Exploring Shogi GUI programs and Engines available for free
There are various Shogi GUIs that uses USI protocol to communicate with command line Shogi engines. We will review several of those in this section.

Programs listed here can read and write Shogi records available through various internet source (Kif, KIFU, KI2, CSA, PSN etc.,)

You can also create your own board situation and output board graphics to share your games with others.

All of them come bundled with a Shogi engine or two.

In recent years, most shogi playing applications are made up of two parts. Namely, "GUI part" and "Engine part."

This makes it easy for backend (Engine) developer to focus on developing engine part only while frontend (GUI) developer can polish up the user experience.

This also means, although each GUI part comes with a select Shogi Engine(s), you can pick any other engine and pair with your choice of GUI program. This is made possible with standardized communication protocol called USI.

What is USI protocol? It stands for Universal Shogi Interface. This was inspired by UCI, the Universal Chess Interface protocol.

As a matter of fact, if you are familiar with Chess program such as Arena, you should feel at home with this paradigm.  Only thing is that instead of UCI or WinBoard, The Shogi variant uses USI to communicate. 

USI was proposed by Tord Romstad.  You can still read a draft of his proposal on this link. Japanese version of the spec with some extention, which is implemented by Shogidokoro author can be seen here on his site in Japanese.



There are three notable Shogi GUI programs. There may be more but those are the ones you can easily find on the Internet.

GUI Name Default Engine Download site File format Adding Engines
BCM Games Spear ChessVariants.com All kinds settings.ini
ShogiDokoro LesserKai(Lesserpyon) Shogidokoro Download CSA,KIF,KI2,PSN Dialog(Engine Manager)
ShogiGUI GPSShogi ShogiGUI home page KIF,JPEG Dialog(Engine Settings)

ShogiDokoro menu system will default to English in Non-Japanese system.

ShogiGUI language settings can be changed from Tools menu and then by restarting the program.

BCM games default to system settings for its language.


Shogi Engines

Link of Various Shogi Engines are available at Shogidokoro site This is Japanese only site, so keep one of translation extensions of your browser handy.

There are many engines listed on the page, If you are looking for "Most formidable" engine as of 2023, It probably is Suishou(水匠), but getting this engine is a bit confusing.  You actually need to download Yaneuraou.

If your PC is a top of the line (powerful PCU and powerful graphics card), then consider Deep Learning Shogi (DLShogi)


For beginners to play against, Shogidokoro's LesserKai gives you a gentle introduction to Shogi.  Once you are comfortable with it, you can replace the engine with Bonanza.

Bonanza is a standalone program and it's GUI is rather primitive.

Bonadapter middleware makes Bonanza USI compatible. All you need is add Bonadapater in Bonanza folder and select Bonadapter from Shogidokoro's engine manager.  Once setup, set Bonanza's strength to the weakest by adjusting its evaluation depth to 1.  Work it up to more challenging settings as you progress.

For BCM games, bundled engine is Spear. The strength level is set to 10 (the strongest) and this is too strong for someone who just started playing. You can adjust the level by opening engines_0 configuratoin file (which is for Engine 1) and find "SpearLevel Value 10" line for [Engines:Spear2008v1.4(included)] section. Change the value of 10 to lesser number of your choice.  Now the game will be more reasonable when you start a game against Spear from Engine 1. 

This page was originally created 1 month, 1 week ago and last updated 1 month, 1 week ago