Chess Vs Shogi: 12 Key Differences You Should Know

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Chess is a board game played between two players. While Shogi, also known as Japanese chess or the Game Of Generals is the Japanese variant of chess.

The main difference between Chess and Shogi is the board size. A chessboard is 8×8 whereas a shogi board is 9×9. Also, in chess, captured pieces are out of the game, while in shogi the captured pieces can be returned to the board by the capturing player.

Let’s dive in deeper and discuss more of the difference between chess and shogi. Whether you are a chess fan or a Shogi fan, I’m sure that you will find this article interesting. So please continue reading till the end! Let’s start!

Difference Between Chess And Shogi:

1. White is the first player1. Black is the first player
2. Each player has 16 pieces2. Each player has 20 pieces
3. There is a castling move3. There is no castling move
4. There is an en passant move4. There is no en passant move
5. Only pawn can be promoted5. All pieces except the gold general and the king can promote
6. A pawn can promote to either a queen, knight, rook, or bishop6. A given piece can only promote to one other kind of piece
7. There is an initial two space pawn move7. There is no initial two space pawn move
8. Pawns move straightly in the forward direction but capture diagonally8. Pawns capture the same way they move
9. There is a queen9. There is no queen
10. Bishop movement is restricted to one color square.10. Bishop is not restricted to only one color square
11. There is a no handicap system11. There is a handicap system
12. Captured pieces are out of the game12. Captured pieces can be returned to the board

Which Came First Chess Or Shogi?

Shogi is the Japanese variant of chess. In general, it is believed that chess developed from chaturanga from which other members of this family, such as shatranj, Tamerlane chess, shogi, and xiangqi also evolved.

As per Wikipedia, the earliest form of chess called chaturanga originated in India in the 7th century CE.

From India, it was then introduced to Persia. 

After the Arabs conquered Persia, it was taken up by the Muslim World. And subsequently, through the Moorish conquest of Spain, spread to Southern Europe.

In the 15th century in Europe, the moves of pieces changed. And the modern game starts with these changes.

However, the modern tournament play began in the second half of the 19th century.

Also Read: Who Invented Chess?

Now the earliest predecessor of chess, chaturanga was likely also transmitted to Japan via China or Korea sometime after the Nara period.

As per Wikipedia, Shogi in its present form was played as early as the 16th century. However, a direct ancestor without the drop rule was recorded from 1210 in a historical document Nichūreki.

Shogi is actually the earliest variant of chess in which it was allowed to return the captured pieces to the board by the capturing player.

It is speculated that this drop rule has been invented in the 15th century and it was possibly connected to the practice in the 15 century, mercenaries switching loyalties when captured instead of being killed.

Are The Rules Of Chess And Shogi The Same?

The goal of chess and shogi is the same, to checkmate the other player’s king and win the game. However, there are some differences in the rules of both games including the way the chess pieces move, drops, and the handicap system.

First, let me introduce you quickly to the basic rules of chess so that you can get an idea of how it differs as compared to shogi.


  • A game of chess is played on an 8 by 8 chessboard that 64 squares of alternating color between the two players.
  • There are 16 chess pieces on each side (16 black and 16 white pieces) making a total of 32 chess pieces in all. Out of the 16 chess pieces, there are 8 pawns, 2 bishops, 2 knights, 2 rooks, 1 queen, and 1 king.
  • The player with white pieces always makes the first move in chess.
  • On each turn, the player gets the chance to move its pieces. If possible then the player can also capture the pieces.
  • How the chess pieces move depends on the type of chess piece.
    • For example, a king can move only up to one square in any direction.
    • A queen can move in any direction along the diagonals, horizontally or vertically.
    • A bishop can only move along the diagonals whereas the rook can only move horizontally or vertically.
    • A knight moves in an L shape and it can also jump over the other pieces.
    • A pawn moves one square in forward direction although it has the ability to move up to two squares in forward direction only on the first move.
  • In terms of how the chess pieces capture, except for the pawn, all the chess pieces capture any opponent piece in the same way as they move. A pawn actually moves forward but it captures any opponent piece diagonally.
  • Rest, when the king is in threat then we say that the king is in check.
  • If the king is in threat and if it can’t be protected by any means then it is called checkmate which marks the end of the chess game.
  • There’s also a situation in which the king is not in threat but the player doesn’t have any legal moves to make and continue the game and that is known as a stalemate. You can read more about stalemate here.

Now that we know about at least some of the basics of chess, let’s discuss about Shogi.


