Shogi

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Shogi
Shogi.jpg
A game of shogi using a magnetic travel set. Captured pieces in the tray (bottom-center) can be dropped into play on the board by the capturer.
Genre(s) Board game
Abstract strategy game
Players 2
Age range 5+
Setup time < 2 minutes
Playing time 30 mins. to 2 hours (typically)
Random chance None
Skill(s) required Strategy, tactics
Synonym(s) Japanese chess
The Generals' Game

Shogi (将棋 shōgi?) (/ˈʃɡ/, Japanese: [ɕo̞ːɡi] or [ɕo̞ːŋi]), also known as Japanese chess or the Generals' Game, is a two-player strategy board game in the same family as Western (international) chess, chaturanga, makruk, shatranj, janggi and xiangqi, and is the most popular of a family of chess variants native to Japan. Shōgi means general's (shō ) board game (gi ).

The earliest predecessor of the game, chaturanga, originated in India in the 6th century, and sometime in the 10th to 12th centuries xiangqi (Chinese chess) was brought to Japan where it spawned a number of variants. Shogi in its present form was played as early as the 16th century, while a direct ancestor without the "drop rule" was recorded from 1210 in a historical document Nichūreki, which is an edited copy of Shōchūreki and Kaichūreki from the late Heian period (c. 1120).

According to The Chess Variant Pages :[1]

Perhaps the enduring popularity of shogi can be attributed to its ‘drop rule’; it was the first chess variant wherein captured pieces could be returned to the board to be used as one's own. David Pritchard credits the drop rule to the practice of 16th century mercenaries who switched loyalties when captured—no doubt as an alternative to execution.

Equipment[edit]

A traditional shōgi-ban (shogi board) displaying a set of koma (pieces). The pieces on the far side are turned to show their promoted values. The stands on either side are komadai used to hold captured pieces. The board itself is raised for the comfort of players seated on tatami mats (background), and is hollowed underneath to produce a pleasing sound when the pieces are moved.

Two players, Sente 先手 (Black; more literally, person with the first move) and Gote 後手 (White; person with the second move), play on a board composed of rectangles in a grid of 9 ranks (rows) by 9 files (columns). The rectangles are undifferentiated by marking or color. The board is nearly always rectangular; square boards are uncommon. Pairs of dots mark the players' promotion zones.

Each player has a set of 20 wedge-shaped pieces of slightly different sizes. Except for the kings, opposing pieces are undifferentiated by marking or color. Pieces face forward (toward the opponent's side); this shows who controls the piece during play. The pieces from largest (most important) to smallest (least important) are:

Several of these names were chosen to correspond to their rough equivalents in international chess, and not as literal translations of the Japanese names.

Each piece has its name written on its surface in the form of two kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese), usually in black ink. On the reverse side of each piece, other than the king and gold general, are one or two other characters, in amateur sets often in a different color (usually red); this side is turned face up during play to indicate that the piece has been promoted.

The suggestion that the Japanese characters have deterred Western players from learning shogi has led to "Westernized" or "international" pieces which use iconic symbols instead of characters. Most players soon learn to recognize the characters, however, partially because the traditional pieces are already iconic by size, with more powerful pieces being larger. As a result, Westernized pieces have never become popular. Bilingual pieces with both Japanese characters and English captions have been developed.

Following is a table of the pieces with their Japanese representations and English equivalents. The abbreviations are used for game notation and often when referring to the pieces in speech in Japanese.

Closeup of shogi pieces. Top: +R, R, K (reigning), K (challenging), B, +B. Bottom: +L, L, +S, S, G, N, +N, P, +P.
English name Image Kanji Rōmaji Meaning Abbreviations Betza notation
King
(higher ranked player or reigning champion)
Reigning king 王將 ōshō king general K ō K
King
(lower ranked player or challenger)
Challenging king 玉將 gyokushō jeweled general K gyoku K
Rook Rook 飛車 hisha flying chariot R hi R
Promoted rook
("Dragon")
Promoted rook 龍王 ryūō dragon king +R or 竜* ryū FR
Bishop Bishop 角行 kakugyō angle mover B kaku B
Promoted bishop
("Horse")
Promoted bishop 龍馬 ryūma or ryume dragon horse +B uma WB
Gold general
("Gold")
Gold general 金將 kinshō gold general G kin WfF
Silver general
("Silver")
Silver general 銀將 ginshō silver general S gin FfW
Promoted silver Promoted silver 成銀 narigin promoted silver +S (全) WfF
Knight Knight 桂馬 keima cassia horse N kei ffN
Promoted knight Promoted knight 成桂 narikei promoted cassia +N (圭 or今) WfF
Lance Lance 香車 kyōsha incense chariot L kyō fR
Promoted lance Promoted lance 成香 narikyō promoted incense +L (杏 or 仝) WfF
Pawn Pawn 歩兵 fuhyō foot soldier P fu fW
Promoted pawn
("tokin")
Promoted pawn と金 tokin reaches gold +P と (or个) to WfF

