Shogi is the Japanese version of chess. The board has 9 x 9 squares and the game is similar to chess in many ways. The biggest difference is that captured pieces reenter the game as part of the opposite side. This makes Shogi more dynamic than chess. Drawn games are very seldom, and the game is immediately replayed if a draw occurs.
Shogi is very popular in Japan and is part of the tea-house tradition. It is played by a greater percentage of the population than chess is in our countries. There are professional Shogi players, similar to chess grandmasters, but far fewer in number approximately 130 in Japan today. The prize money at tournaments is much higher than in chess.
Shogi in the streets of Shinjuku
The best-known and probably strongest Shogi player of all time is Yoshiharu Habu. Ever since he joined the professional Shogi school at the age of twelve Habu, who is now 32 years old, has been known as the one of the most gifted player in the history of this ancient game. He is the only player to have ever won the seven most prestigious titles successively and he has an outstanding record of 74% of victories over the entire span of his career.
Since 1995, Yoshiharu Habu has taken a keen interest in chess. With very little time to study the game he reacht IM strength. In May this year he took part in a tournament in France to achieve a third International Master norm. At the time French GM Joel Lautier conducted an extensive interview with him.
Lautier himself is half Japanese (on his mother's side) and a keen Shogi player. Unfortunately his playing strength in this game is "patzer level", as he freely admits. Still, during a stay in Japan he he took on three of the best Shogi players in a clock simul exhibition in chess, of course. The event, which included Yoshiharu Habu, was sponsored by the NEC Corporation. Joel won it by 2.5:0.5 points, dropping the half point not to Habu but to Toshiyuki Moriuchi.