How to analyze your games using a shogi engine

24 januari 2018

Setting up the software
The first thing to do is to make sure you have ShogiGUI running with an engine. In an article of Mr. Takahashi it is described how to do this.
If you get the Gikou engine to work, great. This is one of the best engines. If you want to perfectionize, please check this or this article about how to install an even stronger engine. But those who are not comfortable with advanced computer magic rest assured: Shogi GUI with the default book and Gikou engine is already a wonderful tool! After starting the engine and opening the default book, it will look like this:

Getting your game in
Of course you can start moving around from the initial beginning and analyze shogi like this, but you might want to load a game in to analyze this with the engine. This can be done in a couple of ways, also depending on where you get it from. In 81Dojo there is a Kifu menu where you can save it as KIF or copy it to the clipboard. Then you can respectively load it in ShogiGUI using File-Open or paste it with Ctrl+V or Edit-Paste Notation. In case you played your game on ShogiWars, you can load the game using the app PiyoShogi on your mobile. Then you can copy to KIF, which you can then e.g. email to yourself, open on your computer and paste in ShogiGUI.

Understanding ShogiGUI
So there a lot of numbers, moves and variations, but how to interpret those?

Let’s focus on the book first. If the position is still in book, under book the moves are listed which were played before. Under Games you can see how often it was played, and under Winning% how succesfull this move was, from the perspective of which colour plays this move. So e.g. the move S57 scored 3 out of 5 wins. The move I played was P86, so here I diverged from the book moves.
Under the consider tab you can see the candidates suggested by the engine. There is also some information about thinking depth and thinking power, but those are not so relevant. In this case I have 4 candidates, and they are sorted by how strong the engine thinks the moves are:
1.S57(231)
2.B77(231)
3.L98(210)
4.P36(158)
The score is always for Sente, so (231) means that Sente is a bit better.
From the variations it seems, that instead of P86, which signals a Tower Mino, the engine prefers to make an Anaguma with moves like B77, K88, L98, K99, S88, G68, G78, G79.
That my move P86 didn’t appear here doesn’t mean it is bad. I think Tower Mino is perfectly playable in this type of positions, in just happens that the engine prefers the Anaguma castle. You can get an idea of how good or bad a move is by checking the evaluations one move later:

Here the engine recommends playing G41-52 for Gote, with an evaluation of (51). It means that Sente is still a bit better according the engine. An evaluation difference of 180 points is actually not that big, and this case it can be explained by a certain preferene of the engine from one castle over the other. Let’s look at a more critical example.

Improve your game by analyzing with the engine

In this position the confrontations have begun. I have a Tower Mino with 4 generals, and initiated the battle with Knight and Bishop. Gote has a nice High Mino and countered in the centre. I can catch the Silver here with P*56, but saw that my opponent could create counter play with P*66 G57 Nx65 etc., sacrificing the Knight. I thought it would be smart to insert P24 here, so later my Rook could dash forward.
The engine however indicates that the evaluation would drop from (969) to (0), compared to the highest recommendation, which is the direct P*56. A difference of about 1000 points can be considered a mistake.

Understanding and improving
So if something like this happens it is very understand to understand:
“Why was my move not as good as the best move”?
To understand this, it is a good idea to following for both lines the moves that the engine recommends first. For example, we can look at the line that is recommended by the engine, the immediate P*56. Looking a bit further, this indeed gives Sente a nice advantage. But isn’t including P24 Px24 a nice improvement over this line? After putting P24 on the board, it turns out that Px24 was not forced:

Looking at the suggestions for Gote, we don’t see Px24 in the first 4 moves. In fact, the 4 moves suggested all ignore the Px23+ threat and shift focus in the centre. As it turns out, P24 was played too late! When analyzing these lines, it indeed turns out that Gote has a nice control in the centre, and that Px23 will not be that severe. This reminds me of Hidetch’s words in the Glance Series: Play P24 before it’s too late. Too late means that it can be ignored and Ranging Rook side uses the time instead to counterattack in the centre. It also reminds me of Aono’s chapter in Better moves for Better Shogi: “Eradicating Reflex moves”. Sometimes a move looks forced, but it is important to always think if it is really forced and whether there is a better move. You can of course boost your progress even more when studying such books in parallel to analyzing your own games!
For the full game see this 81dojo-link.

