The Shogi-Festival 2015

5/22/2015 – Let’s assume two super-grandmasters visit an amateur chess tournament, play an exhibition game against each other and simultaneous games against the participants of the tournament. Or two top-football players train an amateur club. Incredible! But something similar happened at the Shogi-Festival in Ludwigshafen/Germany when two top professionals visited.

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Shogi (or Japanese Chess) has the same origins as European chess. But in shogi captured pieces can come back into the game. That is, if you capture a piece of your opponent you can employ it later in the game, and this rules makes the game rather dynamic and fast.

In Japan, millions of people play shogi, in Germany about a 100 players play regularly in tournaments regularly.

The venue of the event was the ‚Ostasieninstitut‘, which is located next to the Rhine.

From 2. to 3. May shogi fans met in Ludwigshafen/Germany for the 2. Shogi-Festival. 44 participants from Japan, France and Germany were fighting for every point. 26 of them were students, and thus the percentage of young players was rather high. One reason for the large number of students is the fact that some schools offer shogi-workshops to show students the attraction of the Japanese strategy game.

The tournament hall where the final round of the shogi tournament was played.

In the afternoon of the second day of the festival an extraordinary event took place. Akira Watanabe and Akihito Hirose, two professional shogi players from Japan, visited the shogi amateurs. The two shogi professionals were travelling through Europe, and decided to stay a couple of hours in Ludwigshafen to visit the festival.

Akira Watanabe and Akihito Hirose definitely belong to the top 10 of shogi-professionals in Japan. But they do not only play, they also work as commentators on Japanese television and at shogi events.

The professionals prepare for the game.

The final position

The professionals played first a rapid game against each other. The game soon became sharp and ended with a successful attack of Akira Watanabe. After that the two professionals analyzed their game and explained several key positions to the amateurs.

After their match Watanabe and Hirose played simultaneous games against the tournament participants. These games differ from simultaneous games in chess. When playing against amateurs, professionals give amateurs a handicap, that is, depending on the strength of their opponents they begin the game with one to six pieces down, which makes the games more interesting because the amateurs are not crushed immediately.

After the end of the games Watanabe and Hirose returned to key positions of the game to propose alternatives and to gave their opponents hints to improve their skills. The intention of simultaneous games in shogi is to teach and not to achieve an extraordinary result for the professional.

Akira Watanabe (left) and Akihito Hirose (right) during their simultaneous games.

The shogi festival in Ludwigshafen has definitely been THE shogi event of the year for the participants. It gave them even more motivation to study and play this fascinating chess variant.

For further information see Shogi Deutschland.

About the author
Stephan Michels runs the website www.shogi24.com which offers information about the game and the shogi scene. Michels is author of the book Shogi – Schach der Samurai (Einführung in das faszinierende japanische Schach).


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