Shogi vs. Chess: Which Game to Choose?

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If you’re looking to play some board games that will really put your brain to the test, two of the most popular ones include Chess and Shogi. Both Chess and Shogi are known for being great strategy-based games that can pit two intellectuals against each other in what is effectively a simulated war.

Now, both Chess and Shogi look very similar, and indeed they are, but that said, they are two different games. Let’s figure out exactly what the differences between Chess and Shogi are, so you can make an informed decision as to which one to play.

Chess vs. Shogi

Similarities of Shogi and Chess

Just looking at the two games, you can definitely tell that they are indeed very similar. In terms of similarities between board games, these two share some of the most out of any two games out there. Let’s find out what they are.

1. They’re Both Old and Come from India

First off, what we can say about both of these board games is that they are extremely old, not to mention that they both come from the country of India. Now, while Shogi is sometimes called Japanese Chess (which by all means it is), it was first invented in India. Shogi is thought to have been created around 500 years ago.

That said, Chess as we know it, often referred to as Western Chess, also has its origins in India. That said, it is much older, well over 1,500 years old.

2. Both Are Played on Square Grids

Both Chess and Shogi are played on boards that feature square grids. Also, both boards feature a certain number of squares upon which the pieces are placed and move across. That said, as you will find out later, the game boards are not of the same size, and they also look a bit different too.

3. Both Are Two-Player Games

What is also true about both of these board games is that they are strictly two-player games.

Yes, some people may play against themselves, but that’s not a whole lot of fun. Moreover, technically speaking, you could play both of these games with two teams of two people. That said, communication between team members would be extremely difficult.

As such, for the most part, these are both just two-player games.

4. Both Are Based on War

Yet another similarity that both of these board games share is that they are both originally based on war.

As you can tell, both games are quite heavy in strategy and tactics, plus they both contain characters or game pieces that are clearly based on war, specifically on a feudal system consisting of kings, queens, knights, and so on and so forth. Both of these games were originally intended to help improve the strategic and tactical skills of generals and commanders.

Although both are considered games nowadays, do keep in mind that they technically started out as training tools for war.

5. Both are Very Strategy Heavy

What can be said about both of these board games is that they are both very heavy in strategy and tactics. There are no cards that you can draw, there are no dice to roll, and absolutely nothing is chance-based. Both games rely 100% on skill, tactics, and strategy to win.

In this sense, they are both some of the hardest board games out there. On that same note, neither of these games are ideal for children. For the most part, children have to be at least eight or ten years of age to really understand either of these games.

6. Winning via Checkmate

The other similarity that both of these games share, perhaps the biggest similarity of all, is that the player wins when the king of the opposite player is put into checkmate. Once the king can no longer move to any space without being captured, that player is declared the loser.

Shogi Pieces

Differences Between Shogi and Chess

Although these two board games share many similarities, there are also a whole lot of notable differences that you need to know about. Let’s find out what makes these games different.

1. Game Board

In chess, the game board is an eight-by-eight board of squares, whereas, in Shogi, the board is nine-by-nine squares. Moreover, in Chess, the squares alternate in color (usually between some sort of tan color and a darker brown), thus creating what looks like a checkerboard.

2. Pieces and Range of Motion

Although the game pieces in both shogi and chess are very similar, there are some notable differences.

For example, in Shogi, there are five pieces that do not have a counterpart in chess. These include the gold and silver generals, the lance, the promoted rook, and the promoted bishop. On that same note, there is also a piece in Chess that has no counterpart in Shogi, the queen.

Additionally, the pieces in Shogi generally have a much more limited range of motion, or in other words, the pieces in Chess can move further and they can move in more ways than in Shogi.

Let’s also keep in mind that in Chess, all of the game pieces are usually very ornately carved, with each one looking a specific way, whereas, in Shogi, all of the game pieces are flat tiles with letters/symbols on them indicating what they are.

3. Promoting Pieces

In chess, if a pawn reaches the other side of the board, it can be promoted and turned into any type of piece except for the king. On the other hand, in Shogi, all of the pieces except for the gold general and the king can be promoted, but only to one single kind of piece. That said, in Shogi, the zone that pieces have to reach in order to be promoted is closer to the starting position of the pieces than in Chess.

4. Capturing Pieces

The number one biggest notable difference between both of these games is that in Chess, when a piece is captured, it is removed from the field, whereas in Shogi, pieces that are captured change teams. In other words, if you capture one of your opponent’s pieces, you then take control of it.

5. Other Notable Differences

There are a few other notable differences between these two games that are worth mentioning in passing:

  • Shogi features a very well-developed handicap system for beginners, whereas Chess does not.
  • Shogi games can take up to twice as long to complete as Chess games.
  • Due to the fact that in Shogi, captured pieces change sides, instead of being removed like in Chess, it is generally considered the more difficult of the two.
  • Draws are much less likely to happen in Shogi than in Chess.
  • In Shogi, there is no initial two-space pawn move like in Chess.

Chess Pieces

Shogi vs. Chess: Which Game to Choose?

Simply put, both games are strategy-heavy, so both are ideal for adults looking to put their brains to the test. That said, Shogi is the more difficult of the two. It all really comes down to how hard of a game you want to play.


The bottom line here is that if you really like strategy games that are based on war, then both Shogi and Chess are great games to play. Just keep in mind that neither of these games is one that you will want to play with young kids, as they are just too difficult and complex.