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Kyoto Shogi


Kyoto Shogi is a variant of Shogi (Japanese Chess) invented by Tamiya Katsuya in 1976. It is played on a small 5-by-5 board. Like Shogi, pieces change between two different types - a promoted form and an unpromoted form. But unlike Shogi, however, this is not caused by reaching a section of the board. Instead, every piece except the King automatically promotes and demotes with every single move.

Kyoto Shogi is played with drops. A player may drop a piece in either promotoed or unpromoted form.

Commercial Kyoto Shogi sets are available.


Tokin 5e
Silver General 4e
King 3e
Gold General 2e
Pawn 1e

Pawn 5a
Gold General 4a
King 3a
Silver General 2a
Token 1a


The game is typically played with wedge-shaped pieces made of either wood or plastic. With the exception of the King, the opposite sides of the piece show the two different forms a piece may take. Each row in the following table shows the two types each piece assumes - the left column is the promoted form, the right column the unpromoted form. The piece changes between these types after each move.

The King steps one square in any direction, but cannot move into check    
The Rook slides any number of spaces horizontally or vertically Pawn
The pawn moves a single step forwards, whether capturing or not
The Bishop slides any number of spaces diagonally Silver General
Silver General
The Silver General steps a single space diagonally or directly forwards
The Knight leaps directly to either of two spaces - two squares forward and one square left or right. In other words, like a standard Chess Knight, but only to the two forward-most squares. Gold General
Gold General
The Gold General steps a single space in any direction except diagonally backwards
The Lance slides any number of spaces directly forwards Token
The Tokin steps a single space in any direction except diagonally backwards, same as a Gold General


Goal - The goal of the game is to checkmate the enemy King.

Players - Although the pieces are not normally colored, the first player is referred to as "Black" and the second player is as "White".

Drops - Kyoto Shogi is played with drops. Whenever a player captures one of the opponent's pieces, he keeps that piece "in hand" and on a future move may drop the piece back onto the board as his own instead of moving a piece on the board. In contrast to normal Shogi, A piece may be dropped onto any open square, even if it means placing a piece on a square from which it cannot move. A pawn may even be placed on the same file as another pawn. A piece can be dropped in promoted or unpromoted form at the player's discretion. It is possible to checkmate with a pawn drop.

Promotion - With the exception of the King, every piece must change between its promoted and unpromoted form after every move. With a physical set this is accomplished by flipping the piece over after each move. The Pawn promotes to Rook and back again. The Silver General promotes to Bishop and back. The Gold General promotes to Knight and back. The Tokin promotes to Lance and back.

Repetition - Three-fold repetition is a draw although such situations rarely happen in games with drops.

Computer Play

If you have Zillions of Games installed on your computer, you can play this game by downloading the following file by Steve Evans which plays both Kyoto and Microshogi:


Kyoto Shogi is played on a board five squares by five squares. The squares are not normally colored as they are in Chess. The pieces are wedge-shaped. The direction the wedge is facing indicates which player owns the piece at that time. Since the pieces change ownership, they cannot be colored to indicate ownership. This photograph shows a Kyoto Shogi set:

Picture comes from Wikimedia licensed CC BY-SA 4.0 to a user listed only as "Surligne" although no account under that name presently exists

Written by Greg Strong
WWW page created: March 31, 2018