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Sunday, Jan. 7, 2007

Shogi: basics of the game

Staff writer

The board used in shogi is a grid of nine squares by nine squares. Each player starts with 20 wedge-shaped pieces, called koma, on which the name of the piece is inscribed in kanji (Chinese characters).

The names and number of the pieces, in ascending order of importance, are: fu (pawn; 9), kyosha (lance; 2), keima (knight; 2), gin (silver general; 2), kin (gold general; 2), kaku (bishop; 1), hisha (rook; 1) and gyoku (king; 1).

In play, though both sides' pieces look identical, each player's pieces are always aligned with their wedge-end forward.

At the start of a game, from each player's position, the pieces are arranged with nine across the first row, two on the second row and nine across the third row -- in the arrangement pictured below.

Each piece moves in an individual way. A pawn can move one square directly forward and it cannot retreat; a lance can move any number of free squares directly forward; a knight can jump over both friend and foe and in one single motion, moving one square directly forward and then one square diagonally forward; a silver general can move one square directly forward or one square diagonally forward or backward; a gold general can move one square in any direction except for diagonally backward; a bishop can move any number of free squares in any diagonal direction; a rook can move any number of free squares in a straight line in any direction except for diagonally; and a king can move one square in any direction.

Just like in chess, the objective in shogi is to checkmate the oppon- ent's king. However, the main difference between the games is that in shogi, after you capture an opponent's piece -- by moving your piece to the position it occupied -- you can use that captured piece as one of your own. Until players decide to return captured pieces into play, they are left on small side tables (pictured here) that are part of any classic shogi setup.

See main story:
CLOSE-UP [YOSHIHARU HABU] -- Japan's king of the board

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