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Larry Kaufman

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Feb 7, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/7/99
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Since there seems to be so much interest in comparing various games in
the chess/shogi family, I thought I would add my 2 cents worth, though I do
feel that the attention given to games that are only mildly related to shogi
has been a bit excessive in this list, considering that probably a million
games of shogi are played for every game of these variants.
First of all, my credentials. I am the only person in the world to
have earned a 2400 rating in both chess and shogi, being an International
Master in the former and an Amateur 5 Dan in the latter. I was once
thought to be the strongest non-oriental player in the U.S. of Shang-chi
(Chinese chess), and have played roughly ten games each of Junk-ki (Korean
chess), Chu-Shogi, and Grand Chess (the modernized version of Capablanca's
10x10 chess), enough to have some feel for the good and bad points of each.
In my opinion the key points to consider in comparing the games are the
frequency of draws in games between masters (less is better, though perhaps
a small percentage of draws may be preferred by some to none at all), rough
equality of chances of the two sides, the importance of memorizing opening
theory (less is better), variety of play (a major objection to checkers and
some might say to Go), history and tradition (very desirable), game length
(not too short or too long, though this is subjective), strategical
principles (more are better), and early interaction between the two sides
(desirable, as if you can just do your own thing without looking at the
other player's moves, the game lacks interest).
Let's start with chess, the most widely played game (geographically) of
the family. It ranks very highly on history and tradition, game length,
strategical principles, and early interaction. Unfortunately the draw
percentage is too high (around 50% at high levels), and this is mostly due
to the nature of the game rather than to lack of fighting spirit. The
chances of the two players are quite unequal, white winning about 5 games
for each 3 won by black at high level. Memorized opening theory is way too
important at high level, though ideas like shuffle chess could solve this
problem. Variety of play is not bad but could be much better. So chess
gets 4 1/2 good grades out of 8. Shuffle chess would score the same,
gaining a point on memorized theory but losing it back on history and
tradition, of which it has none.
Now consider Chinese chess, the version of chess played by the largest
number of people world-wide, I believe. It also ranks very highly on
history and tradition, game length, and early interaction. I'll give it a
medium score on strategical principles (there's plenty of strategy, but less
than chess, I feel). The draw percentage is perhaps a bit lower than in
chess, but still too high (the restriction of the elephants and ministers to
their own camp is the main reason for the draws, I believe). The first
player has a substantial edge, though perhaps a bit less than in chess.
Memorized theory is a big problem, as in chess. Variety of play is about
like in chess. So I'll give Chinese chess the same 4 1/2 score as chess
got.
Korean chess is a relative of Chinese chess. It scores a bit lower on
history and tradition, and a bit higher on the memorized theory problem,
with other scores about the same. Let's also give it 4 1/2.
Okay, how about Chu-shogi, the topic of much discussion on this list.
It certainly has history and tradition, though most of it is lost to us now,
so let's give it 1/2 for this. I suspect that the percentage of draws among
masters would be very low, though I don't believe there are any masters in
the world now to test this hypothesis. Similarly I cannot imaging that the
first move could be more than a trivial advantage, perhaps 51-49%.
Memorized opening theory is obviously not a problem; even if it existed, it
is very unlikely that this would ever be a decisive factor in such a complex
and long game. Variety of play is obviously enormous; in fact I'll only
give it 1/2 credit because the variety of moves of the different promoted
and unpromoted pieces is far more than anyone would ever need to enjoy the
game, and simply serves to lower the standard of play by making it difficult
to ever become proficient with all the different pieces. Game length is
much longer than most people would consider desirable, though the game is
certainly of playable length. Early interaction certainly can occur, though
the space between the camps minimizes it, so I'll give Chu half credit here.
As for strategical principles, in my opinion there are not so many here, as
the tactical element seems to dominate the game, but I'll give it half
credit, mostly due to my not being expert enough to say for sure. So I give
Chu 5 points, the best score so far, with the reservation that one would
have to devote an enormous amount of time to the game to acquire any real
proficiency. I do enjoy playing the game on occasion, but since I have not
played enough to know the moves of the promoted pieces without reference to
the manual, both my skill and my enjoyment go way down late in the game.
As for the larger relatives of Chu, I must agree with Colin Adams that
they are clearly less playable than Chu without offsetting advantages, and
so I find the constant discussion of these "games" to be rather silly. I am
quite in agreement with George Hodges in the opinion that the really large
versions were not really meant to be played at all. In particular versions
in which pieces demote on promotion would simply be drawish and boring. Chu
shogi already has too many pieces, probably the reason it died out, so even
larger versions must simply be a joke. Sorry I don't even know what
"tenjiku" shogi is, so no comment here.
As chu is to shogi, Grand chess is to chess. The larger board and
extra pieces (bishop + knight and rook + knight) add a whole new dimension
to the game. I'll have to give it a zero for history and tradition (a few
games by Capablanca don't qualify it here). I believe the draw percentage
would be very low among masters (I haven't had one yet), and the advantage
of first move small enough. Memorized theory doesn't exist, though it could
become a bit of a problem if the game became popular, so I'll give it 1/2
here. Variety of play is good, more than chess without reaching the point
of overkill as with Chu, but perhaps still a bit less than I would like, so
I'll give it 3/4. Game length seems about right to me, a bit more than
chess but nothing like Chu. Early interaction is the same as in chess, and
the strategical principles should be similar. So Grand chess, despite its
meager following, scores an amazing 6 1/4 out of 8 on my criteria, by far
the best so far. It really is an excellent game and deserves a bigger
following.
Now for shogi, as it is currently played by millions of Japanese and a
few thousand Westerners. History and tradition are there in abundance,
comparable to chess. The draw % (about 2% in pro play, 1% in amateur) is
minimal (some might argue it's too low!). The advantage of first move is
minimal (about 52-48%). Variety of play is nearly ideal (ten piece types,
including promoted rook and bishop, versus six in chess). Memorized theory
is a big problem, nearly as much as in chess, though the chances of turning
around a bad opening are better in shogi, so I'll give it 1/4 (maybe we need
shuffle-shogi !). Game length is ideal. Early interaction is adequate,
though a bit less than in chess, so I'll give it 3/4. Strategic principles
are quite ample, perhaps on a par with chess. So shogi gets 7 out of 8,
making it clearly the winner of this "competition".
Shogi is not a perfect game. Some criticisms include the rather
arbitrary moves of some pieces, the occasional draw due to there being no
good way to start the fight in certain openings, the very unaesthetic need
to resolve impasse games by point count, and the fact that many games begin
with both sides moving into identical fortress formations before any
interaction occurs. Also the strength of the Left Anaguma castle is felt by
many to be a spoiler in shogi, as for a while it seemed to relegate the
ranging rook openings to the dustbin of history, though the recent success
of Fujii with his anti-Anaguma system seems to puncture a big hole in that
criticism. Despite these criticisms, I think the evidence is strong that
shogi is the best game in the entire chess family, and with the risk of
offending Go players (a game which I also play and respect greatly), perhaps
the best game of all.