* The kanji is a simplified form of .

English speakers sometimes refer to promoted bishops as horses and promoted rooks as dragons, after their Japanese names, and generally use the Japanese term tokin for promoted pawns. Silver generals and gold generals are commonly referred to simply as silvers and golds.

The characters inscribed on the reverse sides of the pieces to indicate promotion may be in red ink, and are usually cursive. The characters on the backs of the pieces that promote to gold generals are cursive variants of 'gold', becoming more cursive (more abbreviated) as the value of the original piece decreases. These cursive forms have these equivalents in print: for promoted silver, for promoted knight, for promoted lance, and for promoted pawn (tokin). Another typographic convention has abbreviated versions of the original values, with a reduced number of strokes: for a promoted knight (桂), for a promoted lance (香), and the as above for a promoted silver, but for tokin.

Setup and gameplay[edit]

Shogi starting setup; Black (at bottom) moves first.

Each player sets up his pieces facing forward (toward his opponent).

  • In the rank nearest the player:
    • the king is placed in the center file;
    • the two gold generals are placed in files adjacent to the king;
    • the two silver generals are placed adjacent to each gold general;
    • the two knights are placed adjacent to each silver general;
    • the two lances are placed in the corners, adjacent to each knight.
That is, the first rank is
 L   N   S   G   K   G   S   N   L 
or
  • In the second rank, each player places:
    • the bishop in the same file as the left knight;
    • the rook in the same file as the right knight.
  • In the third rank, the nine pawns are placed one per file.

Traditionally, the order of placing the pieces on the board is determined. There are two commonly used orders, the Ōhashi order 大橋流 and the Itō order 伊藤流.[2] Placement sets pieces with multiples (generals, knights, lances) from left to right in all cases, and follows the order:

  1. king
  2. gold generals
  3. silver generals
  4. knights
In ito, the player now places:
5.  pawns (left to right starting from the leftmost file)
6.  lances
7.  bishop
8.  rook
In ohashi, the player now places:
5.  lances
6.  bishop
7.  rook
8.  pawns (starting from center file, then alternating left to right one file at a time)
Deciding who goes first: Furigoma.

A furigoma 振り駒 'piece toss' is used to decide who moves first. One of the players tosses five pawns. If the number of tokins (promoted pawns, と) facing up is higher than unpromoted pawns (歩), then the player who tossed the pawns plays gote 後手 'white' (that is, they have the second move).[3] Usually, the higher ranked or defending champion performs the piece toss.

After the piece toss furigoma, the game proceeds. If multiple games are played, then players alternate turns for who goes first in subsequent games. (The terms "Black" and "White" are used to differentiate sides although there is no difference in the color of the pieces.) For each turn, a player may either move a piece that is currently on the board (and potentially promote it, capture an opposing piece, or both) or else drop a piece that has been previously captured onto a square of the board. These options are explained below.

Professional games are timed as in international chess, but professionals are never expected to keep time in their games. Instead a timekeeper is assigned, typically an apprentice professional. Time limits are much longer than in international chess (9 hours a side plus extra time in the prestigious Meijin title match), and in addition byōyomi (literally "second counting") is employed. This means that when the ordinary time has run out, the player will from that point on have a certain amount of time to complete every move (a byōyomi period), typically upwards of one minute. The final ten seconds are counted down, and if the time expires the player to move loses the game immediately. Amateurs often play with electronic clocks that beep out the final ten seconds of a byōyomi period, with a prolonged beep for the last five.

