Sho Shogi (or Little Shogi) was the precursor of modern Shogi and was
similar in most respects to the game which replaced it in the sixteenth
century. The major difference is that Sho Shogi did not include the
capacity to re-enter (drop) captured pieces back into play, and that a
piece, called the Drunken Elephant plays a role in the game.
While Little Shogi was no doubt popular in Japan, there is very little
literature on the game. The 1696 edition of 'Sho-Shogi Zushiki' includes
a single diagram which shows the Sho Shogi board set-up to be identical
with the modern game but for the presence of the Drunk Elephant (a piece
known from Middle Shogi). The text states that this piece was removed by
order of Emperor Gonara (reigned 1536-1557). As the Drunk Elephant
promotes to a piece (the Crown Prince) that is effectively a second King,
it did not lend itself to a game played with drops. The removal of the
Drunk Elephant has therefore been linked with the transition to the modern
The presence of the Rook, Bishop and Drunk Elephant make Little Shogi a far
more interesting game than the even earlier game from Heian times, but
without drops it lacks the strategy and unique excitement of Modern Shogi.
While the exact rules of the game are not known, Steve Evans has
reconstructed a set of rules for the purposes of his
Shogi Variants program, based on the rules of the larger Chu
and Dai Shogi, which were themselves contemporary to and based on Sho
Sho Shogi is played on a board of 9 x 9 squares and each player has 21
pieces (including 9 pawns).
As in all Shogi games, the pieces are flat and wedge-shaped and are not
distinguished by colour. Although the pieces are of uniform colour the
first player is still conventionally referred to as 'Black' and the second
player as 'White'. Ownership of the pieces is indicated by the direction
in which they face, with a player's pieces always pointing towards the
The players make alternate moves, with the object being to capture the
opposing 'King'. If the opposing player has obtained a 'Crown Prince' by
promotion, that piece must also be captured in order to win the game.
The game can also be won by capturing all pieces except the 'King' (the
'bare king' rule). A bare King may secure a draw if it can also bare the
opposing 'King' on the following move.
On each turn a player can move one piece according to its power of
movement to a vacant square on the board, or to a square occupied by an
enemy piece (in which case the enemy piece is captured and removed from
The setup is shown below. Note that it is identical to the setup of
standard Shogi, except that each player has
in addition a drunken elephant on the square before his king.
The pieces and the way they move are shown in the diagram below. Note
that all pieces move as in Shogi. The
drunken elephant moves one square in any direction except straight
backwards. The crown prince (a promoted drunken elephant) moves one
square in an arbitrary direction.
The 'Knight' is the only piece in Sho Shogi that has the power to jump
over occupied squares. The Little Shogi 'Knight' has the same move as the
equivalent piece in the Western game (ie: it may move one square
orthogonally then one square diagonally), except that its move is limited
to the forward direction only.
The Crown Prince
The 'Drunk Elephant' is potentially a very important piece, as it promotes
to a 'Crown Prince'.
A player who gains a 'Crown Prince' effectively acquires a second 'King'
as the 'Crown Prince' must also be captured (or bared) before the opponent
can win the game.
Each player has a Promotion Zone consisting of the three ranks (rows of
squares) furthest away from him. All pieces except the 'King' and 'Gold
General' have a promoted rank and can promote on entering, moving within,
or leaving the Promotion Zone.
Promotion is not compulsory unless the piece would be unable to make a
further legal move in its unpromoted state. The 'Pawn' and 'Lance' must
therefore promote on reaching the last rank (that furthest from the player)
and the 'Knight' must promote if it reaches either of the last two ranks.
There can be advantages with some pieces of not promoting immediately on
entering the Promotion Zone.
- The 'Rook' gains the power to move 1 square in any diagonal direction.
The 'Promoted Rook' is known as the 'Dragon King'.
- The 'Bishop' gains the power to move 1 square in any orthogonal direction
and its promoted form is called the 'Dragon Horse'.
- The 'Drunk Elephant' becomes a 'Crown Prince' which has the powers of the
- All other pieces move as a 'Gold General' on promotion.
As in all the games in the Shogi family, in Sho Shogi sets the promoted
rank is shown on the reverse side of the piece, and the piece is turned
over on promotion to reveal the new rank.
Unlike in Modern Shogi, captured pieces in Sho can not be 'dropped' back
into play. A captured piece is removed from play and takes no further part
in the game.
WWW page created: April 2, 1997.
WWW page created by Hans Bodlaender, based on a text written by
Steve Evans for his Shogi Variants
Also, images were taken from that program.
Text and images used with permission from Steve Evans.
The information on this game was based on an article by John Fairbairn, titled
Shogi History & the Variants in the September 1980
issue of Shogi magazine.