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  • Whale Shogi

    Whale Shogi is a variant of Shogi, Japanese chess. However, unlike most other Shogi-variants, Whale Shogi roots are not in Japan, but in the U.S., and the game also is mostly played outside Japan (although it is not clear how often). It was invented in 1981 by R. Wayne Schmittberger (the author of New Rules for Classis Games; however, he does not mention Whale Shogi in this book). As is more common in shogi variants, the inventor has named all pieces after a kind of animal: in this case all are whales and related animals.

    The game is mentioned in The Encyclopedia of Chess Variants, and in Nostalgia, the bulletin of NOST, where John McCallion wrote about the game in the May/June 1996 issue.


    The game is played on a 6 by 6 board. Each player has twelve pieces: one white whale (who fulfils the role as `king'), one humpback, one grey whale, one porpoise, one narwhal, one blue whale, and six dolphins. Additionally, there is the killer whale: a piece that comes only into play by taking the opponents porpoise. The opening setup is as follows:

    White whale c1; Porpoise d1; Humpback a1; Grey Whale b1; Narwhal e1; Blue Whale f1; Dolphin a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2.

    White whale d6; Porpoise c6; Humpback f6; Grey Whale e6; Narwhal b6; Blue Whale a6; Dolphin a5, b5, c5, d5, e5, f5.

    Movement of pieces

    The white whale moves as a king, i.e., one square in an arbitrary direction.

    The porpoise moves one square to the left or to the right, so the porpoise cannot leave the first rank.

    The humpback moves one square diagonally or one square straight backwards. (This is precisely the reversed of the moves of the silver general from Shogi.)

    The grey whale moves straight forward as a rook, and diagonally backwards as a bishop. (So, it moves like a queen but only in three of the possible eight directions.)

    The narwhal moves either one square to the left, one square to the right, one square straight backwards, or exactly two squares straight forwards. In the latter case, the narwhal may jump over a possible piece.

    The blue whale moves one square straight or diagonally forwards, or one square straight backwards. (So, it can move in four different directions.)

    The dolphin moves one square straight forward. (As all other pieces in this game, dolphins take in the same way as they move, thus differing from the chess-pawns.) When a dolphin is on the last rank of the board at the opponents side, it may make one move as a bishop: after that, he moves again only one square forward, until he reaches again the last rank.

    Finally, there is the extra piece, the killer whale, which comes into play after taking a porpoise of the opponent (see below). It has the combined moves of king and rook, i.e., it moves horizontally or vertically an arbitrary number of unobstructed squares like a rook, or one square diagonally.


    As in Shogi, pieces taken from the opponent can be used as reinforcements: instead of making a normal move, a player can put one of the pieces he took earlier in the game from the opponent, and put this piece on an empty square; it is now one of his own pieces.

    There are two special rules about drops. When a player has taken the enemies porpoise, he does not get the porpoise to drop, but instead a killer whale. (Note the big difference in strength between the two pieces.) One may not drop a dolphin on the last row (at the enemies side of the board), to give checkmate, or on a column that contains already two or more dolphins of the player.

    Winning the game

    The player that takes the white whale of the opponent wins the game. It is disallowed to give perpetual check.

    Written by: Hans Bodlaender. With thanks to: Joonas Kekoni, for noting an error.
    WWW page created: August 30, 1996. Last modified: January 22, 1997.


    This item is a game information page,
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It is a 2 player game.
It was last modified on: 2001-01-04
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender. Inventor: R. Wayne Schmittberger. Whale Shogi. Shogi variant. (6x6, Cells: 36)
    2015-03-30 Julian Verified as Julian Excellent

    I noticed that it could be played with a regular shogi set, with the pawns representing dolphins, the bishop representing the gray whale, a horse representing the narwhal, a gold general representing the humpback, a silver general representing the blue whale, the rook representing the porpoise, and the promoted rook representing the killer whale.

    2010-10-11 Charles Gilman Verified as Charles GilmanNoneIt struck me when I first saw this variant that theming a Shogi variant on whales was rather tasteless, for the reasons given by george Duke in previous comments. Even looking beyond that I feel that whales, as huge animals that travel still huger distances over the oceans, do not make a particularly good theme for a small variant full of short-range pieces. The game might have been far better received without the whale theme, and all the pieces have other names in other context. The Dolphin, Killer Whale, and White Whale are long-established standard Shogi pieces, and if their Japanese names are not to your taste my Man and Beast 01: Constitutional Characters suggests simpler English names for them. The rest have names in Man and Beast 12: Alternative Fronts and some also have Japanese names in large Shogi variants:

    Whale Shogi nameMan and Beast nameJapanese name
    Blue WhaleCoppergeneralDosho (Copper General)
    DolphinPointFuhyo (Foot Soldier)
    Grey WhaleHunter
    HumpbackSilvercowardOld Monkey
    Killer WhaleChatelaineRyuo (Dragon King)
    White WhaleKingvaries between players
    If anyone knows of Japanese names for the other three I'll happily add them to the table.

    2010-10-10 (zzo38) A. Black Verified as (zzo38) A. BlackNoneIs possible to list kanji of pieces? View
    2010-10-09 Excellent

    Wow, there are a lot of people hating Whale Shogi. I for one like my chess variants nice and complex, and 8 piece types (which are not really that hard to learn) is a good balance, rather like Tori Shogi, which I am also a fan of. The divergent pieces are certainly easier to keep track of than, say, the pieces in Chu Shogi, Tenjiku Shogi, and definitely Taikyoku Shogi.

    Anyways, on a random note, the Porpoise/Killer Whale duality is a new, interesting idea I haven't seen anywhere else. Because you have to consider in Shogi variants what your opponent will gain as well as what you will lose, I have found the Porpoise's value to be about equal to that of the Grey Whale.

    Oh, and by the way, I am also a fan of Outback Chess ;-).

    2007-11-16 George Duke Verified as George DukeNoneWhat a bad game, as for playing by the spatially-challenged! (There are people, otherwise functioning individuals, who have difficulty with Knight move and even can never get it right) So many random, divergent piece moves to keep track of on little 36 squares. Really pathetic, not worth full analysis intended after all, inconsequential. Reminding one of later Outback Chess because of the number of unintuitive move definitions, Whale Shogi hodgepodge of one-steppers has some historical value as far afield as that Outback. We did not bother to find the vague ''offspring'' referred to by David Paulowich as our usual conscientious practice. Who knows what he is talking about(our expertise emphasizes 64+), but whatever derived from Whale Shogi is by name and definition an improvement. View
    Number of ratings: 14, Average rating: Good, Number of comments: 32

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    Author: Hans L. Bodlaender. Inventor: R. Wayne Schmittberger.

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    Last Modified: Sun, 01 Apr 2012 20:51:01 -0400
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    Last modified: Sunday, April 1, 2012