Tenjiku Shogi (Exotic Shogi)

Le Tenjiku Shogi (Le Shogi exotique)

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Surely, Tenjiku Shogi is one of the deeper and most interesting large Shogi variant. While based on Chu Shogi (Middle Shogi), Tenjiku boasts a menagerie of  wonderfully powerful pieces which make it a far more dynamic and fast paced game than the other large variants. It really stands out from the other great Shogi variants and deserves its name of "exotic". The exotic pieces include range jumpers which can jump over any number of pieces in order make a capture, and the Fire Demon which can "burn" all enemy pieces on the squares adjacent to where it lands!

Unlike in most other Shogi variants, tactics in Tenjiku are critical right from the first move of the game.  Despite the large board, the power of the pieces can mean that careless play is rewarded with a lost game in only a few moves.

 Colin Adams has published a very complete book about Tenjiku Shogi which is available on the Internet. This book details the rules, the value of the pieces, the openings, mating problems, example games and much more. It is a reference work that must be consulted.

(From Steve Evans)


Tenjiku Shogi is played on a board of 16 x 16 squares and each player has 78 pieces from 36 different kinds.

Most of the general rules are the same as other Shogi variants. Similarly to Chu Shogi and Dai Shogi, promotion is upon reaching one of the final five ranks of the opponent’s side. No dropping of captured pieces is allowed.

The introduction of new pieces and new types of movements unique to this game makes it one of the most lively and interesting openings to a large chess variant – something that is rare.  In fact, it is said that a bad and careless move during one of the opening turns can cost the game with no chance to recover.

Many of the pieces present are found in other variants like Chu Shogi, but Tenjiku Shogi introduces some remarkably powerful pieces.  A new sub-type of both ranging and jumping pieces is only found in this game.  These range jumpers move like other ranging pieces but also can jump any number of pieces of either side when making a capture.  However, all range jumpers are restricted that they can only jump over a piece of lesser rank – never over one of equal or greater rank regardless of which side it belonged to. The range jumpers could only jump when making a capture, never when moving passively.  They could capture any piece regardless of rank if they were moving as a ranging piece only and not jumping.  They were probably inspired by the range jumping Cannon piece of the Chinese Xiangqi.

Not ranked as high in the order but arguably more powerful is the Hiki (“Fire Demon”).  The Hiki is one of the most unique and strongest pieces of any chess variant world wide.  Not only is it a three step area mover and can range move in six directions, it “burns” any enemy piece that is on a square adjacent to itself.


The object being to capture the opposing King. If the opposing player has obtained a Crown Prince by promotion, that piece must also be captured in order to win the game.

Tenjiku has several Range Jumping pieces that may jump over multiple squares when making a capture.

In Tenjiku Shogi there are no restrictions on the capture of Lions (as there are in Chu Shogi).

Range jumping pieces: the Bishop General, Rook General, Vice General and Great General are special pieces with a very powerful and penetrating move. In addition to moving any number of unoccupied squares in their directions, these pieces may also jump over any number of pieces (of either side) in those directions to effect a capture. This range jumping power is, however, subject to certain restrictions. 

The range jumping pieces (together with the King) are ranked in the following order of precedence:

      1.   King
      2.   Great General
      3.   Vice General
      4.   Rook General & Bishop General
      5.    All other pieces.

When capturing by jumping, a piece may only jump over lower ranked pieces.

(Under previous rule sets were not permitted to capture equal or higher ranked pieces. This gave black a huge advantage in the opening. With the new rules, the King can come under attack early but can be defended and the game becomes playable. Using the new rules all lines of attack on the Fire Demons (by opposing ranging generals) are now covered by the ranging generals. )

Area move pieces: the Fire Demon and Vice General can in one turn reach any square that could be reached by the equivalent of three consecutive single step "King-type" moves.  This means that when using their 'area move' power on an otherwise empty board these pieces can reach any square in an area within three squares of the starting point. One of the version of the Lion Hawk may make the equivalent of two 'King-type' moves. A piece moving as an 'area mover' can not continue its move after making a capture.

Two interpretations of the Lion Hawk are possible. The first has the move attributed to it in the Shogi Association rules leaflet. In this form the piece moves either as a two square 'area mover' or as a Bishop. It should be stressed that this is regarded by George Hodges as the historically accurate move for this piece. Colin Adams, in his Internet book on Tenjuki Shogi has advocated an alternative move for the Lion Hawk. In this second form it may move as either the Lion or the Bishop. This latest interpretation seems to be dominant now, including for Japanese sources.

The Fire Demon dominates the other fabulous beasts in Tenjiku Shogi in  much the same way as the Lion reigns supreme in Chu Shogi. The Fire Demon has a powerful move as either an area mover or ranging piece, but its devastating feature is the power to 'burn' any adjacent enemy pieces. After the Fire Demon completes its move, all enemy pieces unfortunate enough to be on one of the eight adjacent squares are captured and removed from play. This power is retained even during the opponents turn,  in that a piece that ends its move next to an enemy Fire Demon is still 'burnt' and removed from the game. Such a capture does not constitute a move for the Fire Demon.  If a Fire Demon lands next to an opposing Fire Demon it is the moving piece that is 'burnt'.

The Heavenly Tetrarchs is the promoted form of the Chariot Soldier, and has a move unlike any other piece in the game. The Tetrarchs can not move to any of the eight adjacent squares, but can capture a piece on one of those squares without moving (ie: capture by igui). In addition, the Tetrarchs can jump over an adjacent square (even if occupied) to move from the second square onwards on the diagonals as a ranging piece, or to move to the second or third squares in a sideways direction.

The Drunk Elephant is potentially a very important piece, as it promotes to a Crown Prince. A player who gains a Crown Prince effectively acquires a second King as the Crown Prince must also be captured before the opponent can win the game.

Promotion: each player has a Promotion Zone consisting of the 5 ranks (rows of squares) furthest away from him. Most of the pieces in Tenjiku Shogi have a promoted rank and can promote on entering, moving within, or leaving the Promotion Zone.

Promotion is not compulsory, but a piece must promote if it would be unable to make another legal move as an unpromoted piece (ie: the Pawn, Lance and Iron General must promote on reaching the last rank; the Knight must promote on reaching the second-last rank).

As in all the larger Shogi variants, captured pieces in Tenjiku can not be dropped back into play. A captured piece is removed from play and takes no further part in the game.  


Tenjiku Shogi is detailed in a book named Shogi Zushiki (but it is not the one published in 1634, it would be another book with a similar title). Tenjiku Shogi is believed to have been invented in the 17th century by Buddhist monks, derived from Chu Shogi.

Any more information about this topic will be welcome!


Retrouvez l'histoire du Tenjiku Shôgi, mais aussi ses règles et ses stratégies dans
L'Odyssée des jeux d'échecs


Many thanks to Steve Evans too, author of Shogi Variants freeware, Jess Rudolph and Peter Banaschak from whom I borrowed few illustrations and lines of text.