Yoshiharu Habu (羽生 善治 Habu Yoshiharu, born September 27, 1970) is a professional Japanese chess (shogi) player and a chess FIDE Master. He is widely regarded as the greatest shogi player ever.

Briefly about shogi

According to researchers, the origin of chess and its regional variants was invented in Eastern India c. 280–550, where its early form in the 6th century was known as a chaturanga (literally four divisions). Thence it spread eastward and westward along the Silk Road. In the west, it became chess (or international chess) and in east Japanese chess (shogi), Chinese chess (xiangqi), Korean chess (jiangqi) and Thai chess (matruk). Sometime in the 10th to 12th centuries, ’chess’ crossed the channel to Japan where it spawned a number of interesting variants. One of these was called ’Small Shogi’. Eventually, Small Shogi (though it went through many forms) won out over the larger variants and is now referred to simply as ’Shogi’. It is certain that Shogi in its present form was played in Japan as early as the 16th century.

Shogi is played by two players facing each other over a board of 9×9 squares. The distinctive feature of shogi is the use of ”drops”, i.e. the player, in turn, can re-enter (drop) the pieces he has captured from the opponent on almost any vacant square instead of making a move with the pieces on the board. This means that all pieces remain in play until the end of the game. The second distinctive feature is that several pieces can promote on reaching the last three ranks of the opponent´s side of the board called ”the promotion zone”. Promotion is indicated by turning the piece over after it moves, revealing the character of the promoted piece. These features greatly increase the appeal and the possibilities of shogi.

Currently, there are estimated to be around 15 million amateurs playing the game in Japan.

Said about shogi

– The 13th chess World Champion Garry Kasparov: ”Shogi is a unique game. I want to go to Japan.”

– The chess Grandmaster and chess writer Jonathan Tisdall: ”Shogi is a better-designed game than chess.”

Links about shogi

Reijer Grimbergen shogi page is a great website featuring analyzed pro shogi games and pro player profiles. Unfortunately, Reijer has lost his interest in shogi and the website will not be updated in the future.

The International Shogi Server

Wikipedia´s article about shogi, good as always.

Yoshiharu Habu

Yoshiharu Habu (born in 1970) is a living shogi legend. He is widely regarded as the greatest shogi player ever. Habu first encountered shogi in his first year of elementary school, when his classmates taught him how the shogi pieces move. He achieved professional status in 1985, aged 15. In 1996 (February 14 to July 30), Habu became the first professional to ever hold all seven major titles (Ryu-oh, Meijin, Kisei, Oi, Oza, Kioh, and Osho) at the same time, a remarkable feat that has not been duplicated since. Shogi players often talk about ”Habu magic”, i.e. Habu´s ability to come up with surprising and strong moves. Habu is also a strong international chess player having a chess FIDE Master title and a FIDE ranking of about 2400. The following link is to Habu´s chess games http://www.chessgames.com/player/yoshiharu_habu.html. Habu began to play international chess at the age of 30. Personally, I feel sure that he would have become a chess Grandmaster if he would have begun at an earlier age.

Below is a photo of Yoshiharu Habu playing simultaneous chess/shogi exhibition match against elite French chess Grandmaster Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Below is a brief interview with Yoshiharu Habu.

Yoshiharu Habu interview

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