Japanese chess (shōgi) was introduced from China centuries ago; and though it has diverged to some extent from its prototype, the two games still have a feature in common distinguishing them from all other varieties. It is this. The rank on which the pawns are usually posted is occupied by only two pieces, called p'ao by the Chinese, and hisha and kaku by the Japanese. Also, on either side of the king are two pieces, called ssŭ in the Chinese, and kin in the Japanese game. These perform the duty imposed on the ferz or visir of the Persian Shatranj, which was the equivalent of the modern queen. Therefore, no queen or piece of similar attributes appears in either Chinese or Japanese chess. There are eighty-one squares on the Japanese board, and the game is played with twenty pieces on each side, distinguished, not by shape or colour, but by the ideographs upon them. Though the movements of the pieces resemble in most respects those followed in the European game, there are certain ramifications unknown to the latter. The most important of these are the employment of the pieces captured from the adversary to strengthen one's own game, and the comparative facility with which the minor pieces can attain to higher rank.
Chess is understood by all classes in Japan. The very coolies at the corners of the streets improvise out of almost anything around them materials with which to play, and thus while away the tedium of waiting for employment. But it is comparatively little patronised by the educated classes, who hold its rival Go in much higher esteem.
|The following is a diagram of the board:-|
ō is the king, keima the knight, hisha the rook, and kaku the bishop,-or pieces having movements like them. Fu is the pawn. The movements of the yari also resemble those of the rook, but are confined to the single rank on which it stands. Gin (silver) and kin (gold) are not found in Western chess. Gin moves one square diagonally at a time, also one square forward. If removed from its original position, it can retreat one square diagonally only. The kin, besides having similar movements, has also the power of moving one square on each side of itself, but it cannot return diagonally. The fu advances one square forward, and captures as it moves. When any piece moves into the adversary's third row, it may become a kin, in the same way as queening is effected in our game. This is indicated by turning the piece over.
Every piece so promoted loses its original character, except the hisha and kaku to which the movements of the kin are added. As already indicated, a captured piece may be employed at any time for either attack or defence. To checkmate with the fu is a thing vetoed-or at least considered "bad form"-in this nondemocratic game, neither is stale-mate permissible in Japanese chess. You wait until the adversary makes a move which admits of free action on your part. The object of the game is, as with us, to checkmate the king.
Books recommended - Das Japanische Schachspiel, by V. Holtz, and A Manual of Chinese Chess, by W. H. Wilkinson.