In dobutsu shogi, the usual starting position is a loss for the beginning player in (at most) 78 turns (from first move until (and including) lion capture or ascension).

But are there perhaps other (starting) positions that are farther from win/loss than the standard one? I would be most interested in positions with all (starting position) or most of the pieces on the board and on the back rank.

  • If you can argue this is a chess variant, then the question should be reopened, in my opinion. Jan 18, 2019 at 15:31
  • @DagOskarMadsen, my reasoning is that it is a small-size variant of Japanese chess with very few rules changes. Therefore it must itself be a chess variant IMO, but I do not know if that was the reason this question was closed. Although it seems, it has already been reopened. Thanks?
    – hkBst
    Jan 18, 2019 at 15:54

2 Answers 2


The following starting position is a win in 123 (according to the software I am using):

1. setup S/cel/---/---/CGL/eG
1. show board
1|cel| e
2|   |
3|   |
4|CGL| *G
1. show lines
Gb4-b3 : #123  (100.00%)
G  *c3 : 0     ( 0.00%)
G  *b3 : 0     ( 0.00%)
G  *a3 : 0     ( 0.00%)
Ca4-a3 : #-102 ( 0.00%)
Lc4-c3 : #-44  ( 0.00%)
Lc4-b3 : #-44  ( 0.00%)
G  *b2 : #-20  ( 0.00%)
G  *c2 : #-16  ( 0.00%)
G  *a2 : #-16  ( 0.00%)
  • That position has unequal material?
    – wotnotv
    Nov 20, 2020 at 13:23
  • @wotnotv, one side has 2 elephants and the other 2 giraffes, so in that respect you're correct. In the normal course of the game these two pieces are swapped for eachother all the time, so they are about as equal in utility as can be. This very position shows that the difference is less than the positional difference in the normal starting position.
    – hkBst
    Nov 23, 2020 at 8:12

The standard dobutsu position gives a win for the second player. It is a well known concept of zugzwang that emerges out of forced lines.

Running Fairy Stockfish (on the pychess variants site analysis section) in the normal dobutsu backrank configuration gives a -9.8 evaluation after running it on a bigger depth.

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