Tips and tricks
-Save your analysis for future reference.
-If you notice the engine plays in a certain way in the opening, try it out in a real game!
-Try to improve over common joseki by using engine’s recommendations. Try to understand the differences by analyzing and playing.
-When understanding something, you can add a comment in ShogiGUI. It will help to understand and remember!
-Use an external back-up from time to time for the files you create in ShogiGUI.
-Don’t get blind by looking at the numbers only, always try to understand why a certain move is good or bad and check the moves yourself before playing them.

Game analysis of Spain-Netherlands in WSL B 2017

31 december 2017

The Netherlands have finished the World Shogi League season well with 7 won matches out of 9 in the B division. We are on the first place currently, but Denmark could still pass us if they win their remaining games.
In the last round we beat Spain with 2-1. Daniel Arús took the lead for Spain by beating Ritchy Höhne.
Ritchy Höhne – Daniel Arus 0-1 17 december 2017

Daniel initiated the fight and in this position he got a strong point in the centre. Ritchy tried to challenge this with P*66, but had to accept a Silver-Knight exchange after N85. There followed Px65 Nx77 Bx77 B73 N*85 Bx84 P64 G53 B86 leading to the following position:

Daniel used his Gold to control the advancing Pawn, while Ritchy protected it with B86. Now Daniel blocked the Rook by dropping a pawn on 66. He then proceeded with taking the Pawn on 64. Ritchy sacrificed his Bishop for the Gold, but Daniel’s attack was quicker.

Wouter de Haas – Jona Ruiz 1-0 27 december 2017
On board 2 there was an exciting battle between Wouter de Haas and our Spanish friend Jona Ruiz. Jona was succesful on the second file, but Wouter shifted the focus to the centre.

In this position the counter attack of Wouter is already quite strong. He showed an interesting concept here by playing B55. Now, he threatens Px73 Gx73 P*74, while the Bishop cannot be taken. so the pressure on the diagonal is very strong. Jona answered S63, and after S*75 Sx54 Px73 Gx73 Bx73+ Kx73 Rx54 the Bishop has been exchanged for two Generals and Jona’s King is very open.
However, he managed to run away.

Wouter had been chasing the King, but now Jona chose the wrong route. I think after K24 it would have been very difficult to catch the King, and Jona would have a good chance for an entering King. However, he went to 12 with his King and this gave Wouter a chance to continue his attack with P*23. After Rx23 +R72 P*22 N15 Rx29+ P*23 Wouter got a very strong pressure on the second rank. In fact this pressure is very similar to the one in the previous position with the Bishop’s diagonal. Also in this position, he kept pressuring with successive Pawn drops, this time on 23. Wouter won a lot of material, and mate followed soon.

So the decisive game was between me and Diego Gonzalez. Note that he has a nice blog about Shogi!
Diego Gonzalez – Twan Burg 0-1 30 december 2017
As usual, I prepared for my opponent, and saw that he was playing Static Rook and often did an early Bishop Exchange, even when he would lose his turn to move. Being very familiar with a type of position can certainly be more important than one move in the opening. However, I made sure that I was ready for this type of position too, and analyzed it a bit with the engine. I saw that the engine would often go for Rapid Advancing Silver in Bishop Exchange. And that the position would be quite playable, even when the opponent goes for Reclining Silver, which is the best countermeasure according to the video of Hidetch. So I decided to analyze it a bit and go for it, I liked also the directness of this variation.


In my preparation I saw that P75 sometimes needs to be prepared by K31 first, to protect the Knight. We will soon see why. However I also saw that in some positions this is not necessary. I felt that his shape was not ideal, with a sitting King, so I decided to go for it.
After P75 Px75 Sx75 P24 Px24 P*25 his idea is that I cannot take on 25 because Rx25 would be a Silver-Knight fork. So I continued my attack with P*76 S88 Sx66 Px24 P*22 and accepted the situation on the second file. This situation is pleasant for him, and later he could drop something on 23 to break through. However I have also been succesful on the other side, and the result of the opening is an advantage for me. A few moves later the tables started to turn and his attack was very unpleasant.

