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Maka Dai Dai Shogi

Maka Dai Dai Shogi is one of the 'Large Shogi variants' of which records have been preserved since medieval times, and large it is indeed. On a 19x19 board each side starts with 96 pieces of 50 different types, making this double the size of Chu Shogi, which was the dominant for of Chess in Japan in those days. The vast majority of piece types have only stepping or (limited-range) sliding moves, as oblique leapers are virtually non-existent in Shogi, give or take an occasional Knight. The number of piece types can be so large because the pieces in general lack the 8-fold symmetry that all orthodox Chess pieces (except Pawn) have. By giving the pieces different ranges in the various directions this extraorinarily large number of piece types can be constructed. Some pieces even break the left-right symmetry that even the FIDE Pawn still respects.

So most of the 50 piece types have quite ordinary Rook or Bishop moves, and many are in fact 'steppers', which have a sub-set of the moves of an orthodox King. A large number of these pieces is in fact exceedingly weak, with steps in just 2 or 3 directions.

What spices up the game is a hand full of very powerful pieces, unique to the middle and large Shogi variants. One of their ingredients is the so-called 'Lion power', the ability to continue moving after having made a capture, and thus able to make multiple captures in one turn. Some other pieces are 'hook movers', sliders able to turn one corner in a place of their choosing, wich thus have an enormous number of move targets.

Maka Dai Dai Shogi also has special rules to prevent trading of the strongest of these pieces, so that they won't easily disappear from the game, and are likely to survive up to the very end.


Only the location of the pieces of one side are mentioned below, in normal (Chess-like) coordinates. The setup for the other side can be obtained by rotating the board 180 degrees. Most pieces occur in pairs located symmetrically w.r.t. the board axis. Where this is not the case, the pieces in symmetry-equivalent locations are often related, e.g. because they are mirror images of each other (when they are asymmetric themselves), or related by some 'playful symmetry', like 90-degree rotation, or exchanging orthogonal and diagonal moves.

Fifth rank

  • a5, s5 Rook (R) #
  • b5 Left Chariot (fRbWlfrbB) #
  • c5, q5 Side Mover (sRvW) #
  • d5, p5 Side Flyer (FsR) #
  • e5, o5 Vertical Mover (vRsW) #
  • f5, n5 Bishop (B) #
  • g5, m5 Dragon Horse (BW) -
  • h5, l5 Dragon King (RF) -
  • i5 Capricorn B(B-sB) #
  • j5 Queen (Q) -
  • k5 Hook Mover R(R-sR) #
  • r5 Right Chariot (fRbWrflbB) #

Fourth rank

  • a4, s4 Donkey (vDsW) #
  • c4, r4 Knight (ffN) #
  • e4, p4 Violent Ox (W2) #
  • g4, n4 Flying Dragon (F2) #
  • h4 Buddhist Devil (fF3bsW) #
  • i4 Wrestler (F3sW) #
  • j4 Lion Dog (locust K3, see below) #
  • k4 Guardian of the Gods(W3fF) #
  • l4 She-Devil (W5F2) #

Click on piece names below to see its moves:

First rank

  • a1, s1 Lance (fR) #
  • b1, r1 Earth General (vW) *
  • c1, q1 Stone General (fF) *
  • d1, p1 Tile General (fFbW) *
  • e1, o1 Iron General (fFfW) *
  • f1, n1 Copper General (fFvW) *
  • g1, m1 Silver General (FfW) *
  • h1, l1 Gold General (WfF) *
  • i1 Deva (fFlWrbF) promotes to Teaching King (Lion Dog + Q)
  • j1 King (K) promotes to Emperor (U)
  • k1 Dark Spirit (fFrWlbF) promotes to Buddhist Spirit (Lion + Q)

Second rank

  • a2, s2 Reverse Chariot (vR) #
  • c2, q2 Cat Sword (F) *
  • e2 Chinese Cock (fFbsW) promotes to Wizard Stork (fRbWB)
  • g2 Coiled Serpent (bFvW) *
  • h2, l2 Ferocious Leopard (FvW) *
  • i2, k2 Blind Tiger (FbsW) *
  • j2 Drunk Elephant (FfsW) promotes to 'Prince' (royal K)
  • m2 Reclining Dragon (WbF) *
  • o2 Blind Monkey (FbW) promotes to Mountain Witch (bRfWB)

