Last month, Swarthmore College played host to the 2016 U.S. Shogi Championship. Shogi is Japanese chess, a centuries-old game that traces its origins back to the same roots as western chess. It is little played outside of Japan, and Swarthmore has the only college-based shogi club in the country.
Shogi is played on a nine by nine board, with pieces distinguished not by shape but by the calligraphy written on them. Some pieces move the same as their western chess counterparts, but the crucial difference is that captured pieces can be turned around and dropped back on the board by the opponent. The Swarthmore College Shogi Club, founded in 2005 by Professor of Philosophy Alan Baker, meets weekly during the semester and is open to students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community.
For the U.S. Championship, 40 amateur players from around the country joined three guest professional players from Japan for three days of intensive shogi. Among those participating were four current Swarthmore students: Tatsuya Ueda ’16, Robin Htun ’18, Scott Ma ‘19, and Reid Pickett ’18. The tournament was divided into A, B, and C divisions, and Swarthmore Shogi Club members saw success in all three. Htun, an engineering major from Yangon, Myanmar (Burma), won second prize in the C division; Ueda, an economics major from Miyoshi, Japan, won first prize in the B division; and Baker and Satoru Saito tied for fourth place in the A division.
In addition to the individual tournament, there was also a team tournament that took place, with five players on each team. The teams in the competition were New York (2 teams), Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago. Swarthmore provided four of the five members of the Philadelphia team, which ended up with an impressive third-place finish.