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Best Free Computer Shogi - Japanese Chess


Shogi, or Japanese Chess as it is sometimes known in the West, is one of several two player boardgames owing its lineage to the Indian game of chaturanga. Like its cousins Western chess and Xiangqi (Chinese chess), Shogi consists of two opposing armies fighting a war of tactics and attrition with the goal of capturing the opposing army's King.

The board is divided into 81 squares on which each player's force of 20 pieces line up in three ranks at outset of the game. While the ultimate goal of the Shogi player is identical to that of other chess variants, the route to victory features several unique rules making Shogi an exciting and challenging alternative to Western chess.

In Shogi, when a player captures an opponent’s piece, that piece becomes the property of the capturing player's army allowing him/her to “drop” the captured piece into play anywhere on the board. Successful play must therefore incorporate dropped pieces as part of a player's offensive and defensive repertoire.

Another unique feature of Shogi is the fact that nearly all pieces in Shogi have the option of promoting when they reach their opponent’s 3rd rank. These promotions typically increase a piece's offensive capacity. While these unique rules may appear intimidating to the new player, there is thankfully Shogi freeware that is user-friendly for the novice.

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Shogidokoro screenshotShogidokoro incorporates a user-friendly design into a full-featured and versatile gaming program. Masking the program's versatility is a surprisingly modest interface that efficiently covers all of the essentials without confusing the player with overly-complex and unfamiliar controls and toggles. Such activities as adding engines, linking to remote gaming servers, and importing and exporting games are easily accomplished with a minimal learning curve.

While aesthetic options are limited to 4 choices of wood tone for the playing board and 4 different piece sets (one of which features Western style symbols), the overall look of Shogidokoro is attractive and conducive to good play. Unlike some other Shogi software, Shoidokoro does not show the player the possible movements available for each piece, so it is necessary for players to have some familiarity with Shogi rules prior to playing.

More important than the look of the program is the playability, and Shogidokoro does not fail to deliver a positive game experience. Play against the AI is smooth and agile and head-to-head play via remote servers is supported.

Included in the initial download is the Lesserkai 1.3.3 engine. For those wishing to try additional AIs, adding engines is simple. I personally added Spear CSA 2008v.1.4 within the first 10 minutes of downloading the program. Note: players will need to add the Lesserkai engine the first time a one-player match is begun. This is easily accomplished simply by clicking on Game?Engine Manager ? Add and then browsing to the Shogidokoro downloaded files to locate the included Lesserkai engine. Additionally, review and analysis of saved games is supported for CSA, KIF, Ki2, PSN, and PSN2 formats.


BCMShogi ScreenshotBCMShogi offers an attractive and highly playable application primarily for play against an AI engine. The download includes the formidable Spear engine and installation of other engines is supported, however the installation process is cumbersome. Nevertheless, play is smooth and intuitive allowing for an enjoyable gaming experience.

Accentuating the quality game play are a multitude of different board designs to choose from as well as Western/international piece-sets for those of us who do not read Japanese. Perhaps where BCMShogi excels best is in providing an experience that is attuned to the needs of the novice player. The program features a movement guide function that highlights the legal moves available for any given piece when clicked on. Given that several Shogi pieces (such as the gold and silver generals) have no Western chess equivalents, the movement guide is invaluable in a player's first games.

BCMShogi additionally supports two-player games, however the program does not link with remote chess servers. BCMShogi supports .PSN, .KIF, .USF, and other formats, so games played at such sites as PlayOK can be imported for review and analysis by the AI engine. The program installs cleanly however consumers should be aware that they are required to register their free copy in order to be able to access all of the features.

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Quick Selection Guide

Gizmo's Freeware award as the best product in its class!

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Responsive play, user-friendly, versatile
Lack of piece movement guide may be difficult for novice players
7.14 MB
Unrestricted freeware

Links above are in Japanese, try using Google Chrome and opt for a translation of the page. Software is in English.

Runs as a stand-alone program on a user's computer
Attractive interface, novice-friendly, responsive play
Installation of additional chess engines is difficult, no play on remote servers, registration (free) required to access all features
39.37 MB
Unrestricted freeware

BCMShogi is now BCMGames


This software category is in need of an editor. If you are interested in taking it over then check out this page for more details. You can then contact us from that page or by clicking here.


computer chess, pc chess, japanese chess, free chess, best free Japanese chess, top free japanese chess, top free computer chess, play Japanese chess free

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by H.G.Muller (not verified) on 6. July 2012 - 19:29  (95821)

In the area of Shogi Variants:

I now have the first (embryonic) version of an engine for the large (drop-less) Shogi variants. Currently it only plays Chu Shogi. The GUI is a version of the WinBoard Alien Edition, adapted for the large variants by expanding the number of pieces it can handle.

download page:

by jeffhm27 on 28. February 2011 - 7:24  (67184)

Hello, I am the new editor for the Best Free Computer Shogi (Japanese Chess) page. I will soon be posting reviews of several Shogi freeware options currently available online. Please feel free to post a link, comment, or a question in the comments section.

