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Shogi 2 June 2017

Shogi Rules – How to Play Shogi – : Step 2-6 Illegal Move, Nifu (Two Pawns)

Akiko Nakakura

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Shogi has a rule called KinjiteKinjite means illegal moves.  We lose a game if we make illegal moves.  Today, we are going to learn about Nifu, one of KinjiteNifu is the most commonly found illegal move among beginners’ games.  Let’s check it out carefully.

Nifu: Dropping a piece of Fu (Pawn) to a file where one’s another Fu (Pawn) is already placed is illegal in Shogi rules.


It is okay to have a combination of To-Kin (Promoted Pawn) and Fu (Pawn) on the same file.

This is not considered as Nifu.
This is not considered as Nifu.

Since the number of Fu (Pawn) piece is the largest among all Shogi pieces, there are many opportunities to drop a piece of Fu (Pawn) from the pieces in hand.  Please make sure to check the file where you are to drop Fu (Pawn) to avoid Nifu.  I always talk to students in my Shogi class to check the lower part of the file before droppingFu (Pawn).  The board of Shogi is wide for children.  When they are to drop a piece of Fu (Pawn) in the opponent’s camp, they often miss locations of pieces in their own camp.  They make an illegal move of Nifu accidentally and unconsciously.

You lose instantly if you make Nifu in a tournament.  If your opponent makes Nifu, you should notify him/her of that, and report that to a judge or staff members of the tournament.  If you continue the game without letting them know, thinking you would report it later, your indication of the opponent’s illegality would be often invalid.  Since there are no recorders assigned in a tournament, it is difficult to look back the course of a game accurately.

Also, although it is a little difficult to understand, Shogi has a rule to prioritize resignation.  So, if a player resigns and the game is terminated, the resigned player lost the game regardless of the fact which either player moved a piece illegally during the game.

Then, what should you do if you make Nifu? You should be honest and say, “I have lost” on the spot.  If you take back the piece of Fu (Pawn) and move another piece right away, your action is considered Matta, act of undoing the last move that has been already played, trying to change it to a better move.  Matta is another illegal move.

We have talked about illegal moves today.  However, in the beginning, I think it is bette to overlook illegal moves so that you and your opponents can play freely.  I am sure that you will naturally learn rules after you play many games and get used to them.

After the Lesson

Comments from girls’ mom:
Although children seem to understand things, I think they do not really see things very well.  They may not be good at grasping comprehensive views, and this tendency may be applicable not only to Shogi but to everything.  To put it nicely, children can focus on one point.

My girls made Nifu outright when they played a game at home after today’s lesson.  Matta was allowed in their game and they continued playing.  I think that they will learn about illegal moves through repeated practices.

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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