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Shogi 3 August 2017

Shogi Rules – How to Play Shogi – : Step 2-8 “Set up Pieces”

Akiko Nakakura

Explore art of Shogi.  A professional Shogi player invites you to the world of Shogi along with traditional Japanese culture.

Previous step:

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We previously learned the basic rules.  This time, we are going to learn the way to set up the initial piece positions.  Once you put 40 pieces on a Shogi board with 9 × 9 squares, it’s all set!  You start a game from this positions.

The initial position for each piece.
The initial position for each piece.

Did you know that there are particular orders for setting up pieces?  The most well-known one is “Ohashi style” described below.  Most of professional Shogi players adopt this style.  In addition, there is “Itou style” as well.

The way to set up pieces – Ohashi style –

  1. Put Gyoku (King) in the center square on the bottom raw.
  2. Put Kin (Gold) on the left, and on the right, Gin (Silver) on the left, and then on the right on the next file. In this manner, set pieces from left to right.
  3. Place both Kaku (Bishop) and Hisha (Rook) above Kei, (Knight) setting Kaku (Bishop) on the left and Hisha (Rook) on the right.
  4. Fu (Pawn) goes with the same order, starting from the center and then the next file, left and right.
The order of Ohashi style.
The order of Ohashi style.

Video: Set up pieces before a game with Ohashi style and Ito style (High speed version)

In the beginning, positions of Kaku (Bishop) and Hisha (Rook) might be confusing.  Be careful not to put them on the wrong positions.  Even if you don’t put pieces following the Ohashi style, it’s possible to enjoy playing Shogi as long as the pieces are placed properly like in figure #1.  So don’t worry that you take time to memorize this special order!

It is said this Ohashi style was established as manners intending to make behaviors during a Shogi game look elegant.  Ohashi is a name of a great Meijin, who is a head of Ohashi family.

I wondered when this style had been established.  Seeking the answer for this, I asked a Shogi History adviser about the origin of this style.

Here is what he said:
It is not clear who actually started this style.  However, one thing we can say for sure is that a head of Ohashi family invented this style.  The first head of the family, Sokei, played a Shogi game several times in front of Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa during 1607 to 1612.
It is quite unlikely that Ohashi showed a piece-setting in a sloppy way to Shogun Ieyasu, who had just started Shogunate in Edo at that time. Assumedly, it had already been established in this period.
We are now following the same manners that people in Tokugawa era followed.  It stirs my imagination for history.

After the lesson

Comments from girls’ mom:

For my children, today’s lesson was just a study to learn how to set up pieces before starting a game.  For me, as an adult, it meant a lot to know Shogi’s long history.  I realized the permanent value of Shogi.
My girls looked a bit matured after learning and following “Ohashi style.”

この記事の執筆者Akiko Nakakura

I-tsu-tsu Co. Ltd. President, lady's professional shogi player. After winning successive victories in the female amateur master’s tournament in 1991 and 1992, she made her debut as a professional shogi player in her third (last) year in high school. She retired from professional shogi play after a 21-year career in March 2015, and currently involved in activities to spread the game of shogi among children.

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