Third rank

  • b3, r3 Old Rat (fF2bW2) promotes to Bat (fRbB)
  • d3, p3 Angry Boar (W) promotes to Free Boar (BsR)
  • f3, n3 Blind Bear (FbR) promotes to Free Bear
  • h3, l3 Evil Wolf (fFfsW) *
  • i3 Kirin (FD) promotes to Great Dragon (sRvW2F3)
  • j3 Lion (KNAD(cK-aK)(mK-bK)) promotes to Furious Fiend (Lion + Lion Dog)
  • k3 Phoenix (WA) promotes to Golden Bird (vRsW2F3)

Sixth and Seventh rank

  • a6-s6 Pawns (fW) #
  • f7, n7 Go Between (vW) *
# promotes to Gold General
* promotes to 'Free' form, i.e. having unlimited-range slider
capability in each direction where it originally could step.

- does not promote

One army with all the pieces promoted


Buddhist Spirit, Lion

A Buddhist Spirit moves as Lion or Queen. A Lion moves as King, but up to twice per turn, in independent directions, also if the first King move captures something. The ability to move on after a capture is called 'Lion power'. The combination of two steps can also be taken as a hop, i.e. over an occupied square without disturbing it, when it does not return to the starting square. So the Lion can:

  • move or capture by leaping to any square in the 5x5 area surrounding it,
  • capture an adjacent piece, and then go on moving or capturing once more as a King,
  • move to an adjacent empty square and back, effectively passing a turn.

Teaching King, Furious Fiend, Lion Dog

A Teaching King moves as a Lion Dog or Queen. A Furious Fiend moves as a Lion Dog or Lion. A Lion Dog can make up to three steps along any ray passing through it. It can return to, but not overshoot its starting square. Each of the steps can be a move, a capture or a hop, with the exception that it cannot hop back to its starting square. So it can:

  • move and capture as King, optionally taking out an enemy on the second square (2 steps out, one in),
  • move or capture to the second square on any ray, optionally taking out an enemy on the square it passes over in the process,
  • move or capture to the third square on any ray, optionally taking out any enemies on the squares it passes over in the process,
  • capture a piece adjacent to it without moving,
  • pass a turn if there is an empty square next to it.


The Emperor is a Universal Leaper: it can move to any square of the board. It cannot capture enemy pieces that are protected, though. That even holds for capturing the opponent's last royal. Protected here means that the Emperor could have been recaptured if the opponent would have been allowed to play on without royal. All pieces count as protected by the Emperor, so if both sides have an Emperor the Emperors could only capture each other, when left unprotected.

Hook Mover, Capricorn

The Hook Mover is a Rook that can (but does not have to) make one 90-degree turn in its path. The Capricorn is a Bishop that can do that. Like any slider, they have to stop at the point where they capture, and the (bent) path they move along must be empty up to that point.

Kirin, Phoenix, Donkey

These pieces can leap directly (in addition to steps in other directions) to the second square along some orthogonal or diagonal. Such a jump is relatively rare in Shogi, when not part of a move with Lion-Power.

Knight, Pawn

The Knight and Pawn occur in their Shogi forms, i.e. the Knight only has the forwardmost two moves of the Knight in western Chess, and the Pawn captures as well as moves straight ahead.



The game is won by capturing the last remaining opponent royal. Royals are King, Prince and Emperor.


Almost all pieces in the initial setup can promote. This can happen anywhere on the board, whenever they capture something. There is no choice in what you promote to; each piece has a fixed promoted form. The promoted condition is 'contageous': whenever you capture a promoted piece you MUST promote. If you capture an unpromoted piece, you can choose whether to promote or not. There are good reasons to defer promotion, as often the promoted piece is weaker than the original one.

