Japanese Patterns of Design

Shogi Strategy: Winning Patterns of the Defense

Shogi strategy would be implemented on the Shogi board
The Shogi Board where Shogi Strategy would appear (crispy-trend.net)

Shogi Strategy – Shogi is Japanese chess, which is a two-player strategy board game belong to the same family as the Chess, Chaturanga of India, and Makruk of Thailand. Playing Shogi has a tremendous effect on your mind if you want to win both in business and private life. Let’s take a look at the history of Shogi, its unique rules, and winning strategies.

The Brief History of Shogi

Two men attired as Samurai playing Shogi
Two men attired as Samurai playing Shogi (http://cdi.uvm.edu)

There are several mentions of Shogi in old documents like Kirinsho, written by Fujiwara-no Yukinari (972-1027), a renowned calligrapher, and Shin Sarugoki (1058-1064), written by Fujiwara-no Akihira, a literary man.

However, the recent study shows the former one is doubtful for its authenticity of mentioning Shogi at the time. The later one, Shinsarugoki is accepted as the earliest document on the subject. Besides that, the oldest archaeological evidence is a group of 16 shogi pieces excavated from the grounds of Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara.

There have been changes in the rules with the passage of time and the modern day Shogi had been formed in the Edo period. The pieces of the time appear to have been simple ones made by cutting a writing plaque and writing directly on the surface, but they had the same five-sided shape as modern pieces.

There is the “meijin system” which produced a large number of Shogi masters and seven title matches today, which we can watch on television today and know their Shogi strategy.

General Rule

Beginning arrangement of Shogi
Beginning arrangement of Shogi (google.com)

The object of shogi is to force capture of the opposing king — to put him in checkmate. The two players alternate, moving one piece in each turn, using the characteristic moves of the various pieces. Like the western chess, Shogi can be divided into the opening, middle game and endgame. In Shogi, the game tends to start silently with a slow pace and it grows in intensity towards the end.

There are several unique features about Shogi. Among them, the most characteristic one should be that you can use the captured pieces in hand back on the board as you choose, which multiplies the numbers of situations you have to predict.

The opposing armies are not indicated by different colors, but by orientation on the board. Note that each piece always points toward the opponent.

All of the pieces, except for the king and gold (described below), may promote to gain new powers. The promoted value is on the flip side of the piece and is often shown in red calligraphy, usually written in a cursive style.

Shogi Strategy: Winning Patterns of the Defense

Simply put, you get the opponent’s king or your king has captured by the opponent, game’s over. You have to protect your king all the while attacking the opponent’s army. Knowing the forms of defensive is a key to the victory. Here we will focus on the defense systems.

Each formation has its own strength and weakness. So many factors to think about in Shogi strategy in terms of its unique rule. However, what truly important is observe each situation carefully and use each tactic accordingly to them by putting yourself in the opponent’s shoes.


Shogi strategy, Kin Yagura formation
Shogi, Kin Yagura formation (www.shogiblog.com)

What’s important in the openings are to make sure your king is protected really well even before thinking about attacking the enemy.

Yagura systems have a lot of variations of “Kakoi” (enclosing formation) system to protect King which can be set up at the openings. It takes a while to form the system, but once it’s set up you can focus on attacking the opponent’s army. You have to be alert for the attacking from the side, though.

Funa-gakoi: Boat Castle

Shogi strategy, Funa-gakoi
Funa-gakoi (www.shogiblog.com)

This is a very flexible defense system, which can develop into Mino-gakoi or Anaguma system we see later. It can be set up with a few moves, so it’s good for a fast-paced battle. But notice it’s relatively a temporal formation and not for a long-term battle.

Mino-gakoi: Mino Castle

Shogi strategy, Mino-gakoi enclosing system
Mino-gakoi enclosing system (www.shogiblog.com)

It takes a few moves to set up this formation and it’s robust for the side’s attack. It can be developed into Taka Mino-gakoi or Gin Kanmuri which are the more robust form of the system. Stay alerted to the attack from forward and the edge.

Gin Kanmuri: Crowned with Silver

Shogi strategy, Gin Kanmuri enclosing system
Gin Kanmuri enclosing system (www.shogiblog.com)

Gin Kanmuri is robust for the attack from the forward and weak from the attack from the sides. With a few moves, your army can be an attack unit, but the timing is crucial.

