Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Game of Generals

is the rough translation of "shogi", the Japanese cousin of chess. I am fairly addicted to shogi at the moment. The mysterious characters on the pieces are very appealing to my ignorant Western eye, and the deep strategies fascinate and baffle me. There seems to be more of an ebb and flow than there is in chess, perhaps because there are fewer long range pieces and the opportunity to reinforce your army at any time with pieces captured from your opponent.

This Friday I am hosting my third Shogi Evening in as many months. Many Japanese (and a few English) friends converge on our little terrace, are subjected to my cooking (or Kate's if they are lucky), and then to lots of games of shogi. A post-doctoral geneticist from Toyama was the clear champion in September, and there was no clear winner last time (although an Associate Professor of English Literature from Tokyo was undefeated that evening, he and I did not play each other and I had defeated him in September) so the top games will be hard fought! Can't wait...

Next week I'm off to London to a shogi event at Asia House featuring 4 top Japanese players. It will be particularly nice to meet up with my friends the Brashes while I'm down there...

In case anyone out there can understand this, here's a sample game I played against the computer (strength 4-kyu) this afternoon. It illustrates the principle of the king-hunt, a central motif in shogi. After chasing my king across the board, the computer ran out of pieces at just the right moment for me to turn the tables. Needless to say, it doesn't usually work out this well!

1. P7f P3d
2. P2f S6b
3. P2e G3b
4. P2d Px2d
5. Rx2d Bx8h+
6. Rx2a+ +Bx8i
7. N*2c B*2b
8. Nx1a+ B7g+
9. S6h +B7x9i
10. +N1b N*7g
11. G7i +Bx7i
12. Sx7i L*2c
13. L*3c N6i+
14. Kx6i +Bx3c
15. P*2h P*2g
16. N*4e +B4b
17. Px2g P4d
18. +Nx1c G*2d
19. P4f Px4e
20. Px4e N*6e
21. S6h L*4f
22. G5i L4g+
23. P4d +B3c
24. B*2b K4b
25. Bx3c+ Kx3c
26. P6f Nx5g+
27. Sx5g +Lx5g
28. N*4e Kx4d
29. B*1a Kx4e
30. P*5f B*4g
31. K7h S*6g
32. K7g N*8e
33. K8d Bx2i+
34. B5e+ K3c
35. S4h +Lx4h
36. Gx4h S*8d
37. P3f Kx3f
38. G3g K2e
39. P2f K1e
40. L*1f checkmate