In this position I needed to find a way to deal with his Pawn, while not get into any King-Rook fork. There are no really good ways to do this, so I spent most of my time here. Finally I chose for an early King escape with K31, and after Px53+, my Knight joined with N73. Like this one of the diagonals is closed and I attack his Gold. After B*64 N65 I could take his Gold, while my Knight joins the attack. With +Px43 he won quite a lot of material, but my King is relatively safe and my attack is strong. After P*42 +Px32 Kx32 G69-58 R62 B53+ we reached the following position:

Diego felt that he needed to spend some time on defense, so my Rook could survive. On 62 it is very well placed, attacking the Bishop, being protected by the Gold, and with the 6th file potentially opening up. Here I was already in byo-yomi already, and have a difficult decision to make. Maybe it is good that I didn’t see the opportunity to play G*69, because it looks very exciting! But the King can run after Kx69 N77= K78 R69+ K87. Instead I dropped a pawn on 56, so it could promote when the Bishops is exchanged to the Gold. The situation is however very tricky for my King as well. He can drop something on 23, but my King can run away to 51. After G49-48 I played +B66, a very good square for the Horse. I felt my attack should be stronger here, because the P57+ threat is very strong. We both attacked strongly and a few moves later I was in a threatmate:

It is not really possible to remove the threatemate, so I tried to mate my opponent. I started with Px58+ Rx58 G*48, exchanging the Rook, his last defender. After Rx48 +Bx48 Kx48 there are a few ways to win the Horse on 53 and escape to his threatmate, but it would not be comfortable to let him attack with many pieces with my King still in danger. So I tried to find a mate and find one after N57+. After Kx57 R*67 we again see that the Rook on 62 supports very nicely in the attack. After K56 I had to find the last important move: G*55. Now Kx55 +R65 K44 S*35 Kx34 G*24 resulted in mate by dropping my last piece!

So the Netherlands finished the league in high spirits with 19 wins out of 27 games. In fact The Netherlands is the first and only one to finish all their games in 2017! Hopefully WSL will continued with a few different regulations, possibly with The Netherlands in the highest division!

The standings at the end of 2017

Frequent motives in the Side Pawn Picker B33 varation

Introduction

In this article we are looking at one of the main lines in modern shogi, the Side Pawn Picker variation. While they used to say that ‘taking the side pawn gives seven years of problems’, nowadays players know how to best defend against dangerous counterattacks such as Double Side Pawn Picker and B*4e variation.

Therefore Gote in above position most frequently doesn’t exchange the Bishops rightaway but plays B33, postponing the fireworks. At some point Gote’s Rook will be attacked and it will then retreat to 85, the Chuza variation. This dynamic move brought this opening completely back to fashion a few years ago. Gote then proceeds with building Nakahara’s King, while Sente’s King typically stays in the centre. After that normally the Knights are joining the game and an exciting battle starts!
A typically position after Gote would complete its Nakahara’s King and before the Knights are joining looks like this:

In this article we will look at tactics and ideas that occur frequently in this type of positions.
Note that the position is quite symmetrical, so most of the ideas should be considered by both players in both attack and defence!

The P75 sacrifice and attacks on the knights head

I frequently encounter a Bishop exchange followed by N77. This loses a move and the knight on 77 can become a target.
Zwanzigst-Twaburov 23-12-2017 81dojo


This position is a clear example where I can directly attack the Knight’s head with P75. If Sente takes it with Px75, then after Px76 Rx76 B*54 and P*76 on the next move again Gote can insist on winning the knight. Something similar will happen if Sente leaves it as it is: Px76 Rx76 B*54 etc.