Anaguma: Bear in a Cave

Shogi strategy, Anaguma
Anaguma (www.shogiblog.com)

Anaguma system as known as Z, an initial letter of ‘Zettai tsumanai’ which means you would never lose, is a robust system for defense often seen in the endgame. Once set up, it’s so robust for any attack from the opposing army. The downside is it takes many moves to set up and the King has nowhere to escape once this enclosing style is compromised.

You can check strategies in detail on Three Phases of the game.

Playing Shogi Sharpens Up Your Mind

Shogi, pieces of Shogi flowing from a small box
Shogi, pieces of Shogi (anacaldatto.blogspot.com.br)

It’s considered that Shogi is one of the “Two-players, Zero-sum, Logical Perfection Information Game” along with chess, checkers, and Othello.

In this type of game, it’s said you can predict the very end result, suppose both of the players move their pieces in the best possible ways, it’s already decided victory goes to the one who makes the first move, the second, or draw in theory.

Although in reality, it is hard to predict all the situation with today’s human brain ability so that we can play as the game.

There are ample qualities you can gain from playing Shogi since it requires you to learn tactics in order to win. Below is a few examples.

A Balance of Sensory and Logic

As you keep playing and honing your skill in Shogi, you get to know the winning patterns and losing patterns through countless games. Your logic thinking develops while your sensory sensitivity would reach the higher level. You can’t always depend on your sense, but the intuition which comes from loads of experiences can be trusted.

Strength of Diversity

If you are a project leader, you want to keep your team with diverse backgrounds and skills. Playing Shogi teaches you each has each strength and weakness; that makes a great team to tackle any situation.

To make the best out of your team, you create and encourage each one’s strength instead of focusing on what they lack.

Power of Thinking and Determination

You learn Shogi, there’s no way but you would notice the ability of thinking and decision-making develop as you keep practicing.

Most of the predictions in your head might not be practiced, but to prepare for the all possible situation is a sure way to win in the end. You get yourself prepared for any situation, you can make the best move from your reference.

Prediction of The Next Three Moves

You can decide your own move and act accordingly to your ideas all under your control. The matter is there will be other factors such as the opponent or the situation, which can change at any minute in an unexpected way.

The second step might be the most important since you have to predict the opponent’s tactics by putting yourself in his shoes. What you think it is his thoughts, ideas are just your thought.

These mindsets can be really useful in daily life as well. So you know the realm where you can control with the full grip and the real you can’t touch or change. You build your Shogi strategy from there.

It is crucial to imagine yourself as if you were the opponent army, so you can move effectively to win. It’s always a good idea to have a bird’s-eye analysis mode in your mind and to observe the situation from above to grasp the wider view of things.


Shogi, checkmate with the weakest piece
Shogi, checkmate with the weakest piece “Fu” (www.pakutaso.com)

All of the strategies and tactics talked here can be adapted to your real life. Fostering the calm mind, put yourself in the opponent’s shoes, predict moves and be prepared for it; playing Shogi is absolutely an excellent practice you can learn all of them without causing any trouble in reality.

In the end, what would make the difference between a winner and a loser? A renowned Shogi player, Yoshiharu Habu, once said; It is about how badly you want to win. He is said to predict a thousand forward moves but the thing is his hand trembles when he is about to checkmate for the joy of winning.

Shogi strategy shows us many things and makes us reflect on our own daily life. Learning as many as Shogi strategy and have the mindset to be flexible and prepare for the possible outcomes, our lives would be much better, you think?

With the same skill and the same situation, the desire to win is what matters in the end. If we want a change in our lives, how badly we want decides the thing.

It sounds somehow tricky, but beyond Shogi strategy, how bad one wants does matter in the end.

Shogi players at Shogi club
Shogi players at Shogi club, you may notice chairs are worn down as a result of heavy thinking (wordpress.tokyotimes.org)


将棋の効用 (Communitative Weblog 3)
羽生善治×茂木健一郎 特別対談授業「将棋は脳を育てる」 (www.idesnet.co.jp)

二人零和有限確定完全情報ゲーム (Wikipedia)

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