Whale shogi

Whale shogi

Whale Shogi (鯨将棋 "kujira shōgi)" is a modern variant of shogi (Japanese chess). It is not, however, Japanese: it was invented by R. Wayne Schmittberger of the United States in 1981. The game is similar to Judkins shogi, but with more pieces, and all the pieces are named after a type of whale.

Rules of the game


The objective of the game is to capture your opponent's white whale.

Game equipment

Two players, Black and White (or 先手 "sente" and 後手 "gote)," play on a board ruled into a grid of 6 ranks (rows) by 6 files (columns). The squares are undifferentiated by marking or color.

Each player has a set of 12 wedge-shaped pieces, of slightly different sizes. From largest to smallest (most to least powerful) they are:

*1 white whale (W)
*1 porpoise (P)
*1 humpback (H)
*1 grey whale (G)
*1 narwhal (N)
*1 blue whale (B)
*6 dolphins (D)

Each piece has its initial written on its face. On the reverse side of the porpoise is another letter (K for 'killer whale'), often in a different color (commonly red instead of black); this reverse side is turned up to indicate that the piece has been promoted during play. The pieces of the two sides do not differ in color, but instead each piece is shaped like a wedge, and faces forward, toward the opposing side. This shows who controls the piece during play.

Because this is a Western shogi variant, and kanji for the whales are difficult even for the Japanese, the pieces use Latin letters rather than kanji.


*Step: The white whale can step one square in any direction, orthogonal or diagonal.
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*Range: The killer whale can move any number of free squares along any of the four orthogonal directions.
*Step: It can move one square in any diagonal direction.
bgcolor="#e0e0e0" | Narwhal (イッカク "ikkaku)"
bgcolor="#e0e0e0" | Humpback Whale (ザトウクジラ "zatō kujira)"
bgcolor="#FFFFFF" valign="top"
*Step: The blue whale can step one square directly forward or backward, or one square diagonally forward, giving it four possibilities.
bgcolor="#FFFFFF" valign="top"


Captured pieces are truly captured in whale shogi. They 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 across the board, a player can take a piece he has previously captured and place it on any empty square, facing the opponent. The piece is now part of the forces controlled by that player. This is termed dropping the piece, or just a drop.

A drop cannot capture a piece; that requires an additional move.

A porpoise cannot be dropped as such. When captured, the porpoise promotes to a killer whale and can only be dropped as a killer whale.

There are three restrictions when dropping dolphins:

*A dolphin may not be dropped on the furthest rank, even though it has a legal move on subsequent turns.
*A dolphin cannot be dropped into the same file (vertical column) as two other dolphins controlled by the same player. For this reason, one may sacrifice a dolphin in order to gain flexibility for drops.
*A dolphin cannot be dropped if the opponent would have no way to prevent his white whale being captured on the next move. In other words, a dolphin cannot be dropped to give immediate mate.

Check and mate

When a player makes a move such that the opponent's white whale could be captured on the following move, the move is said to give check to the white whale; the white whale is said to be in check. If a player's white whale is in check and no legal move by that player will get the white whale out of check, the checking move is also mate, and effectively wins the game.

A player is not allowed to give perpetual check.

Game end

A player who captures the opponent's white whale wins the game. In practice this rarely happens, as a player will resign when checkmated, as otherwise when loss is inevitable.

A player who makes an illegal move loses immediately. (This rule may be relaxed in casual games.)

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

If the same position occurs four times with the same player to play, then the game is no contest. Recall, however, the prohibition against perpetual check. For two positions to be considered the same, the pieces in hand must be the same, as well as the position on the board.Fact|date=September 2007

The game reaches an impasse if both white whales 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 then the winner is decided as follows: each grey whale scores 5 points for the owning player, and all other pieces (except white whales) score 1 point each. Promotions are ignored for the purpose of scoring. A player scoring less than 14 points loses. If both players have at least 14 points, then the game is no contest.Fact|date=September 2007

Games which are no contest are usually counted as draws in amateur tournaments, but if a professional-style tournament is to be played the rules may require the game to be replayed with colors reversed (possibly with reduced time limits).Fact|date=September 2007


Games between players of disparate strength are often played with handicaps. In a handicap game, one or more of White's pieces is removed before the start of play, and White plays the first move of the game. Note that the pieces removed at the beginning play no further part in the game—they are not available for drops. The imbalance created by this method of handicapping is not as strong as it is in chess, because material advantage is not as powerful in whale shogi as in chess.

Common handicaps, in increasing order of size, are as follows:

* Remove White's grey whale
* Remove White's humpback
* Remove White's porpoise
* Remove White's porpoise and grey whale
* Two pieces: remove White's porpoise and humpback
* Three pieces: remove White's porpoise, humpback and grey whale

Other handicaps are also occasionally used. The relationship between handicaps and differences in rank is not universally agreed upon; several different systems are in use.

Game notation

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. This notation is modified for use in whale shogi in the letters used to name the pieces.

A typical example is P-f6. The first letter represents the piece moved: D = dolphin, B = blue whale, N = narwhal, G = grey whale, H = humpback, P = porpoise, W = white whale. The promoted porpoise is simply K = killer whale. The designation of the piece is followed by a symbol indicating the type of move: - for an ordinary move, x for a capture, or * for a drop. Next is the designation for the square on which the piece lands. This consists of a lowercase letter representing the file and a number representing the rank, with a1 being the top right corner (as seen from Black's point of view) and f6 being the bottom left corner. (This method of designating squares is the reverse of Japanese convention.)

In cases where the above notation would be ambiguous, the designation of the start square is added after the designation for the piece in order to make clear which piece is meant. For example, if Black has two humpbacks (one was captured and dropped) which can be moved to the square h5 in front of the White whale, and these are distinguished as Hi6-h5 (moving the left one) and Gi4-h5 (moving the right one).

Moves are commonly numbered as in chess. For example, the start of a game might look like this:

1. D-e4 D-c3 2. D-d4 N-b3 3. D-d3 Dxd3

In handicap games White plays first, so Black's move 1 is replaced by an ellipsis.

Paulowich Whale Shogi

This variant invented by David Paulowich in 2005 uses a 7x7 board and includes a new extra piece, the Pacific Northern Right Whale (A). It moves as a minor Gray Whale in that instead of sliding, it moves only one square, but also directly forwards or diagonally backwards. It can be captured and dropped and all other Whale Shogi rules are the same.


ee also

*Shogi variant
*Hasami shogi
*Hand shogi
*Annan shogi
*Ko shogi

External links

* [http://www.shogi.net/shogi.html Shogi Net]
* [http://www.chessvariants.com chessvariants.com]

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