Best Regards,

by Bob on 2. March 2011 - 20:20  (67326)

Delighted to see the Shogi page has now finally found a class editor. Nice one Jeff!

by jeffhm27 on 6. March 2011 - 9:10  (67509)

Thanks Bob. I am continuing to look for more Shogi Freeware, some oldies like Booze (Windows version) and Shogi Variants seem to have disappeared from cyberspace.

by Bob on 6. March 2011 - 10:42  (67513)

Looking forward to your take on Shokidoki (great name for a game!), the Winboard Shogi set up developed by H.G. Muller who has posted here below.

by jeffhm27 on 8. March 2011 - 16:23  (67650)

Shokidoki will be by next review.

by Stalemate (not verified) on 13. February 2011 - 8:09  (66326)

Try BCMI Shogi, it's got a lot to offer, very versatile

by Stalemate (not verified) on 15. October 2010 - 8:48  (59568)

Winboard has Shogi with multiple engines at . Just scroll down a little and you'll see a file for download entitled WinBoard Shogi package.

[Edit: Direct download link removed]

by H.G.Muller (not verified) on 12. October 2010 - 9:46  (59416)

I made available my Shogi engine 'Shokidoki', which won silver medal for (5x5) mini-Shogi in the latest ICGA Computer Games Olympiad, and also plays regular Shogi. It is bundled with WinBoard to make a Shogi package, and can be downloaded at

by H.G.Muller (not verified) on 15. August 2010 - 18:04  (56078)

Note that the popular Chess GUI ('electronic Chess board') WinBoard 4.4 (the current stable version) also has Shogi amongst its supported variants, with both a built-in western and traditional oriental representation. This has become more useful since the recent inception of the UCI2WB adapter, which is a variant-independent tool to translate UCI protocol (or closely related dialects, such as USI) to WinBoard protocol. This makes it possible to now run all USI Shogi engines (some 8 of those are currently available for free download) under WinBoard, next to the native WinBoard engines such as GNU Shogi and TJshogi.

UCI2WB can be downloaded from: http[COLON]//home [DOT] hccnet [DOT] nl/h.g.muller/ .
A binary install for WinBoard is distributed through the WinBoard forum ( ).

[Moderator's Note : Link to direct download obfuscated. Please do not post links to direct download.]

by Anonymous on 21. December 2009 - 10:45  (39097)

Shogi and Go have almost nothing in common, beyond the fact that both are strategy-oriented boardgames played in Japan. Shogi is much more like chess than Go is.

That said, I highly recommend Go. I got my start as a chessplayer, I'm a strong expert level player, and I consider Go to be the superior game. While there definitely is such a thing as "book knowledge" in Go, it seems to me that Go is much more oriented towards skill and less oriented towards memorizing long lines of book theory - the thing that ultimately turned me away from chess.

by Bob on 19. March 2009 - 7:12  (18156)

Here are just a few pointers:

- WINDOWS programs for playing against a computer:

For starters, there's Booze ( Note: No longer available). Nice look, feel and taste! Very helpful web page too.

If you want something a bit stronger, try the Spear engine (direct download link, on the Shogidokoro interface (download, This combination will let you play a the Spear engine (among others), connect to online servers, or watch two engines play each other, etc. Requires NET framework 2.0 or higher. Installation instructions here:

There’s also ShogiVariants ( Note: No longer available). This remarkable little portable program lets you play a whole bunch of Shogi variants in addition to the main game. Even though development stopped in the late 1990s, ShogiVariants seems to work fine on my Vista system.

- To play ONLINE:

Against computers: (Java platform)

Against other humans: (free registration required)

- For rules of the game and other INTRODUCTORY material:

- A good Shogi link collection:

by Riemarus (not verified) on 23. July 2011 - 9:07  (76089)

Hi Bob

For years I enjoyed Steve Evans' ShogiVar on my XP system. But when I switched to 64-bit Vista, it would not run. You probably have a 32-bit Vista. I know that your post is over a year old, but if you know of any fix or work-around, I'd appreciate it.

by Anonymous on 10. August 2009 - 12:56  (26758)

Here's one:

It's in japanese but here's a quick translation:

by Anonymous on 10. August 2009 - 13:02  (26759)

I forgot to mention that it uses flash, doesn't require registration, free to play, has handicaps, quick tutorials, basic tactics, exercises, show movement range and great for beginners.

P.S - Your opponent is a hamster...