With the Knight on 77, the Pawn sacrifice P75 can also be good without directly winning material.
Juupke-Twaburov 2017 jijbent.nl

Also in this game my opponent exchanged the bishop and pushed back my Rook. Now he dropped the bishop to further harass my Rook. P75 is a very strong pawn sacrifice here.
It opens the 4th rank for the Rook and puts pressure on the 7th file. If Sente takes with the Pawn, the Knight directly falls prey to the pawn after P*76. My opponent took with the Bishop and after R74 the situation on the 7th file is pleasant for me. Few moves later I found a good moment to take the hostage piece and still win the Knight:

I played Rx75 Px75 P*76 after which I gained a material advantage, and by attacking with my Knights I could soon seize the initiative.

When after the Bishop Exchange Sente carefully builds his position, he could try to harass Gote’s Knight on the other site.
Bjerke-Burg ESC 2016


My opponent played very well so far and now has the serious threat P*24 Sx24 P*34. This shows it is difficult to defend the Knight’s head! I was forced to open the 4th rank with the P75 sacrifice and to play actively for counterplay after that.

A bottom Pawn is solid as a rock

As Gote’s 3rd file pawn was eaten by the Side Pawn Picker, it can be dropped on 31. This can be useful when Sente manages to break through on the 2nd file.

Kambuy – Twaburov WSL 2017


In this position my opponent decided to sacrifice his Bishop to promote the Rook and take my Lance. However, after Bx33 Sx33 R21+ I can drop a bottom Pawn with P*31. After Rx11 Px75 I also went on to win the Knight. Note that in this opening a Bishop is a very powerful piece, as it can simultaneously control all the 4 corners! A lot of forks are possible. Therefore the Bishop sacrifice was not a success.

Using the Bishop for an edge attack

Bishops are very powerful in this type of positions and in both sides they can help both in the attack and in the defense. Sometims they can support an edge attack.
De Schepper – Burg Liege 2016

In above position my opponent just dropped his Bishop, and possible ideas are P95 Px95 P*92 or P15 Px15 P*12. This is however a bit slow, and P74 with the idea of P75 would have been strong again here. However, I went for a similar plan with P54. I wanted to drop the Bishop on 53 which would have influence on both sides as well. After P66 P95 Px95 P*97 my opponent could not take because of the Rook-Lance fork B*53. After that I could easily break through on the 9th file and win the game.

A timely P*86 and dropping a pawn on the 2nd file

When Sente plays P*87 and the Rook goes back, there is an option to play P*86 at the right moment and reinitiate the battle on the 8th file. This can be especially effective when the side Pawn is unguarded, so P*86 Px86 Rx86 P*87 Rx76 could be possible.
Twaburov-Bluemurder 24 december 2017 81dojo


In this game we are in the same variation with reversed colours. In the opening I played a waiting move P16, and my opponent took the side Pawn. In the position above my opponent just played P74 I thought it is a good moment to play P*24, because the side Pawn is unguarded. It would have been even better to harass the opponent’s rook first with P*85. Dropping a pawn on this file can have a few advantages:

  • It reduces the impact of the Rook on this file and the opponent will have a hard time breaking through.
  • When attacking the opponent’s Rook, it has to choose whether it moves sideways or backwards, in either case it loses influence.
  • It can be used as a foothold for attack. For example, with a pawn on 86 in above position, I could consider bumping the rooks with R85. And with a pawn on 85, later I could drop a Knight on 84.

In this case, the Rook would have to give up defending the 74 pawn, and would not able to stay active along the 4th rank. Instead, after P*24 Px24 Rx24 P75 we reached the following position:

In this position I brought my Rook back to 25. Note that the move P*24 is then not really a threat. There are some effective ways to deal with it, for example Bx77 Nx77 N33 R88 P*22. But anyway the Rook is active on the 5th rank and has a nice influence on the second file.
After R25, Gote cannot play P76 because of BxB SxB B*66, so my opponent played the interesting pawn sacrifice P35. However, after Bx22+ Sx22 Rx35 the Gold is hanging on 32. I then took the pawn on 75 and fulfilled my claim of winning 2 pawns.

