Sokei OHASHI (the First) (大橋宗桂 (初代))

Sokei OHASHI the first (born in 1555, birth date unknown - April 6, 1634) was a shogi (Japanese chess) player listed as a grand shogi master. His son was the second-generation master Soko OHASHI (the second). According to a recent study, there was no family name called Ohashi before Sokei was born.


Sokei was a son of Soya, who was a merchant in the Shimogyo district, Kyoto, and it is believed that his family was relatively wealthy. His childhood name was Tatsumasa. He first called himself Sokin, then Sokei, and finally Sokei (with different characters). There is a story that he started to call himself 'Sokei' (the second Sokei) after Nobunaga ODA complimented him on how well he used the keima (knight); however, its reality is uncertain.

Sokei was serving Nobunaga ODA, Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI and Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, and was believed to have often had exhibition shogi matches with the go (board game of capturing territory) player Sansa HONINBO (most shogi and go players at that time were able to play both shogi and go, and Sokei and Sansa were said to be equally good in both shogi and go).

As Ieyasu TOKUGAWA loved go and shogi, he created Goshogidokoro (a title given to a go or shogi master) and Sansa originally had both the go and shogi master titles; however, the Shogidokoro (a title given to a shogi master) was separated in 1612. Sokei then became the first Shogidokoro. The Japan Shogi Association considers that Sokei became the first-generation grand shogi master this year.

Sokei back then looked like a priest. From his generation onward, therefore, legitimate descendents were ordered to have their heads shaved and to assume the appearance of a priest.

Tsume-Shogi Exercises

Sokei is the author of the oldest existing tsume-shogi exercise book called 'Shogizobutsu.'
This book was issued during the Keicho era.

Sokei offered the exercise book to the bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) in 1616, which was his fourth year as the Shogidokoro. Later shogi masters did the same, leading to generation of a new custom in which masters created and offered exercise books to the bakufu. Keiji MORI comments that Sokei's tsume-shogi exercises provide examples of practical and powerful shogi strategies. Each exercise is designed to be completed in about a dozen practical and tactical moves, and his shogi therefore was quite different from the shogi style using fancy moves that became popular in the middle of the Edo period.

The most famous tsume-shogi exercise that Sokei created probably is the one that is known as 'Kyofu mondai' in which the match is designed to be completed in 15 moves. At first glance it looks like a match that can be completed in 3 moves, but it is not completed so easily as it includes a skillful move in which the defender throws in a 'Gin' piece between the piece that is used to check and the defender's King. This exercise was used to attract Daido tsume-shogi audiences in later generations and many people had difficulty solving this exercise.

Oldest Match Record

The oldest existing match record is for the match held in 1607 between the sente (starting first) Sokei OHASHI and gote (starting second) Sansa HONINBO. Sokei won this match after 133 moves.

There are only 8 records of Sokei's matches, and his performance was 7 wins and 1 loss.