What is the rank system (dan) for Shogi?

Many of you maybe know about the rank system in shogi from some martial art like karate or judo but some of you may not know what is the meaning of the words “dan”  and “kyuu”.

What means dan / kyuu?

The word dan, 段, comes from the japanese means literally step or stage but it is used for indicating the rank or grade as the level of expertise and knowledge. The kyuu, 級, is used for ranks or grades below the dan level.

Each professional player starts as a 4th dan when he graduates from the shoureikai. The shoureikai is the promotion institution for shogi players. Each year 4 new players get out of this association.

This graduation system, dan, was first introduced at a go school during the Edo period in Japan (1603-1868) and nowadays is used in some japanese arts like flower arrangement or tea ceremony or in martial arts like aikido or karate, usually is only a black belt holder who is ranked with dan. The professional players are ranked from 4 to 9 dan and for the shoureikai members is from 7 kyuu to 3 dan. There is no ELO rating for professional shogi players.

How to promote?

There are some rules to promote in the rank of dan in shogi. As I said before, all players start with a 4 dan and their first step is to get the 5 dan.

There are some different ways to promote, the simplest is to get 100 victories. Fujii Souta will be soon halfway there, he has now 38 victories. Some other paths are promoting from the league C2 to the league C1, a challenge for a title tournament1, win a tournament (Asahi cup, Ginkagawa or the NHK) or increase 2 years in a row at the Ryuuou tournament league.

The next promotions conditions also includes some conditions related to tournaments but to make it more easy to understand I only wrote the ones related to number of wins and promotion at the jun’i tournament.
6 dan: Is necessary to get 120 victories or to promote from the league C1 to B2.
7 dan: Is necessary to get 150 victories or to promote from the league B2 to B1.
8 dan: Is necessary to get 190 victories or to promote from the league B1 to A.
6 dan: Is necessary to get 250 victories or become the meijin.

So 810 victories are necessary for a player to get 9 dan (there are other options like getting 3 titles). Usually, a professional plays 1 game every week, if he wins half of the games it will take more than 30 years to get the 9 dan!


1 The only exception is the Ryuuou tournament. If a player can challenge this title will get automatically the 7 dan jumping over the 5 and 6 dan.

What about amateur?

Besides the ranking for professional players, there is also a ranking that is used for amateur players. This ranking goes from 30 kyuu up to 8 dan. An amateur player who is 7-8 dan is a top player who wins national tournaments and can be invited to play in professional tournaments.

There are many ways for an amateur to get his rank. One option is go to a shogi dojo and play with other players. Some other options are to answer the shogi problems that are released in the newspaper or to play at online platforms like shogiwars or 81dojo. Get a kyuu (from 10 to 1 kyuu) diploma can be cheap, it cost around 3000 yens (25 euros or 27 dollars), but a dan diploma is more expensive. A 1 dan diploma cost 30000 yens (250 euros / 275 dollars) and a 6 dan diploma is 270000 yens (2000 euros / 2500 dollars). The reason of why the dan diplomas are so expensive is because they are signed by the president of the Federation, Satou Yasumitsu, the meijin, Satou Amahiko and the Ryuuou title holder, Watanabe Akira.

  • jorgmen

    wow 30 years to be 9 Dan! that’s half life to play

    • Diego

      There are faster ways to get the 9th dan like winning some titles but this is a good way to realize how hard is to master shogi

  • IamKieto

    So does this basically mean that a dan doesn’t mean you’re the best player but more on your experience

    • Diego

      Yes, exactly. For example the actual Fujii Souta seems to surpass many players of higher dan but he will need some time to get 8 or 9 dan.