  • In Shogi two players play on a 9 by 9 board with 81 squares.
  • Each player has 20 flat wedge-shaped pentagonal pieces.
  • The two players are referred to as Black and White, with Black moving first.
  • In shogi, the pieces from largest (most important) to smallest (least important) are: 1 king, 1 rook, 1 bishop, 2 gold generals, 2 silver generals, 2 knights, 2 lances, 9 pawns.
  • How the pieces in shogi move can be classified as:
    • Stepping Pieces: That only move one square at a time.
    • Ranging Pieces: That move any number of unobstructed squares in a line.
    • Jumping Pieces: That can jump over obstructing pieces to reach their destination squares.
  • In certain circumstances, most pieces can also promote to different pieces.
  • All pieces capture the same way as they move.
  • Here’s how the pieces move in shogi:
    • The king: It can move one square in any horizontal, vertical, or diagonal direction
    • The rook: It can move any number of squares in a horizontal or vertical direction
    • The bishop: It can move any number of squares in a diagonal direction
    • The gold general: It can move one square in any horizontal or vertical direction, or one square in a forward diagonal direction.
    • The silver general: It can move one square in any diagonal direction, or one square straight forward.
    • The knight: It can move one square straight forward followed by one square to either forward diagonal, jumping over intervening pieces if any.
    • The lance: It can move any number of squares straight forward.
    • The pawn: A pawn can move one square straight forward and captures the same way that it moves. Remember, there is also no initial two-space move for pawns and no en-passant capture.
  • Now here’s a table that shows promotion of the pieces in shogi:
Piece:Promoted To:
KingDoes Not Promote
RookDragon King / Dragon
BishopDragon Horse/ Horse
Gold GeneralDoes Not Promote
Silver GeneralGold General
KnightGold General
LanceGold General
PawnGold General


In shogi, whenever a player captures a particular piece, that piece is not removed from the game. It actually becomes the property of the capturer and can re-enter the game.

The player can place the captured piece on almost any vacant square during his or her move. This is known as a drop and counted as a full move.

So in simple words, you can either move a shogi piece on the board or drop a piece on the board but remember not both.

Also, it is important to note that all pieces drop in the unpromoted state. Yes, pieces may be dropped in their promotion zone but they don’t get promoted on that turn.

This drops is not there in chess so it is one of the major differences between chess and shogi.

Note that the captured pieces are said to be the pieces ‘in hand’. The drop is one of the distinguishing features of Japanese chess. It gives the Shogi an aggressive quality and it increases the number of possible moves once a few pieces have been captured.

Another noteworthy feature of Shogi is that as the exchanges happen, the game becomes complicated rather than simplified because of the drop rule.

Handicap System:

In shogi, there is a handicap system in which the games played between players of disparate strength are adjusted so that the stronger player is put in a more disadvantageous position for compensating the differences in playing levels.

Due to handicaps, it becomes possible for weak players to play even against very strong players and have an even chance of winning.

In a handicap game, one or more of white’s pieces are being removed from the setup, and instead White plays first.

There is no such handicap thing in chess and so this also makes shogi different from chess.


In shogi, draws are very few. And one of the reasons for this is because the material can never be depleted as in chess since captured pieces keep re-entering the game due to the drop rule.

Illegal Move:

In professional and serious (tournament) amateur games of shogi, a player who makes an illegal move loses immediately. the loss stands even if the play continued and the move was discovered later on in the game.

But do note that if neither the opponent nor the third party points out the illegal move and the opponent, later on, resigned then the resignation will stand as a result.

Now if you are interested to know about the illegal moves in chess then I encourage you to check out my complete article on it here.

Ending Of The Game

Generally, checkmate is almost always the end result in a game of shogi. the reason for this is because the pieces never retire in shogi and so the player gets a sufficient number of pieces to deliver the checkmate.

That being said, there are three other possible ways in which a game can end:

  • Repetition
  • Impasse
  • Illegal move

Now the first two which are repetition and impasse are particularly uncommon. In professional games, illegal moves are also uncommon but this may not be true with amateur players, especially beginners.

Also Read: Chess Vs Go: Difference Between Them Explained

Is Shogi Harder Than Chess?

Shogi is harder than chess mainly because in shogi the captured pieces become the property of the capture and can be returned to the board. Thus, in shogi, the piece exchanges complicate the game while in chess they simplify it.

In simple words, what happens is in chess, once you capture any chess piece, you are not allowed to use it on the board.

Don’t confuse it with pawn promotion in chess, because in pawn promotion the pawn is actually upgraded to another piece and replaced by either queen, knight, rook, or a bishop. You can read more about pawn promotion in chess here.

But in Shogi, if a player captures an opponent piece, they can use that piece as their own.

Board Size6481
Number of Pieces3240
Number of Different Pieces68
Possible Games1012310226
Average Game Length70115

Also Read: How Many Chess Games Are Possible?


In short, Shogi is the Japanese variant of chess that has many differences from chess. Out of all, the major points where shogi differs from chess are the board size, the ability to return the captured piece in the game, and the handicap system.

So I hope now you have got a clear idea of how chess and shogi differ from each other. Please share this article if you found it helpful. That’s it. Thanks!