The Way Of Tori Shogi

Miyamoto Musashi's Approach

Tori Shogi Compels Improvisation in Chess

“Fixation is the way to death; fluidity is the way to life.” — Miyamoto Musashi, author of The Book of Five Rings

Spontaneous thinking, ad-libbing moves, improvising strategies, making it up as you go along, flying by the seat of your pants. This is the norm of Tori Shogi from the first move.


One of the most common attractions to a game of chess is planning a brilliant opening and then executing that opening with confidence. Chess and Shogi have volumes of literature written about their openings and early game movements. Students of these games spend hours studying and memorizing sequences and variations, and then play those opening moves in rapid and orderly succession, seemingly by rote.

The Middle Game

Then captures begin, as does the middle game. Playing decisions become more thoughtful and deliberate. Multiple potential moves and their ensuing responses must be considered. This is where strategic thinkers get into their grooves.

Tori Shogi Begins Here

Tori Shogi’s immediate capture-or-be-captured scenario quickly produces ammunition for drops. It is the only known full-sized and historic world variant of chess where a capture can be made on the first move. Early captures in Chess, Shogi, Xiangqi, and other major variations usually result from blunder moves by inexperienced players.

Bear in the Hole Castle

Openings and castles are of great value in Tori Shogi. However, they must be handled swiftly while observing and reacting to your opponents’ early threats and captures. In The Way of Tori Shogi, we annotate a game from a 2011 online tournament. Black builds a Tori Shogi version of the Bear in the Hole castle, assesses and responds to White’s opening moves, makes four captures and one drop, and assembles a powerful attack — in 11 moves.

Turbulent action persists throughout a Tori Shogi game. Standard openings last only a few moves. Similar to Sumo, which preceded it by more than a hundred years, Tori Shogi begins with immediate attack and conflict. Focus, concentration, and quickly devised and creative strategies reign throughout this extraordinary game.

“Formulaic thinking is the antithesis of art.” — Author James Morcan

Jinsei o ajiwau.

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