As I explained above, another way of using a pawn on the 2nd file is to offer a Rook exchange. After exchanging Rooks the game becomes typically wild very soon, so it is important to calculate it. Psychologically it might be difficult choice for the opponent, who might want a calmer game, and who might be worried about your calculations.
Okamura-Burg ESC 2016

In this position it was actually a good moment for P*86, but I noticed the possibility to offer a rook exchange. After R25 Rx25 Px25 I thought I might have a slight advantage, because it takes only 2 moves to make a strong Tokin on 27. However, he could use the Knight on 28 quickly for an attack. Therefore the best way for him was to accept the Rook exchange and then play as follows:
R25 Rx25 Px25 R*81 R*28 N37 P26 N45 BxB+ SxB P27+ B*46 R29 Nx53+. So it seems that Sente would still be quicker. However, my opponent didn’t trust the complications and blocked with P*26. So I achieved my goal and made his Rook passive. After P*26 R85 S68 I now decided that it was a good moment for P*86. I then collected the side Pawn and won due the unfortunate position of his Rook.

General considerations


This opening normally leads to very interesting positions, and there are much more ideas than the one that I have mentioned so far. Few things that I have seen a few times are:

  • An attack by both Knights in the centre, sacrificing them on 57 or 53 for one general and to weaken the position of the opponents king. Such an attack can also be supported by switching the Rook to the 5th
  • Successive pawn drops by Sente to force the Silver to a worse square: P*23 Sx23 P*24 S12. This Pawn can then be used as a foothold for the attack.

 

1st Shogi & Bossche Bollen in Den Bosch on 17 February 2018

18 november 2017
The dragon of Den Bosch

On the 17th of February 2018 a Shogi tournament is organized in Den Bosch in cooperation with the Dutch Shogi Federation. The tournament will count for FESA ratings.
There are 4 or 5 rounds, depending on the number of participants.
The time control is 30 minutes with 30 seconds byo-yomi.
After the first round there will be a small break to eat Bossche Bollen!
A Bossche Bol is a famous pastry from the city of Den Bosch.

Final Standings
1.Twan
2.Lex
3.Atsushi
Best woman: Nargiz

Schedule
1000-1030 Registration and opening
1030-1130  Round 1
1130-1145  Bossche Bollen with coffee
1145-1245  Round 2
1245-1400 Round 3
1400-1430  Lunch
1430-1600  Round 4
1600-1730  Round 5
1730-1800  Prize ceremony

Afterwards several participants may go for dinner in the medieval inner city of Den Bosch!

Arbitre: Tom Kau
Entry fee: 10 euro, including 2 consumptions and a Bossche Bol with coffee
Registrations: twanburg@gmail.com before 14th February
Prizes: 1st place 25 euro. Cups for top 3 and best female player. 4 Book prizes at random for the remaining players.

The prizes

Location
Sociaal-Cultureel Centrum De Biechten, Vincent van Goghlaan 1, Rosmalen
There are plenty of parking places available. From Den Bosch central station it’s 4 kilometer, and it can be done with a bus in 15 minutes.
There are supermarkets and a snackbar available within 100 meters.

Participants

Name Nationality Rating
1 Suzaki, Atsushi JAP 2099
2 Burg, Twan NED 1991
3 Van der Lubbe, Lex NED 1774
4 Someno, Shinobu JAP 1734
5 Weimann, Christophe FRA 1690
6 Höhne, Ritchy NED 1641
7 Tiggelman, Jeroen NED 1635
8 Höhne, Michael NED 1507
9 Alix, Pierre BEL 1441
10 Baldus, Julian GER 1420
11 Blommers, Peter NED 1362
12 Marounek, Roland BEL 1360
13 Umudova, Nargiz AZE 1355
14 Weimann, Célestin FRA 1342
15 Kau, Tom NED 1234
16 Hessels, Willem NED 1087
17 Baumgarth, Michaela GER 1080
18 Frères, Kévin BEL 1025
19 Kuivenhoven, Sam NED 900
20 Pizarro Silva, Loreto NED 830
21 Jung, Jasper NED 779
22 Haupt, Jennifer GER 688
23 Moonen, Djoshua NED 594
24 Nabuurs, Joep NED
25 Rashid, Yahya GER
26 Kemper, Marvin GER