Wa Shogi is a variant of Japanese Chess on an 11 x 11 board. Except for the Pawns, all pieces are of different type, and rather weak. This makes it very suitable to be played as a drop game, where captured pieces can be used to strengthen your army. The historical rule descriptions make no mention of drops, however. So today Wa is both played with and without drops. This makes it actually two (very different) games, like modern Shogi and Sho Shogi are very different games.
Click on names below to see moves.
- a1 Oxcart (fR)
- b1 Blind Dog (fFbsW)
- c1 Strutting Crow (fWbF)
- d1 Flying Goose (fFvW)
- e1 Violent Wolf (WfF)
- f1 Crane King (royal K)
- g1 Violent Stag (FfW)
- h1 Flying Cock (fFsW)
- i1 Swooping Owl (fWbF)
- j1 Climbing Monkey (fFvW)
- k1 Liberated Horse (fRbW2)
- b2 Flying Falcon (BfW)
- f2 Swallow's Wings (sRvW)
- j2 Cloud Eagle (vRsWfF3bF)
Third and fourth rank
- a3-c3, d4, e3-g3, h4, i3-k3 Sparrow Pawn (fW)
- d3 Treacherous Fox (FAvWvD)
- h3 Running Rabit (FfRbW)
The way the pieces move is specified above in Betza notation, and should furthermore be evident from the mnemonic shapes in the diagram. Apart from single steps and infinite-range slides, range-2 and range-3 slides occur (on Liberated Horse and Cloud Eagle, respectively), as wel as direct jumps to the second square (Treacherous Fox). One of the promoted pieces (Heavenly Horse) features Knight jumps.
Note that some pieces move the same, but are still different, because they promote differently (Swooping Owl/Strutting Crow and Flying Goose/Climbing Monkey).
The game is won by capturing the opponent's Crane King.
The last 3 ranks of the board are the promotion zone. Not only Pawns can promote, but almost any piece can. There is no choice for what they promote to, however, for each piece type the promoted type is predefined. Promotable pieces can optionally promote at the end of their turn when their move starts or ends in the promotion zone. When Wa is played with drops, captured pieces revert to their unpromoted form, and cannot be promoted during a drop, even when they are dropped within the zone. The pieces promote as follows:
One army with all pieces promoted
The Treacherous Fox, Cloud Eagle and Crane King do not promote.
If the same position with the same side to move occurs for the 4th time, the game ends in a draw. Unless one of the sides has been delivering check on every move; in that case the checking side loses.
When played with drops, an impasse occurs when both Kings have reached their promotion zone. The game then ends in a draw. This because Pawns dropped to defend the King in that case promote on the next move, impenetrable fortresses are easily built, even when very much behind in material.
Without drops reaching the promotion zone with your King doesn't convey any particular advantage, so this rule should not be applied there. But dead draws can of course occur because so little material is left that both sides can defend trivially against any conceivable opponent attack.
The weakest pieces (Strutting Crow and Swooping Owl) have the strongest promotions. Many promotions are quite weak; some pieces just obtain a single extra step, others only two.
Although the game looks totaly asymmetric, there is some hidden symmetry in the way pieces promote. If we step outward from the King we first encounter a piece that gains two step moves on promotion, then a piece that gains a slide along one dimension, then a piece that promotes to the strong piece diagonally in front of it, and then a piece that gains only a single step move.
Most of the pieces have the ability to mate a bare King in cooperation with their own, or will promote to a piece that can. The two exceptions are the Climbing Monkey and the Liberated Horse. Many lone pieces can be chased to their doom by the opponent King when not under protection of their own, however. That applies to Pawns and all back-rank pieces except Wolf and Lance. These late-end-game considerations are only relevant when Wa is played without drops.
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By H. G. Muller.
Web page created: 2015-04-20. Web page last updated: 2015-04-20