An illegal move results in an immediate loss of the game in professional and tournament shogi, even if play continued and the move was discovered later in game. However, if neither opposition nor third party points out, and the opposition later resigned, the resignation stands as the result.[4]

Rules[edit]

Movement[edit]

Most shogi pieces can move only to an adjacent square. A few may move across the board, and one jumps over intervening pieces.

The lance, bishop, and rook are ranging pieces: They can move any number of squares along a straight line limited only by intervening pieces and the edge of the board. If an opposing piece intervenes, it may be captured by removing it from the board and replacing it with the moving piece. If a friendly piece intervenes, the moving piece must stop short of that square; if the friendly piece is adjacent, the moving piece may not move in that direction at all.

Notation
Steps to an adjacent square
Jumps to a non-adjacent square, bypassing any intervening piece
Ranges along a straight line, crossing any number of empty squares

A king (玉/王) moves one square in any direction, orthogonal or diagonal.

A rook (飛) moves any number of squares in an orthogonal direction.

A bishop (角) moves any number of squares in a diagonal direction. Because they cannot move orthogonally, the players' unpromoted bishops can reach only half the squares of the board, unless one is captured and then dropped.

A gold general (金) moves one square orthogonally, or one square diagonally forward, giving it six possible destinations. It cannot move diagonally backwards.

A silver general (銀) moves one square diagonally, or one square straight forward, giving it five possible destinations. Because an unpromoted silver can retreat more easily than a promoted one, it is common to leave a silver unpromoted at the far side of the board. (See Promotion).

A knight (桂) jumps at an angle intermediate to orthogonal and diagonal, amounting to one square straight forward plus one square diagonally forward, in a single move. Thus the knight has two possible forward destinations. The knight cannot move to the sides or in a backwards direction. The knight is the only piece that ignores intervening pieces on the way to its destination. It is not blocked from moving if the square in front of it is occupied, but neither can it capture a piece on that square. It is often useful to leave a knight unpromoted at the far side of the board. A knight must promote, however, if it reaches either of the two furthest ranks. (See Promotion.)

A lance (香) moves any number of squares directly forward. It cannot move backwards or to the sides. It is often useful to leave a lance unpromoted at the far side of the board. A lance must promote, however, if it reaches the furthest rank. (See Promotion.)

A pawn (歩) moves one square straight forward. It cannot retreat. Unlike international chess pawns, shogi pawns capture the same as they move. A pawn must promote if it arrives at the furthest rank. (See Promotion.) In practice, however, a pawn is usually promoted whenever possible. There are two restrictions on where a pawn may be dropped. (See Drops.)

All pieces but the knight move either horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. These directions cannot be combined in a single move; one direction must be chosen.

Every piece blocks the movement of all other non-jumping pieces through the square it occupies.

If a piece occupies a legal destination for an opposing piece, it may be captured by removing it from the board and replacing it with the opposing piece. The capturing piece may not continue beyond that square on that turn. Shogi pieces capture the same as they move.

Normally when moving a piece, a player snaps it to the board with the ends of the fingers of the same hand. This makes a sudden sound effect, bringing the piece to the attention of the opponent. This is also true for capturing and dropping pieces. On a traditional shogi-ban, the pitch of the snap is deeper, delivering a subtler effect.

It is common to keep captured pieces on a wooden stand (or komadai) which is traditionally placed so that its bottom left corner aligns with the bottom right corner of the board from the perspective of each player. It is not permissible to hide pieces from full view. This is because captured pieces, which are said to be "pieces in hand" (持ち駒 mochi goma?), have a crucial impact on the course of the game.

Promotion[edit]

A player's
promotion zone (yellow)
 
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
91 81 71 61 51 41 31 21 11 a
92 82 72 62 52 42 32 22 12 b
93 83 73 63 53 43 33 23 13 c
94 84 74 64 54 44 34 24 14 d
95 85 75 65 55 45 35 25 15 e
96 86 76 66 56 46 36 26 16 f
97 87 77 67 57 47 37 27 17 g
98 88 78 68 58 48 38 28 18 h
99 89 79 69 59 49 39 29 19 i

A player's promotion zone consists of the furthest one-third of the board – the three ranks occupied by the opponent's pieces at setup. The zone is typically delineated on shogi boards by two inscribed dots. When a piece is moved, if part of the piece's path lies within the promotion zone (that is, if the piece moves into, out of, or wholly within the zone; but not if it is dropped into the zone – see Drops), then the player has the option to promote the piece at the end of the turn. Promotion is indicated by turning the piece over after it moves, revealing the character of the promoted piece.