Larry Kaufman

Michael Vanier

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Feb 8, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/8/99
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Thanks to Larry Kaufman and Colin Adams for their interesting comparisons
of the various shogi/chess games. I agree with Larry's general points
about what makes a great game. Here are a few specific comments...

> Let's start with chess, the most widely played game (geographically) of
> the family. It ranks very highly on history and tradition, game length,
> strategical principles, and early interaction. Unfortunately the draw
> percentage is too high (around 50% at high levels), and this is mostly due
> to the nature of the game rather than to lack of fighting spirit. The
> chances of the two players are quite unequal, white winning about 5 games
> for each 3 won by black at high level. Memorized opening theory is way too
> important at high level, though ideas like shuffle chess could solve this
> problem. Variety of play is not bad but could be much better. So chess
> gets 4 1/2 good grades out of 8. Shuffle chess would score the same,
> gaining a point on memorized theory but losing it back on history and
> tradition, of which it has none.

I'm certainly not a good chess player, but I think it's safe to say that
playing shogi is much more fun than playing chess for a novice. The drop
rule permits one to create the position one wants in many cases, which
means that many tactical themes that occur only rarely in chess can be
"manufactured" using drops in shogi. I also think that the fact that pawns
cannot capture forward in chess tends to create blockaded positions which
sometimes makes it hard to get any attack going. What usually seems to
happen in these cases is that pieces get exchanged and before you know it
you're in the endgame. Thus chess games often become a war of
attrition. This can't happen in shogi, and shogi endgames are vastly more
interesting than chess endgames by any reasonable comparison.

> Okay, how about Chu-shogi, the topic of much discussion on this list.
> It certainly has history and tradition, though most of it is lost to us now,
> so let's give it 1/2 for this. I suspect that the percentage of draws among
> masters would be very low, though I don't believe there are any masters in
> the world now to test this hypothesis. Similarly I cannot imaging that the
> first move could be more than a trivial advantage, perhaps 51-49%.
> Memorized opening theory is obviously not a problem; even if it existed, it
> is very unlikely that this would ever be a decisive factor in such a complex
> and long game. Variety of play is obviously enormous; in fact I'll only
> give it 1/2 credit because the variety of moves of the different promoted
> and unpromoted pieces is far more than anyone would ever need to enjoy the
> game, and simply serves to lower the standard of play by making it difficult
> to ever become proficient with all the different pieces. Game length is
> much longer than most people would consider desirable, though the game is
> certainly of playable length. Early interaction certainly can occur, though
> the space between the camps minimizes it, so I'll give Chu half credit here.
> As for strategical principles, in my opinion there are not so many here, as
> the tactical element seems to dominate the game, but I'll give it half
> credit, mostly due to my not being expert enough to say for sure.

I haven't played Chu (yet; I'm eager to try), but I find it hard to imagine
that a game played on a 12x12 board with 92 pieces could have less
strategical complexity than chess, played on an 8x8 board. Perhaps you
could elaborate here? Wayne Schmittberger has argued that the tactical
complexity of Chu is so great that, in fact, strategy dominates tactics
because it's hard to read many moves deep, and so the important thing for
Chu players is to learn to intuitively assess the merits of a position,
much as Go players have to.

