Shogi, the Japanese form of chess that is thought to have originated in India before being transmitted to Japan via China and Korea, recently took to the rolling hills of Mid Wales in Llanwrtyd Wells.
Also referred to as Japanese chess, the key difference between Shogi and regular chess is that when you take your opponent’s pieces, you keep them, and can ‘drop’ them back on the board later.
Nant-y-Walch Barn near Llanwrtyd Wells was the unlikely venue for the inaugural Heart of Wales Shogi Open from Friday, May 26 until Monday, May 29.
Most UK Shogi tournaments are in cities or well-connected towns, but Uwe Frischmuth of Hamburg, who ran the tournament decided to host the tournament in Mid Wales due to the isolation and peacefulness.
Fourteen players took part in the main tournament playing over eight rounds.
Ex-Shorekai player, Sanada Tetsuaki joined everyone for his second UK-based tournament.
Sanada won with a clean sheet and eight victories.
Anton Borysov came second with seven victories, and showed great attacking skill, beating all his opponents besides Sanada Tetsuaki.
Ikeda Masahiro was third on a tie break with five points.
In the evenings, there was more Shogi fun to be had, with quickplay and blitz side events.
Felix McPeake managed to win the blitz despite leaving two rounds before it finished.
Food and drink was provided by Gyles and Karin who run Nant-y-Walch Barn and Cwm Irfon Lodge, where most of the competitors stayed over the weekend.
Gyles Palmer from Nant-y-Walch Barn said: “It came as a surprise when a German friend suggested that it would be a good idea to host the first Welsh Open Shogi Tournament here at Nant y Walch Barn in the Irfon Valley near LLanwrtyd Wells.
“It was even more of a surprise when a few months later the first participants actually started turning up at our zero carbon barn. Many, in the spirit of reducing their carbon footprint, travelling by public transport, from as far afield as Germany, Bulgaria, Sweden, Holland and other parts of the UK.
“Although tournaments are usually held in large towns and cities we hope that this will be the beginning of a new appreciation by players that the Welsh countryside can offer peace, calm and tranquility as well as incredible views and wonderful food.”
On a blog post about the event, a spokesperson from Shogi London said: “It’s difficult to capture how lovely a weekend this was, combining great shogi, shogi friends, and excellent hospitality.
“All against a serene backdrop of outstanding natural beauty in the mid Wales countryside.
“At first I wasn’t sure it would work, but I am so glad that I went.”
Due to the tournament being such a success and attracting well known Shogi players, The Heart of Wales Shogi open will be held again next year in 2024 at the end of June and is expected to be twice as big as this year’s inaugural tournament with a larger and longer tournament format.
Having been inspired by hosting the event, Gyles and Karin are considering hosting tournaments for similar events such as the better known game of ‘Go.’