If a pawn or lance is moved to the furthest rank, or a knight is moved to either of the two furthest ranks, that piece must promote (otherwise, it would have no legal move on subsequent turns). A silver general is never required to promote, and it is often advantageous to keep a silver general unpromoted. (It is easier, for example, to extract an unpromoted silver from behind enemy lines; whereas a promoted silver, with only one line of retreat, can be easily blocked.)

Pieces that promote
 
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
91 81 71 61 51 41 31 21 11 a
92 82 72 62 52 42 32 22 12 b
93 83 73 63 53 43 33 23 13 c
94 84 74 64 54 44 34 24 14 d
95 85 75 65 55 45 35 25 15 e
96 86 76 66 56 46 36 26 16 f
97 87 77 67 57 47 37 27 17 g
98 88 78 68 58 48 38 28 18 h
99 89 79 69 59 49 39 29 19 i

Promoting a piece changes the way it moves. The various pieces promote as follows:

  • A silver general, knight, lance, or pawn has its normal power of movement replaced by that of a gold general.
  • A rook or bishop keeps its original movement and gains the power to move one square in any direction (like a king). For a promoted bishop, this means it is able to reach any square on the board, given enough moves.
  • A king or a gold general does not promote; nor can a piece that is already promoted.

When captured, a piece loses its promoted status. Otherwise promotion is permanent.

[edit]

A promoted rook ("dragon king", 龍王 Ryūō) moves as a rook or as a king, but not as both on the same turn. Alternate forms: 龍, 竜.

[edit]

A promoted bishop ("dragon horse", 龍馬 Ryūma) moves as a bishop or as a king, but not as both on the same turn. Alternate form: 馬.

[edit]

A promoted silver (成銀 narigin) moves the same as a gold general. Alternate forms: 全, cursive 金.

[edit]

A promoted knight (成桂 narikei) moves the same as a gold general. Alternate forms: 圭, 今, cursive 金.

[edit]

A promoted lance (成香 narikyō) moves the same as a gold general. Alternate forms: 杏, 仝, cursive 金.

[edit]

A promoted pawn (と金 tokin) moves the same as a gold general. Alternate forms: と, 个.

Drops[edit]

Captured pieces are retained in hand, and can be brought back into play under the capturing player's control. On any turn, instead of moving a piece on the board, a player may select a piece in hand and place it—unpromoted side up and facing the opposing side—on any empty square. The piece is then one of that player's active pieces on the board and can be moved accordingly. This is called dropping the piece, or simply, a drop. A drop counts as a complete move.

A drop cannot capture a piece, nor does dropping within the promotion zone result in immediate promotion. Capture and/or promotion may occur normally, however, on subsequent moves of the piece.

A pawn, knight, or lance may not be dropped on the furthest rank, since those pieces would have no legal moves on subsequent turns. For the same reason, a knight may not be dropped on the penultimate (player's 8th) rank.

There are two additional restrictions when dropping pawns:

  1. Nifu (Japanese: 二歩): A pawn cannot be dropped onto a file (column) containing another unpromoted pawn of the same player (promoted pawns do not count). A player with an unpromoted pawn on every file is therefore unable to drop a pawn anywhere. For this reason it is common to sacrifice a pawn in order to gain flexibility for drops.
  2. Uchifuzume (Japanese: 打ち歩詰め): A pawn cannot be dropped to give an immediate checkmate. (Although other pieces may be dropped to give immediate checkmate.) A pawn may, however, be dropped to give immediate check.

It is common for players to swap bishops, which oppose each other across the board, early in the game. This leaves each player with a bishop in hand to be dropped later. The ability for drops in shogi give the game tactical richness and complexity. The fact that no piece ever goes entirely out of play accounts for the rarity of draws.

