Beautiful world of Shogi (Part III): Board setup and promotion

Welcome back for another lesson about Shogi, this time we start to complicate things. We’ll have a look on the board setup and promotion.

Board setup

Modern shogi is played on board 9x9. The standard setup (without any handicaps - which basically is just removing some pieces from game) is shown in the image below.

Board setup with your and enemy camp / promotion area indicated

As you can see, the board is centrally symmetrical and that both players have same pieces which are not distinguished by colour. Reason for that is the concept of “drops” which I’ll introduce later. Also - yet another difference from western chess - each player has only one rook and one bishop. If each player looks on their first three rows, you have nine pawns in the third row, bishop in second column from left and rook in second column from right on second row. In first row you have these units (from left to right) - lance, knight, silver general, gold general, king, gold general, silver general, knight and lance.


Promotion is a shogi concept, which upgrades units and gives them different movement set. You can decide to promote any unit (except king and gold general) after you move with your piece and you enter to, move within or leave the promotion area. Promotion is optional unless the piece wouldn’t have any possible movement in future - for example moving pawn into second last row (rank), you can decide not to promote it, but moving into last rank you must promote it, because it wouldn’t have any space left to move to.


There are two groups of pieces and their promotion. First group is pawn, lance, knight and silver general. Each of them promoted gets same movement as gold general - as shown in the images below (in order - promoted pawn, promoted lance, promoted knight, promoted silver).

Movements of promoted pawn

Movements of promoted lance

Movements of promoted knight

Movements of promoted silver general

The second group of units for promotion is bishop and rook. Each of them retain their movements - either diagonal lines or cross, but also get the movement of king.

Movements of promoted bishop

Movements of promoted rook

Also it’s worth noting if you capture (take) promoted enemy piece, you will get it into your reserve unpromoted.

Initially I wanted to introduce here also the drops, but it’s already enough information, so I’ll let those sink in and will finish the drops and general rules in the next part - and after that, you’ll be able to start playing. Till then, see ya...


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