Tori Shogi (Bird Shogi)
Le Tori Shogi (Le Shogi des oiseaux)
Tori Shogi is the smallest ancient member of the Japanese family of chess games. Tori Shogi literally means "Bird Chess" and all of the pieces are named after birds.
Apart from Shogi itself (and possibly Wa Shogi), Tori Shogi is the only old variant that is played with drops (returning captured pieces into play), a feature which adds greatly to the appeal and depth of strategy of the game. Tori Shogi is a wonderful game.
Tori Shogi is played on a board of 7 x 7 squares and each player has 16 pieces. The object being to capture the opposing Phoenix. The game is played with drops.
Promotion: each player has a Promotion Zone consisting of the two ranks furthest away from him. Whenever a Swallow or Falcon makes a move wholly or partly within the Promotion Zone, the piece assumes its promoted rank. The Swallow promotes to a Goose and a Falcon becomes an Eagle. It should be noted that unlike in Shogi, promotion is compulsory. Eagles and Geese revert to their unpromoted ranks when captured.
Drops: Pieces other than Swallows may be returned to play on any vacant square. The following restrictions apply to drops involving Swallows. A Swallow may not be dropped:
A Swallow or Falcon that is dropped inside the player's Promotion Zone is not promoted until after it has made a further move on the board.
Despite traditionally being attributed to the 9th Meijin Ohashi Soei it was invented by his pupil Toyota Genryu in 1799. It was first published in 1828 but apparently sales were slow and a second edition with six illustrative games and a handicap system was issued in 1833. That still had no impact, which is remarkable since it is undoubtedly a very fine game.
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.
(Photo from Robert J.Mate jr.)