Promotion is irreversible: once promoted the piece stays promoted for the rest of its life in the game, and cannot promote a second time (even when similarly moving pieces in the initial setup can). There is an exception to this, however: The Teaching King and Buddhist Spirit are also contageous, and whatever captures one of those, becomes one. This even holds for pieces that were already promoted. Capturing a Deva or Dark Spirit (the unpromoted forms of TK and BS) also makes you promote to TK or DS, respectively. Only (potentially) royal pieces, (Emperor, King, Prince, Drunk Elephant) are 'immune' to this, and will either promote to their own promoted form, or stay that way.


The historic sources mention that repetition is forbidden, but do not elaborate on which side carries the burden to avoid it. It is likely that you could not win by perpetually checking your opponent, and that the burden to deviate was thus upon the checker, like in all Asian variants. The modern interpretation of this rule is that evading a perpetual chase, with moves that do not attack anythinging should also be always allowed, so that the chaser must deviate, and that repeats reached without either side attacking anything should be draws.


That pieces that capture TK or BS promote to one makes it very hard for TK and BS to disappear from the game. Normal trading (like TK x TK, any x TK) will not work, as the 'any' will promote to TK, so that the opponent gets its TK back, and you in fact traded your precious TK for an 'any'. Likewise indirect trades (any x TK, any2 x TK) do not work, as now both any and any2 promote to TK, so that only any2 was traded for any, and both TK survive. These rules thus conserve the TK and BS just as effectively as the rules on capture of Lions in Chu Shogi protect the latter there. (As the Lion is not nealy the strongest piece in Maka Dai Dai Shogi, there are no restrictions on its capture there.)

Only when the protecting piece is a royal you can succesfully trade TK or BS. (But you would still not be very happy if that caused the opponent to promote to Emperor on the recapture!) When TK and BS capture each other, one of them will disappear, though.

Rule variations

No game records or mating problems have survived from historic times, only rule decriptions. These don't always fully agree, though, so there is some controversy on how certain pieces move. Of course it is very possible that the game never had any universally accepted rules, but that its rules varied from place to place, or evolved over time. This description follows the current consensus as refleced in the English Wikipedia.

There is some unclarity on the moves of the Free Bear. English Wikipedia says in addition to BsR it has an fA jumping move, which would be very unusual for a Shogi variant. Japanese Wikipedia gives it a forward diagonal step in stead of slide, next to the fA jump (and also has step + jump for the vertical moves of the Donkey). In both cases it is not clear why this piece would be called a 'Free Bear', as usually the label 'Free' is reserved for steppers upgraded to sliders, while there is no such relation with the moves of the unpromoted piece here. The same mystery shrowds the promoted form of the Angry Boar, (Free Boar), which logically should have moved as a Rook. The move mentioned here might have originated through confusion with Chu Shogi, which also has a piece called Free Boar, moving as BsR, but which is a promoted Side Mover there, making this move quite logical, (as the 90-degree-rotated VM promotes to BvR), and the naming likely just a coincidence.

Modern Maka Dai Dai Shogi

There are organized attempts going on in Japan to revive this game, with slightly different rules: The Furious Fiend is Lion + Lion Dog there, rather than Lion + K3, while Kirin and Phoenix promote to Lion and Queen as in Chu Shogi. Promotion is mandatory on any capture, and the Deva and Dark Spirit are not contageous, only their promoted forms Teaching King and Buddhist Spirit are. The Blind Bear there moves as FsW, to fit with the BsR of the Free Bear (which would still be the same as that of the Free Boar, though).

A 50% smaller version of Maka Dai Dai Shogi, featuring a representative selection of the pieces on a 13x13 board, but otherwise using identical rules, was designed to make this game more accessible. It was published under the name Macadamia Shogi.

This 'user submitted' page is a collaboration between the posting user and the Chess Variant Pages. Registered contributors to the Chess Variant Pages have the ability to post their own works, subject to review and editing by the Chess Variant Pages Editorial Staff.

Author: H. G. Muller.

Last revised by A. M. DeWitt.

Web page created: 2015-03-19. Web page last updated: 2024-07-02