The topic of Shogi, or Japanese chess, is something I haven’t written about in a long, long time in this blog.1 Search the blog for “Shogi” and you’ll see what I mean. In fact, most of the posts I’ve written were imported from my previous blog, the Level 8 Buddhist. I played avidly for years with people in my office (all non-Japanese like me), and sometimes with Japanese friends and family. However, when I moved to Dublin, I had fewer opportunities to play, and when I came back to the US, I lost all opportunities because I moved to a different team within the same company. So, my posts about Shogi died off. I was never very good anyway.
Recently, I was reading this article from the Japan Times that talks about a young Polish woman who’s playing Shogi online and hoping to compete in Japan someday. It’s a nice article to read, but I was more interested in the online gaming service called 81dojo.com, which is apparently new. When I played Shogi years ago, there were no online gaming sites, unless they were in Japanese only (and required a Japanese Yahoo account/home-address etc), so I was pretty happy to see that Shogi is reaching a wider audience now on the Internet. Since I couldn’t play online in those days, I usually just played Xshogi in Linux, but the game had two “modes” of difficult: silly and pain. Just kidding. The game was either too easy and not challenging, or very painful and too challenging.
Anyway, I decided to try 81dojo.com recently. Registation was simple, and I picked the username jkllr (for blog research of course). I noticed my rank was noticeably lower than most of the other people, which was intimidating at first. The people who seem to stay on 81dojo are the ones who take Shogi pretty seriously, though hopefully more casual players will come in time.
I played two matches, one against someone Polish, and another against someone Japanese. I got crushed on both. Here’s a screenshot of me losing the second game:
I went again a few days later and played a little better. I played against the AI-bot for practice, then challenged someone about the same rank as me. This time I won, though not as cleanly as I might have in the past. Still, it was nice to play a more evenly matched game, and not always be on the offensive. I felt bad for the other guy though: he made one critical mistake early on and lost his bishop. From there the game went rapidly downhill.
In any case, 81dojo is an excellent online Shogi gaming service. I am playing on Opera browser on Linux Mint 12, and it runs just great. The website’s features are easy to use, and come in many languages, so you don’t have to learn Japanese to play. Wow, fantastic baby.
And if you sign up to 81dojo, feel free to challenge me. I’ll probably get crushed, but it’s nice to meet blog readers online, chat and play Shogi. In any case, this is by far the best Shogi service online I’ve seen so far, and I hope it’s a positive trend for the future.
P.S. Taking a small break lately to focus on other projects. Thanks to the kind reader who suggested a “focused vacation”. Apologies in advance for slow replies to comments.
1 If you look on the related Shogi-strategy Wikipedia article, I made those screenshots many years ago, playing MacShogi. Ah, the memories.