Winning[edit]

When a player's move threatens to capture the opposing king on the next turn, the move is said to give check to the king; the king is said to be in check. If a player's king is in check, that player's responding move must remove the check if possible;[5] if no such move exists, the checking move is also checkmate (tsumi 詰み) and immediately wins the game. The losing player should resign out of courtesy at this point, although in practice this rarely occurs, as players normally resign as soon as a loss is deemed inevitable.

To announce "check!" in Japanese, one says "ōte!" (王手). This is an influence of international chess[citation needed] and is not required, however, even as a courtesy.[6]

In professional and serious amateur games, a player who makes an illegal move loses immediately.

There are two other possible, if uncommon, ways for a game to end: repetition (千日手 sennichite) and impasse (持将棋 jishōgi):

  • Repetition: If the same game position occurs four times with the same player to move, either player loses if his or her moves during the repetition are all checks (perpetual check), otherwise the game is considered a draw. For two positions to be considered the same, the pieces in hand must be the same as well as the positions on the board. The rule used to be that it happened if a sequence caused three repetitions.[citation needed]
  • Impasse: The game reaches an impasse if both kings have advanced into their respective promotion zones and neither player can hope to mate the other or to gain any further material. If this happens, the winner is decided as follows: Each rook or bishop, promoted or not, scores 5 points for the owning player, and all other pieces except kings score 1 point each. A player scoring fewer than 24 points loses. (If neither player has fewer than 24, the game is no contest—a draw.) Jishōgi is considered an outcome in its own right rather than no contest, but there is no practical difference. In amateur games other rules for jishōgi can be applied (27 point count or try-rule[citation needed]).

As this impasse generally needs to be agreed on for the rule to be invoked, a player may refuse to do so, on the grounds that the player could gain further material or position before an outcome has to be decided. If that happens, one player may force jishōgi upon getting his king and all his pieces protected in the promotion zone.[citation needed]

In professional tournaments the rules typically require drawn games to be replayed with colors (sides) reversed, possibly with reduced time limits. This is rare compared to chess and xiangqi, occurring at a rate of 1–2% even in amateur games. The 1982 Meijin title match between Makoto Nakahara and Hifumi Kato was unusual in this regard, with jishōgi in the first game (only the fifth draw in the then 40-year history of the tournament), a game which lasted for 223 moves (not counting in pairs of moves), with 114 minutes spent pondering a single move, and sennichite in the sixth and eighth games. Thus this best-of-seven match lasted eight games and took over three months to finish; Black did not lose a single game and the eventual victor was Kato at 4–3.

Player rank and handicaps[edit]

Amateur players are ranked from 20 kyū to 1 kyū and then from 1 dan to 8 dan. Amateur 8 dan was only honorarily given to famous people. While it's now possible to win amateur 8 dan by actual strength (winning amateur Ryu-oh 3 times), this has yet to be achieved.

Professional players operate with their own scale, from 6 kyū to 3 dan for pro-aspiring players and professional 4 dan to 9 dan for formal professional players.[7] Amateur and professional ranks are offset (with amateur 4 dan being equivalent to professional 6 kyū).[8]

Handicaps[edit]

Main article: Handicap (shogi)
6-Piece Handicap
 
△ pieces in hand:
9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
91 81 71 61 51 41 31 21 11 a
92 82 72 62 52 42 32 22 12 b
93 83 73 63 53 43 33 23 13 c
94 84 74 64 54 44 34 24 14 d
95 85 75 65 55 45 35 25 15 e
96 86 76 66 56 46 36 26 16 f
97 87 77 67 57 47 37 27 17 g
98 88 78 68 58 48 38 28 18 h
99 89 79 69 59 49 39 29 19 i
▲ pieces in hand:

Games between players of disparate strengths are often played with handicaps. In a handicap game, one or more of White's pieces are removed from the setup, and instead White plays first.

Notation[edit]

Western notation[edit]

The method used in English-language texts to express shogi moves was established by George Hodges in 1976. It is derived from the algebraic notation used for chess, but differs in several respects. It is not used in Japanese language texts, as it is no more concise than traditional notation with kanji and two ciphers which was originated in Edo period. A typical move might be notated P-8f. The notation format has the following 5 part structure:

1 2 3 4 5
piece (origin) movement destination (promotion)

An example using all 5 parts is S7bx8c+. All parts are obligatory except for the origin and promotion parts. (Thus, most notation strings only contain 3 parts.) The origin part is only indicated when needed to resolve ambiguity. The promotion part is only needed when there is the possibility of promotion.

