Lesson 15: Speed Tactics
In the endgame of shogi, speed is everything. There’s a proverb that says, “In the endgame, speed is more valuable than material.” Thanks to the drop rule, once one side’s defenses are broken, the game becomes a race to see who can checkmate the opponent first. It doesn’t matter if you have both rooks and both bishops if your opponent is able to checkmate you with pawns! Because of this, speed tactics and calculation are pivotal to winning a game.
In Diagram A, it is sente’s move. Who wins?
?P-15 ?P-97+ ?P-14 ?K-12 ?P-13+ ?K-11 ?T-12
Sente was faster by one move, so he wins. Sente should have read through this line before playing ?P-15, to know that he is winning. What happens if he just plays ?P-15 without reading through the lines?
?P-15 ?P-97+ ?P-14 ?T-98
In Diagram C, sente didn’t take the time to read through the lines before pushing the pawn, otherwise he would have known that he had already lost the game. This time, because gote’s king was on 13 instead of 14, gote was one move faster.
A move you make that is not a reaction to one of your opponent’s moves is called an initiative move. In the endgame, you should always be counting the initiative moves it will take for you to get to your opponent’s king. In Diagram A, both players are 2 initiative moves from mate. (The moves starting with ?K-12 are called?mating moves, because ?P-14 started a mating sequence.)
As an example of why speed is more important than material, take a look at Diagram D. It is gote’s turn to play, so he attacks the rook with ?P-96. If sente reads out the next few moves, he’ll find that saving the rook with ?R-77 is actually a?losing?move! However, ?P-14 wins. Sente will lose the rook with ?Px97+, but ?P-13+ ?K-11 ?T-12 is checkmate. “In the endgame, speed is more valuable than material.”
Diagram E is a more complex example of the same situation. Gote has attacked sente’s silver with ?T-76. If sente simply recaptures, he is put in a bad situation because he simply gives gote more and more speed. On the other hand, sente has a powerful attacking line. Sente should play ?T-62. He will lose the silver with ?Tx87, but he now has a winning line with ?Bx41+!. Gote will respond with ?Gx, but ?Rx+ ?Kx, and then ?G*22 is brinkmate. Gote will be checkmated with either ?G*32 or ?G*52 in the next move, and there is nothing he can do to stop it. Sente, on the other hand, cannot be mated by any means.
For more examples of speed tactics, see Hidetchi’s video?Lesson#33- Endgame Speed Tactics.