This game, also known as "Japanese chess", is related to international chess and xiàngqí, but it is in many respects quite a unique game. It does have many pieces analogous to chess, such as pawns and knights, but it has its own set of pieces, such as generals and lances - and this is not the most peculiar aspect of this game at all. In shogi, pieces can be promoted, acquiring more powerful moves, enemy troops can be captured and used by your own army, and you may even recruit new troops in the heat of battle. We truly recommend this game if you want to discover a new dimension to chess and to develop some new and unique strategies.
An excellent game for 2 players, with an approximate duration of 40 minutes.
The Indian game of chaturanga was developed around the 7th century of the Common Era and is recognized as the ancestor not only of shogi and international chess, but also of innumerable other variants all over the globe. It has bifurcated into a Western and a Northern branches – this last one giving origin to Chinese xiagnqi and others. It is believed that at some point in the 9th century, or perhaps a little earlier, the game has crossed the channel to Japan, where many variants emerged.
Two shogi variants from the Heain period are noteworthy, known as dai shogi (big shogi) and sho shogi (small shogi). The first one used a 13x13 board, and each player controlled an army of 34 pieces. The second one, which is the ancestor of the modern game, is a simplified version, with 8x9 or 9x9 boards, with each player controlling 16 to 18 pieces (with no bishops or rooks).
Sadly, although we do know these games were similar to the modern version, the complete rules did not survived to this day. We also don't know when the drop rule was inserted, but the consensus is that shogi probably acquired the modern rules and mechanics around the 16th century.
Shogi has enjoyed so much prestige in Japan that its master title, Meijin, was at a time inherited, just as a nobility title. For the brief moment after the World War II when Japan was under American rule, there were attempts to banish the game along with other traditions deemed feudal. The game has deep cultural roots, though, and not only it endured but flourished in the 20th and early 21st centuries.