Shogi Game Notation … Japanese Style

First off, this seems like a good place to mention the kanji for shogi. If you go looking up shogi in a japanese dictionary, remember that in Japanese, the pronunciation is actually “shougi” not “shogi”. Shogi has been in English long enough that the “u” was dropped from the name.

Shogi in Kanji

Now for the Japanese notation.

Don’t let it scare you, but Japanese use kanji. This puts off westerners who get really scared by all those lines. (I wonder, is there a phobia name for this?) Notation for Japanese shogi game records is very similar to western game notations.

First remember Japanese write two directions. Sometimes they write like in English, that would be from left to right and from top to bottom. Traditionally they write like Chinese, that would be from top to bottom and from right to left. Shogi game records usually are in the traditional top to bottom and from right to left.

Who moved is first marked with a token of the color black or white. (Remember black normally moves first in shogi.) This is followed by the position the piece moved to. Additionally, kanji representing drops, promotions and moves to the same position are used.

Below are the kanji used for the unpromoted pieces when they move.

Unpromoted Shogi Tokens

Once a piece is promoted, it is referred to using the promoted kanji below.

Promoted Shogi Token Kanji

When referring to a position on the board, western shogi game records use 1-9 from right to left across the top of the board. This is the same in Japanese. When referring to the position from top to bottom of the board, westerners use a-i. Japanese is different. In Japanese, the notation used is 1-9 again, but in traditional kanji numbers instead of arabic numbers.

Here are the kanji used to mark the rows from top to bottom on a shogi board.

Shogi Kanji Numbering for Board

So all that we have left are a few special kanji.

When acknowledging a dropped piece, the kanji for drop is placed at the end of the move. When a piece is promoted, the kanji for promote is used after the move description. Subsequent moves of the piece are noted using the promoted piece kanji shown above.

If a piece moves to the same location that a opponent piece just moved to (think capture), then the kanji for “same” is written instead of the location of the destination.

When there is ambiguity as to which piece has moved, the kanji for left or right is used to clear up the confusion.

Here are the special kanji with their definitions.

Special Shogi Kanji Notation

If you run into any notation in a Japanese shogi game record that I have not mentioned here, let me know so that I can add an explanation.