic principles of Shogi. Also, it is a rather straightforward game compared to professional games where in most cases very diffuse middle game fights take place.

Pieter Stouten, 14th May 1990.


Black: Michael Trent (1-dan). White: David Murphy (2-dan).

1. P2f P3d 2. P2e B3c
[ This move is necessary, as otherwise white can exchange pawns: 3. P2d Px2d 4. Rx2d. He would thus get a pawn in hand and open up his rook file. ]

3. P7f P4d
[ White closes the bishop diagonal again. He plans to play ranging rook (the rook goes to 5b, 4b, 3 or 2b; a defensive strategy) and in that case he’d better avoid an exchange of bishops. One of the reasons is that he will have problems developing his pieces without leaving holes for bishop drops. ]

4. S4h R3b 5. P3f S4b 6. K6h K6b
[ In general the rook plays an important role in the attacks. It is wise to move the king away from the area where the initial fights will be and both players act according to the Shogi proverb “keep the rook and king apart”. ]

7. K7h K7b 8. P5f P5d 9. G4i-5h G4a-5b
[ Both players use their second gold general to build their castle. ]

10. S6h
[ In itself this move is not bad. However, it will become clear that black plans a quick attack and in that case it is wiser to omit this move. ]

10... S5c 11. P1f P1d
[ The advance of the edge pawns must be timed very well. The remark at black’s tenth move applies here too: this move is good if black wants to play a slow game, because it eliminates a future B1e. ]

12. P4f K8b 13. N3g S7b
[ Black develops his knight in order to start an attack over the second, third and fourth files. White strengthens his king’s position and awaits the attack. He aims at a counterattack as soon as black has broken through into the white camp. Probably white’s breakthrough will take place later, but he has good compensation in the form of a stronger castle. This theme occurs very often in static rook versus ranging rook games. ]

14. P4e R4b
[ Black starts his attack and white puts up a very passive defence. His rook has a hard task now to penetrate the black position. Moreover, he blocks his own bishop. It seems much better to start a counterattack with 14... P3e, later to be followed by B2b, B5a or Bx4d in order to use his rook more actively. ]

15. Px4d Sx4d 16. P*4e S5c
[ 16... Sx4e is more active. A silver general is normally more valuable than a knight, but white gets two pawns in hand and black none, while the knight might come in handy for white too. ]

17. Bx3c+ Nx3c 18. P2d Px2d
[ Black threatens to break through and white has to consider taking the pawn on 2d or starting a counterattack with Nx4e. If he chooses the latter, black can play Px2c+ followed by +P3c. The disadvantage is the black “tokin” (=promoted pawn) that white will get in his camp; the advantage is that it will cost black two more moves to promote his rook. Because white did not trust that the result after engaging in a “semeai” (=mutual attack) with 18...Nx4e would give a positive result, he captured the pawn on 2d. Making the right decision in moments like this often makes the difference between a win and a loss: miss one attacking chance and you will be forced to defend the whole game until the unavoidable defeat; on the other hand, an unsound attack can destroy all “aji” (=potential, meaning possibilities, threats) without getting anything in return. ]

19. Rx2d Nx4e 20. Nx4e Rx4e 21. R2a+ P*4g
[ Now it becomes clear why black’s 10. S6h was not good. Had this move been omitted, then white would not have had the time to play 13... S7b and after R2a+ the gold on 6a would hang. Thus black would have kept “sente” (=initiative). Instead of 21... P*4g, B*6d is a very good move, because after 22. P*2h black does not have a pawn in hand anymore and he is being threatened with the annoying 22... N*4f 23. G5g N3h+ 24. S4g +N4h also. Black can also counter 21... B*6d with 22. N*3g. White would then reply with 22... R4b 23. B*3c P*4g 24. Bx4b+ Sx4b. The white rook has played its role and instead of spending moves on saving it white starts to scatter black’s defences by successive pawn drops on the fourth file: 25. Gx4g P*4f 26. G5g N*6e 27. G5h P4g+ 28. Gx4g P*4f. This analysis was provided by Kato Hifumi, 9-dan professional (the highest regular grade). Destroying the coherence of the enemy pieces (their shape) by dropping pawns is one of the most important Shogi techniques. With the actual move 21... P*4g white missed a good chance. ]

22. Sx4g P*4f 23. B*3g Px4g+ 24. +Rx6a +Px3g
[ 23. B*3g seems pointless, but a closer look reveals that it is actually quite mean. On move 24 white cannot capture black’s “Ryu” (=dragon =promoted rook) with his silver: 24... Sx6a 25. N*7d K7b 26. G*8b mate. By attacking the front of the white castle and threatening to mate him there, black has the chance to break down the white defences from the side. ]

25. +Rx5b S*6b
[ Here 25... B*4d would be much better, because it is defensive and attacking at the same time. After e.g. 26. G*4c Bx9i+ 27. Gx5c black threatens 28. +Rx7b Kx7b 29. S*6a K8b 30. S*7a Kx7a 31. G*7b mate. White is one move quicker, however. He has the following beautiful “tsume” (mating sequence where every move is check): 27... N*8f 28. Px8f S*8g 29. Kx8g B*9h 30. K7h Bx8i+ 31. K8g +B8i-8h 32. K9f L*9e mate. This illustrates the sharpness of Shogi: one move can make the difference between winning and losing. ]

26. P*4f Rx4f
[ This move eliminates white’s last chances. 26... R4b 27. +Rx4b Sx4b 28. R*4a seems annoying, but after 28... B*3c 29. S7g B*3b white wins the rook and with his “tokin” on 3g there still is some hope. ]

27. N*6e +P4g
[ White cannot defend anymore, so he starts a desperate attack. Black does not lose the right track, however. ]

28. Nx5c+ +Px5h 29. +Nx6b +Px6h 30. Gx6h N*8f 31. Px8f B*6i 32. Gx6i R4h+ 33. N*6h +Rx6h 34. Gx6h S*8g 35. Kx8g N*9e 36. K7h Resigns
[ White resigns here, because after 36... B*8g 27. K7g his attack has petered out. ]

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