1. Piece. The first letter represents the piece moved: P for Pawn. Below are the abbreviations used.

Abbreviation English Term Japanese
P pawn
L lance
N knight
S silver
G gold
B bishop
R rook
K king 玉/王

Promoted pieces are indicated by a + preceding the letter. For example, +P is a promoted pawn (と tokin), +R is a promoted rook (that is, a dragon 龍).

2. Ambiguity Resolution: Origin Coordinates. In cases where the moving piece is ambiguous, the starting square is added to the letter for the piece.

For example, in diagrams below, Black has three golds which can move to square 7h. Thus, simply notating G-7h is not enough to indicate the move. The three possible moves are distinguished via the origin specification as G7g-7h, G6h-7h, or G7i-7h.

3. Movement Type. Following the abbreviation for the piece is a symbol for the type of move. There are 3 different indications:

Notation Symbol Movement Type
- simple movement
x capture (opponent's piece)
* drop (your own piece)

As examples, P-2d indicates moving one's pawn to the 2d square (without capture), Px2d indicates moving one's pawn to the 2d square and capturing the opponent's piece that was on 2d, and P*2d indicates dropping one's pawn in hand to the previously empty 2d square. There is some variation for the drop symbol. A * (asterisk) is often used, but some books use a (apostrophe) instead. (Note the x indication is a significant departure from Japanese notation, which has no way of signaling whether a piece was captured.)

4. Destination Coordinates. After the movement piece indication is the square on which the piece lands. This is indicated by a numeral for the file (1–9) and a lowercase letter for the rank (a–i), with 1a being the top right corner from Black's perspective and 9i being the bottom left corner. This is based partly on Japanese notation conventions.

5. Promotion Status. If a move entitles the player to promote, then a + is added to the end if the promotion was taken, or an = if it was declined. For example, Nx7c= indicates an unpromoted knight capturing on 7c without promoting while Nx7c+ indicates an unpromoted knight capturing on 7c and promoting. The promotion status is always omitted in situations where promotion is not possible. When promotion is possible, then the promotion status is obligatorily notated.

Other notation conventions. Game moves in western notation are always numbered (unlike Japanese game records). Additionally, what is numbered are the pairs of two moves – the first move by Black, the second by White – instead of numbering each move by each player. This also differs from the Japanese system. For instance, three pairs of moves (or six individual moves) are numbered as 1. P-7f P-3d 2. P-2f P-4d 3. S-4h S-3b.

Omitted moves are indicated with an ... ellipsis. As a consequence of the way moves are numbered in the western system, all moves by White are notated with an ellipsis prefix in texts. For example, ... P-5e indicates a move by White while P-5e indicates a move by Black. In handicap games, White plays first, so Black's first move is replaced by an ellipsis. For example, 1. ... G-3b 2. P-7f G-7b.

Japanese notation[edit]

Japanese notation (shown on the left, listed vertically) accompanying a 15-move checkmate (tsume) problem. Note the lack of numbered moves and the lack of both explicit dropped piece notation and capture notation. From the book 詰むや詰まざるや (Tsumu ya tsumazaru ya) (1975) by 伊藤宗看 (Sōkan Itō) [1706-1761], a shogi Meijin of the Edo period, and 門脇芳雄 (Yoshio Kadowaki).

In the Japanese system, the notation string has the following 5-part format:

1 2 3 4 5
(player side) destination piece (movement) (promotion)

A typical move is indicated like 8六歩 (= P-8f). An example that uses all 5 parts is ☗8三銀引成 (which could be either S7b-8c+ or S7bx8c+ in western notation).

1. Player's Side. It is common for the white (gote) and black (sente) player to be indicated at the beginning of the notation string with either black and white triangles (▲/△) or shogi-piece-shaped pentagons (☗/☖) , such as ▲7六歩△3四歩▲2六歩△3二金 or ☗7六歩☖3四歩☗2六歩☖3二金. However, this is not obligatory: several books notate shogi moves without explicit indication of which player is making the moves. (See the adjacent image for an example.) In such cases, knowing which player the move refers to can be determined by the context in the book. This white/black convention is more common when the moves are not numbered (which is also optional to notate).

