Tori Shogi Compels Improvisation!

By Etan Boritzer, Founder of Veronica Lane Books 

Etan Boritzer

                   Fixation is the way to death; fluidity is the way to life.
Miyamoto Musashi, legendary samurai, and author of
The Book of Five Rings (Martial Arts Classic)

Any creative chess player can benefit from this ancient chess-like board game as described in The Way of Tori Shogi, Miyamoto Musashi’s Approach, a new book by authors Dave Brandl and Bill Croke on this challenging chess variation. The strategies formatted in the book are based on the legen
dary 17th-century Japanese samurai master Miyamoto Musashi who never lost a dual in 72 major encounters with enemies.

Spontaneous thinking, ad-libbing moves, improvising strategies, making it up as you go along, flying by the seat of your pants. This is the norm of Tori Shogi, a Japanese chess board game. From the first move, Tori Shogi requires the utmost and immediate presence of mind, rather than the deliberate, multi-level strategies required in chess.

One of the most common attractions to a chess game is planning a brilliant opening and then executing that opening with confidence. Chess has volumes of literature written about their openings and early game movements. Students of these games spend hours studying and memorizing sequences and variations, and then play those opening moves in rapid and orderly succession, seemingly by rote.

Openings and castles are of great value in Tori Shogi. However, they must be handled swiftly while observing and reacting to your opponents’ early threats and captures. In The Way of Tori Shogi, Authors Dave Brandl and Bill Coker annotate a game from a 2021 online tournament. Black builds a Tori Shogi version of the Bear in the Hole castle, assesses and responds to White’s opening moves, makes four captures and one drop, and assembles a powerful attack — in 11 moves.

Bear in the Hole Castle

Turbulent action persists throughout a Tori Shogi game. Standard openings last only a few moves. Like Sumo, which preceded it by more than a hundred years, Tori Shogi begins with immediate attack and conflict. Focus, concentration, and quickly devised and creative strategies reign throughout this extraordinary game, particularly in the beginning.

Then captures begin, as it does the middle chess game. Playing decisions do become more thoughtful and deliberate. Multiple potential moves and their ensuing responses must be considered. However, where strategic chess thinkers get into their grooves at this juncture, in Tori Shogi competent players continue to attempt chaotic and disorientating moves.

Tori Shogi’s unrelenting capture-or-be-captured scenarios quickly produce ammunition for drops. It is the only known full-sized and historic world variant of chess where a capture can be made on the first move. Early captures in chess usually result from blunder moves by inexperienced players. In Tori Shogi, the goal is early victory, just as any victorious swordsman will attest to!

                                Formulaic thinking is the antithesis of art.
Author James Morcan



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