Shogi is not nearly as popular as I’d like it to be in English speaking countries. Most shogi enthusiasts feel the game should be at least popular enough that chess enthusiasts have heard of it. But alas, even most geeky chess players have never heard of shogi or Japanese chess.
A side effect of the challenge of finding shogi players in America and other English speaking countries is that very few shogi books are published for English speakers. I generally buy every English shogi book I can find, and often have a complete collection of every published magazine and book written in English.
Today, I was glad to discover my shogi book collection is once again out-of-date. I was glancing at Amazon and discovered two new English language shogi books I don’t own. It was all I could do to prevent myself from whipping out the already overused credit card and purchasing them on the spot.
These are the notes on the very compact format I came up with for storing shogi boards when writing computer programs dealing with shogi. I wrote this format around 2003. Feel free to reuse as permitted by the license below.
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.
It can be hard to remember how to record a game of shogi. I’ve created a quick cheat sheet below to make life easier.
The starting player is called “Black”, and the other player is called “White” when playing in English. Black is sometimes called “Sente” and White is sometimes called “Gote”. Don’t let Sente and Gote confuse you. They’re as different as black and white. (No I couldn’t resist.)
Shogi is not hard to learn. Children can learn this game and so can you. If you have ever played Chess, you have a head start, but that is not a prerequisite.
Traditionally Japanese calligraphy is used to mark the pieces in Shogi. This can intimidate westerners that can’t read Japanese. Luckily there are other styles of sets out there to make life easier for the beginner. Typically, once you’ve learned to play, you’ll want to take the time to learn the symbols the Japanese use for each piece.
* compatibility with current Portable Shogi Notation file conventions
* free opensource reference implementations in common programming languages to encourage compliance to current standard
* information on *.kif to *.psn and *.psn to *.kif file format conversion
* conventions for common and custom attribute/value declarations in game records
* conventions for commenting games
* conventions for recording standard and non standard shogi variations
Here’s the black and white version of my style shogi pieces with a board. These might feel a little more friendly than the traditional Western style shogi pieces. They’re definitely easier to distinguish than the kanji versions for English speakers.