2. Destination Coordinates. For the board's coordinates, the file is indicated with an Arabic numeral followed by the rank indicated with a Japanese numeral (instead of a letter like in the western system). For example, square 2c in Western notation is 2三.

Japanese Rank Coordinate Arabic Equivalent Western Equivalent
1 a
2 b
3 c
4 d
5 e
6 f
7 g
8 h
9 i

There is also an abbreviatory convention: when a piece moves to the same coordinates as the previous move's piece (as in a capture), the position is simply indicated with (which is pronounced ) instead of the file-rank coordinate numbers. For example, if Black's pawn moved to a square in which White's pawn captured Black's pawn and then both player's bishops recaptured followed by a rook recapture, this could be notated as ☗2四歩 ☖同歩 ☗同角 ☖同角 ☗同飛 which would be equivalent to the western notation sequence 1. P-2d Px2d, 2. Bx2d Bx2d, 3. Rx2d.

3. Piece. Pieces are indicated with kanji (instead of letters as in the western system). The piece's kanji follows the piece's board coordinates. The following symbols are used.

Japanese Western Equivalent Japanese Western Equivalent
P +P
L 成香 +L
N 成桂 +N
S 成銀 +S
B +B
R +R
G K

Promoted pieces are indicated with a prefix except for the promoted pawn, promoted bishop, and promoted rook, which are , , , respectively.

4. Ambiguity Resolution: Movement Description. When there is ambiguity in piece movement, there is a complex system of movement description using the symbols below. The movement descriptors consist of (a) a dropped piece indicator, (b) movement toward destination indicators, and (c) movement origin indicators.

Movement Notation Meaning
dropped
downward
horizontally
upward
moving from right (going leftwards)
moving from left (going rightwards)
perpendicularly vertical (gold/silver only)
upward (dragon/horse)
upward (dragon/horse)

The symbol for a dropped piece is following the piece's character. In the usual course of a game, most dropped pieces will probably be unambiguous. In these unambiguous cases, explicit notation for the dropped piece is not required and usually omitted (unlike in western notation where the drop notation is obligatory). For example, a western notation such as P*2c will be notated simply as 2三歩 instead of 2三歩打. In other situations, there is a possibility that either a piece that is already in play on the board can move to a certain square or a piece of the same kind that is held in hand can be dropped to that square. In this case, when the piece on the board moves to that square, the notation simply notates the move as usual with no drop indication. However, when the piece in hand is dropped to that location, then the drop indication must be present in the notation in order to resolve the ambiguity. In other words, is only used when the following two conditions are met: (i) a piece is dropped and (ii) there is ambiguity with another piece on the board.

For ambiguity resolution with pieces on the board, the main notation symbols are for upward movement, for horizontal movement, and for downward movement. Note that these three indicators describe movement toward their destination square.

In the example below, three golds can move to the 7八 (= 7h) square. The gold that originates on 7七 (= 7g) and moves down is notated as 7八金引 (= G7g-7h). The other two possibilities are notated as 7八金寄 (= G6h-7h) and 7八金上 (= G7i-7h).

The and indicate downward and upward movement, respectively, that can be both vertical as well as diagonal.

There are two less common alternate symbols used instead of : and . However, these alternate symbols are reserved for indicating only the two most powerful promoted dragon 龍 and horse 馬 pieces. Thus, 5五龍行 or 5五龍入 instead of 5五龍上, but not 5五金行 or 5五金入.

In certain situations, an indication of movement toward the destination square (that is, with , , ) is not sufficient to resolve ambiguity. In these cases, the origin square of the piece is notated with a relative positional indicator. These are for a piece moving from a right square (and thus moving leftward) and for a piece moving from a left square (rightward).

This positional information is relative to each player's directions. Thus, △5二金右 ("white 5-2 gold right") refers to the silver on the right from White's perspective (which would be on the left from Black's perspective).

In the special case of golds and silvers as well as promoted pieces with gold-like movements (成銀, 成桂, 成香, と), it is possible for there to a 3-way ambiguity in upward movement. In this case, a third positional origin indicator is used: for vertical (straight up) movement.