> Sorry I don't even know what
> "tenjiku" shogi is, so no comment here.

Check it out; it's pretty cool. George Hodges sells rule leaflets, and
Colin's book has the rules. A tactical nightmare/paradise, depending on
one's inclinations.

> Now for shogi, as it is currently played by millions of Japanese and a
> few thousand Westerners. History and tradition are there in abundance,
> comparable to chess. The draw % (about 2% in pro play, 1% in amateur) is
> minimal (some might argue it's too low!). The advantage of first move is
> minimal (about 52-48%). Variety of play is nearly ideal (ten piece types,
> including promoted rook and bishop, versus six in chess). Memorized theory
> is a big problem, nearly as much as in chess, though the chances of turning
> around a bad opening are better in shogi, so I'll give it 1/4 (maybe we need
> shuffle-shogi !). Game length is ideal. Early interaction is adequate,
> though a bit less than in chess, so I'll give it 3/4. Strategic principles
> are quite ample, perhaps on a par with chess. So shogi gets 7 out of 8,
> making it clearly the winner of this "competition".

I agree with your assessment from my experience. I think the only "flaw"
in shogi is the standardization of the openings, and that something like
"shuffle-shogi" will be necessary to keep the game from getting bogged down
by opening theory. Has anyone played shuffle-shogi? I must add that most
of what I've read on shogi seems to focus on tactics, giving the idea that
the game is primarily tactical. I suppose this is true in the endgame, but
it would be interesting to read more about shogi strategy beyond analysis
of the opening.

It's interesting that nobody has mentioned go except in passing. Even
though this is a shogi mailing list, I'm fascinated by the contrast between
shogi and go. Go seems to me to have much more varied openings than chess
or shogi (even with standard josekis, the fact that there are four corners
to play them in makes each game completely different) and enormous tactical
complexity (albeit of a vastly different kind). The main area where shogi
surpasses go is in the endgame, which (barring stupid blunders) tends not
to be too tense in go, but of course is very exciting in shogi.

Mike

Colin Paul Adams

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Feb 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/9/99
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>>>>> "Michael" == Michael Vanier <mva...@BBB.CALTECH.EDU> writes:

Michael> I haven't played Chu (yet; I'm eager to try), but I find

Go for it! (oops, pun not intended - Chu for it!).

Michael> elaborate here? Wayne Schmittberger has argued that the
Michael> tactical complexity of Chu is so great that, in fact,
Michael> strategy dominates tactics because it's hard to read many
Michael> moves deep, and so the important thing for Chu players is
Michael> to learn to intuitively assess the merits of a position,
Michael> much as Go players have to.

That's an interesting comparison, which I hadn't thought of (I am a Go
player, so perhaps I should have done so). I'll extend it - in Chu, as
in Go, it's important to know when you HAVE to read deeply, and when
you can get away with a glance analysis. This comes from experience,
of course, as well as from thinking about the nature of the game.
--
Colin Paul Adams
Preston Lancashire

Colin Paul Adams

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Feb 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/9/99
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>>>>> "Larry" == Larry Kaufman <lkau...@WIZARD.NET> writes:

Larry> variety of moves of the different promoted and unpromoted
Larry> pieces is far more than anyone would ever need to enjoy the

Possibly true.

Larry> game, and simply serves to lower the standard of play by
Larry> making it difficult to ever become proficient with all the
Larry> different pieces.

I have to disagree here. It doesn't take very long at all, if you are
prepared to put in a little effort. Studying the mating problems helps
here (and is a great delight (to me - it's the only game in which I
really ENJOY studying problems)).

Larry> so I'll give Chu half credit here. As for strategical
Larry> principles, in my opinion there are not so many here, as
Larry> the tactical element seems to dominate the game, but I'll

This just isn't so. Chu is predominantly a strategic game. However, in
practice games are often decided by tactical blunders, but that is
because people don't play it enough. I'll just reel off a list of
strategic principles from the top of my head:

Centralise your lion in a forward position.
Force the opposing lion into a passive position.
Attack on the side of the enemy king.
Keep your king in the centre.
Keep your strong pieces in the rear until the endgame.
Create a strong pawn centre - reinforced by the step movers.
Clear the third and fourth ranks as a moat to stop the Lion
advancing.
Don't attack without support.
Try to promote a vertical mover in the middle game.
Try to promote the phoenix in the early end game.
Advance side movers to the fourth rank.
Always know where you are going to move your lion, in the face of any
possible move by your opponent.
NEVER waste a tempo.
Save your clock time for the endgame (and so, play quickly in the
opening).

That should do for starters.

bettoro...@gmail.com

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Aug 20, 2015, 5:04:46 AM8/20/15
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With computers now obliterating humans, blitz should become the norm, or we should just go to 9x9 chess, with the first bishop move like a knight to shift it to the light squares.
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