Saturday, August 23, 2008

Shogi at Mitsuwa: Failure and Success

Well, I decided to take the family down to Mitsuwa Marketplace in hopes of finding some shogi players and possibly a board. We were there from 12:30 to 2:00pm or so and did not see anyone playing. I asked a number of shopkeepers and nobody knew anything about a regular gathering of players. So, we sat down and enjoyed some sushi. :) After eating, I did a few google searches on my iPhone and came across an email from 2000 stating that the club meets from 9:00am to noon. I'm going to email a few people this week and hopefully I'll have more info.

The search for a board also came up empty. We even checked a Japanese Toy and Gift shop in the general area of the marketplace and they didn't have anything. They did have some rather risque girly action figures, so we quickly left before the kids had a chance to notice. :)

In the bookstore inside Mitsuwa, however, I managed to find a tsume shogi book (pictured above)! I looked around until I found what appeared to be a game section. Then I saw some Sudoku books and knew I might be close. Finally, I looked at a few bindings hoping to recognize a shogi character when BINGO, this one popped out at me. I pulled it out, opened it up (upside down, since I forgot to read backwards) , and saw the shogi board diagrams. I'm really excited about this one since I wanted a tsume shogi book and there are none published in english. I wish I knew what all the text says, but for now I know enough to get me going.

Hopefully it's not a book for high dan players. :o

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mac OS X Shogi Software

Since beginning iPhone development, I've had the opportunity to use Mac OS X again. If I'm going to spend much time with it, obviously I will need some Shogi and Chess software. :D The Shogi selection is small, but the applications are of very high quality.

As an application for playing Shogi, I use Shogi Z by MacBrains:

Shogi Z

The graphics (both Japanese and Western tile sets) are beautiful and the tile placement sounds are very pleasant to my ear. To register the trial version, it's a mere 1500 yen, so you can be up and playing for less than 15 bucks. My only little complaint with the application is that, upon startup, the main window draws in the top left of the screen and then immediately redraws in the middle. I'm more anal-retentive than most people and it's almost embarrassing that these little interface glitches do bug me, but they do. :)

As a study tool, MacShogi by Eric Cheymol fits the bill:


Like Shogi Z, the graphics are outstanding. However, this application makes it easier to play through variations and review games. Eric even provides a large number of games suitable for opening in MacShogi. The software has only been compiled for G4 so there are a few small issues with running on a modern Intel-based Mac, but I've exchanged emails with Eric and he has plans to release a new build this week. I look forward to it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Shogi Equipment

While I have Shogi software for each of the three operating systems I use, there are certain times where I'd really like to have a physical board to play and practice with. It would also assist with my turn-based online games since I could test out variations without using software.

There appears to be a dearth of online shogi vendors so the options are limited to Yutopian and Yellow Mountain Imports. I won't mention Kiseido since their prices are pretty ridiculous and they are tough to deal with in terms of actually making an order and payment (I've bought a go book from them in the past).

Yutopian offers a foldable agathis board with cream-colored plastic pieces:

I believe this is the same set that is sold at The Trading Centre. To me, it looks pretty nice. The problem is that the Yutopian web-site is so unprofessional that I do not feel comfortable providing payment information. They were actually down for most of the day yesterday. If they offered paypal it would be fine.

YMI offers a few all-wood sets, however the wood for both the board and pieces looks rather cheap:

I may also try to visit a local japanese marketplace here in the Chicago suburbs. If I don't find anything, another option would be to simply bite the bullet and buy it from The Trading Centre which is based in the UK. The costs would be higher, but they do accept paypal. I've used them twice so far. Once for Shotest Shogi 3D and the second time to buy the Fairbarn book which I could not find from a US vendor. I ended up paying close to $50 for a $20 book. If the book arrives in a timely fashion and I have not yet found a set locally, I may just buy from them again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Diving Into Online Shogi

I've begun playing shogi online! For turn-based action, fits the bill despite its ad-heavy interface. For real-time excitement, has a really nice java applet-based multi-game interface. I'm not a fan of java applets, but this one is definitely usable.

I just completed my first game there now and lost on time despite feeling well ahead. I was clicking madly with 5 seconds to go (out of the 10 seconds in the blitz byoyomi) but nothing registered. Sigh. I guess the moral of the story is to avoid blitz online. :)

I'm lotsoblots at both sites, so feel free to challenge any time. :)

Oh, and I'm using the traditional pieces exclusively now, so I expect to miss more than a few moves! :D