Losing and Coping

You may have won your fair number of games, some of which were won easily with barely any effort put into the game by yourself and others which you hadn’t won if it wasn’t for that one crucial mistake made by your opponent. However, you certainly also lost many games.

Today I’m going to look into the not so great part of playing shogi i.e. losing.

Why is it that one is more frustrated by one loss than by another?

Starting from a social angle there simply are players you don’t want to lose against.

Sometimes that is because the person opposite the table also is the player you proclaimed to be your rival, other times you just have a simple and genuine dislike for the person in front of you.

Fortunately, I have never been in the latter situation up until now but I can imagine that something like this can happen from time to time.

I, personally, feel that it is much easier for me to accept a loss against my rival than against someone I can’t come to like. That does not mean to say that losing against someone you set out to be your goal in some way doesn’t stink, however.

Even though I haven’t played against someone I can’t stand, I certainly played and lost against players who were objectively speaking far weaker than I was. These losses, at least for me, are the hardest to swallow.

I regularly play shogi with my girlfriend, who is an 8Kyu right now, and usually enjoy playing shogi with her.

Shogi, in fact, has become an integral part of our lives and has brought us to various cities in Germany we probably wouldn’t have cared to visit before if it wasn’t for the shogi tournaments held there and the wonderful people associated with those places. Be that as it may, nothing is more frustrating for me than to see her fail to remember the first steps in a Joseki we’ve gone over time and time again.

More often than I openly like to admit, I would get bored with her moves, pay little attention to what was going on on the board, and lose the game because of my arrogance.

This type of loss is, as I’ve already said, the gravest one, at least for me.

Knowing that I’ve lost against someone else who hadn’t had invested as much effort into his studies as I had because of my own hubris is almost unbearable. What’s even worse (though at the same time may be proper punishment for such behaviour) is that after such a loss against my girlfriend or against one of my friends I have to congratulate them on their win and encourage them to keep up with the good work. I will talk about this topic further in an upcoming blog post on teaching shogi and its promotion.

Another not so pleasant way of losing your game is by making an illegal move.

Keeping up your concentration on the game can be challenging at times and there are many distractions placed around the board you’re playing on. The opponent you are playing against may be having a mild case of restless leg syndrome, the slightly overweight kid watching your game may be so interested in what is going on that it literally rests its belly on your table, and so on.

The reasons why you may get distracted from your game are manifold and these distractions sometimes lead to illegal moves being made.

I remember one of my recent games which I lost due to having promoted my Bishop (Kaku) on 64.

My opponent had built the Yagura Castle while I had put my King into Anaguma Castle and when preparations for battle were made it was fairly obvious that I would emerge victorious after the skirmish. This battle was (or I should say: would have been) initiated by an exchange of Bishops on 64 and would continue with a bishop drop of mine that would give me either his rook or his silver for free. However, I usually play ranging rook vs. static rook games and am therefore used to exchanging Bishops within the opponent’s camp. The etiquette of shogi dictates that even for a regular Bishop exchange, the Bishop has got to be promoted if the exchange occurs within the opponent’s camp.

This I did, except I did it not in his camp but on 64, and my opponent declared his victory. I suppose the motion of turning my bishop around for a bishop exchange was etched into my muscles’ memory because of the countless Shikenbisha games I had played before.

I cannot describe the frustration I felt when I realised I had lost the game because of something like this. For a few minutes I couldn’t bring myself to accept my defeat and wished for my opponent to tell me that I need not worry and that we could simply continue. Unfortunately, this isn’t what shogi is like and actually I believe that to be a good thing. In the end, I resigned after I composed myself and went on to the next games in the tournament playing extra carefully.


In fact, I lost my very first official tournament match because of an illegal move I made.

It was in 2016 when my girlfriend and I participated in the Open German Championship for the first time. Both being without a rank, we were matched against each other in the very first round of the tournament. We played a really exciting Yagura game that would see my King (Ousho) flee to my girlfriend’s camp and her King cornered within a field of Pawns (Fu) and Generals (Kins and Gins).

It was my turn then to enter the end game with a Silver drop (Gin) on the second rank. I extended my arm to the right without looking, lifted the piece from my piece stand and dropped my Knight(!) (Kei) where I had planned on dropping the silver. I had taken the wrong piece from the piece stand and dropped the Knight on an illegal square. I once heard that Habu once felt his blood flowing backwards after he had put his King into a position that would have him mated in the next move during a Game between Habu and Kimura on Sep. 1st, 2001.

This adequately describes the shock I felt when I noticed my mistake. Not only did I lose against my girlfriend for the first time but it was also the first time I lost because of an illegal move AND it was the first game at a tournament I had ever lost because it was the very first.

My girlfriend, who was also in shock, looked around frantically and gestured that she wanted to continue the match as if nothing happened. Weak in character as I was, I accepted her offer and went on “winning” the game in the end. We went on and wrote a 1 next to my name, indicating that I was the victor of our battle. With a lousy feeling in my stomach, I had to leave the building for a few breaths of fresh air, during which I decided that this was not how I wanted to start my tournament career and that I had to change the result, so that my girlfriend would have her well-earned win and I suffer my equally well-deserved defeat.


Losing, as you can see, is a very personal matter and it took me much courage to write so openly about it. I believe shogi is great because it demands you to grow as a person. It is not often that one has to openly admit defeat and I understand that it can be hard sometimes. While losing hurts and temporarily calls into question all the hours you spent learning about Shogi, it is just an instance in between many instances of success. I’m sure I’ve only scraped the surface of this topic and maybe you have your own stories to tell. Please feel encouraged to write down your experiences or other ways in which you can lose a game down in the comment section below.








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