Baroque chess

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8
Chessboard480.svg
a8 black rook
b8 black knight
c8 black bishop
d8 black queen
e8 black king
f8 black bishop
g8 black knight
h8 black upside-down rook
a7 black pawn
b7 black pawn
c7 black pawn
d7 black pawn
e7 black pawn
f7 black pawn
g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
a2 white pawn
b2 white pawn
c2 white pawn
d2 white pawn
e2 white pawn
f2 white pawn
g2 white pawn
h2 white pawn
a1 white upside-down rook
b1 white knight
c1 white bishop
d1 white king
e1 white queen
f1 white bishop
g1 white knight
h1 white rook
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Baroque chess starting setup

Baroque chess is a chess variant invented in 1962 by Robert Abbott. In 1963, at the suggestion of his publisher, he changed the name to Ultima, by which name it is also known. Abbott considers his invention flawed, and he has suggested amendments to the rules, but these suggestions - like the new name he attempted to give it - have been substantially ignored by the gaming community, which continues, for the most part, to play by the 1962 rules. Since the rules for Baroque were first laid down in 1962, some regional variation has arisen, causing the game to diverge from Ultima.


Description[edit]

Baroque chess is usually played on a standard 8×8 chessboard with the standard Staunton design of chess pieces.

The rules that follow are widely found on the internet, but other variants exist. A variant popular among students at Cambridge University in 1974 is described on this webpage.

The initial setup of the pieces is the same as in standard chess, except for two things that the players must first decide on - center counter symmetry, and corner counter symmetry.

Establishing the degree of symmetry[edit]

Center counter symmetry allows either player to decide whether to switch his King and Withdrawer ("Queen") around, and then corner counter symmetry requires each player to decide which of his "Rooks" will be turned upside down. (The one that remains upright is the Coordinator, and the one that is turned upside down is the Immobilizer.) After these two kinds of symmetries are determined, White moves first.

For purposes of recording the moves that are played in the game, it is sufficient to employ an algebraic form of notation, as in Chess, and write the names of the pieces and the squares they are to be placed in. For instance, 1. Kd1 & We1, Ke8 & Wd8 (center counter symmetry), and 2. Ia1 & Ch1, Ih8 & Ca8 (corner counter symmetry).

If the symmetry resolution phases that are usually found at the start of the game could somehow be put off for later, then one may readily see how similar they are to the castling maneuvers in Chess. They have the practical function of multiplying the number of games that are possible from the initial starting position.

Moving[edit]

In Baroque, the King is the one piece alone that is limited to moving exactly one square at a time; it moves and takes just like the King in Chess.

All of the remaining pieces on the first rank may move like the Queen, in all directions. They have this power as a matter of privilege, as they are all considered to be Noble pieces. This is a kind of privilege that attaches to them at birth, that is, at the outset of the game, and is never diminished; they retain this privilege no matter where they go, except when they find themselves next to an Immobilizer (see below).

The pawns, on the other hand, move just like the Rook moves in Chess, unable to move diagonally. Just as in Chess, pawns are the peasants of this game. Unlike Chess, pawns are never promoted to another kind of piece. (There is no magic square to which pawns can be moved and then promoted.)

Capturing[edit]

All the pieces except for the King capture differently from their counterparts in chess, and all but the King have different names. The King is the only piece that captures, as chess pieces do, by moving into a square that is occupied by an enemy piece. All the other pieces capture enemy pieces in more complex ways. Friendly pieces are never allowed to capture other friendly pieces.

Pieces[edit]

The names of the pieces and rules for movement are as follows:

  • The King moves and captures like a standard chess King. The objective of the game is to capture the opposing king. Fast play with a chess clock usually makes declaration of checkmate a very rare thing to achieve in actual face to face play.
  • The pawns - or pincers or squeezers, as it were - move like standard chess Rooks. A pawn captures any opposing piece horizontally or vertically between the square to which the pawn moved and a friendly piece (i.e. there may be no gaps between any of the three pieces). This is considered a custodial form of capture because it has been likened to two men coming up on the sides of the person to be seized, and taking hold of his arms to carry him off. Pawns never capture diagonally, only horizontally or vertically.

The remaining pieces all move like standard chess queens, but have unique methods of capture.

  • The Withdrawer (or Retreater), represented by the Queen, captures by moving directly away from an adjacent piece.
  • The long-leapers, represented by the Knights, capture by jumping over an opposing piece in a straight line. A long-leaper may make multiple captures in the same line as long as each piece is jumped independently. Those variants of Baroque prohibiting multiple leaps call this piece the Leaper, and restrict it to capturing the first enemy piece it encounters, provided the next space is empty or open. It appears that the choice between a Long-Leaper and a Single-Leaper tends to affect game play by encouraging "hunkering down" and overdefending pieces, and allowing pieces to spread across the board more, with less attention to bulky blockades.[citation needed]
  • The Coordinator, represented by the unmarked Rook, captures any opposing piece that is on either of the two squares found at a) the intersection of its own file and the King's rank, and b) the intersection of the King's file and its own rank; these are found after the Coordinator has moved.
  • The Immobilizer (or Freezer), represented by the inverted Rook, does not capture anything, but immobilizes all adjacent enemy pieces.
  • The Imitators (or Chameleons), represented by the Bishops, capture any piece by moving as a piece of the type captured would have moved to capture. Also Imitators or Chameleons immobilize enemy Immobilizers to which they are adjacent. Imitators cannot capture Imitators. In order for an Imitator to capture an enemy King, it must begin its turn adjacent to it, and step into its square. This is because the King is the only piece on the board that steps one square at a time, and captures by 'occupation' and 'replacement' - stepping into the enemy's square to capture it.

Diagrammed examples are indispensable to understanding the rules.

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d5 black cross
e5 black king
c4 white king
f4 white upside-down rook
d3 black queen
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The King's movement.

King[edit]

The white King moves c4-d5 delivering checkmate. Normally it would not be possible for the two kings to be adjacent, but here the black king is unable to move due to the white immobilizer on f4, thus the d5 square is not under attack by black, and the white king is not moving into check.

Note that white could not play c4-d4, as that would place his own King in check from the black Withdrawer. Capturing the Withdrawer with c4-d3 would result in stalemate, as black would then have no legal moves.


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d7 black king
d6 white pawn
f6 white rook
d5 black pawn
e5 black queen
b4 white king
c4 black upside-down rook
d4 black cross
g4 white pawn
d3 black bishop
g3 black knight
g2 white pawn
d1 white queen
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The Pincer's movement.

Pawn/Pincer[edit]

The white pawn (or Pincer) moves g4-d4, capturing the Black Immobilizer and black pawn. The Black Withdrawer on e5 is not captured because pawns capture only vertically and horizontally, not diagonally. The Black Imitator (Chameleon) on d3 is not captured, because there is no white piece on d2. Finally, the Black Long-leaper on g3 was safe because it moved between the two white pawns, rather than a white pawn moving to complete the custodial capture.


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g7 black pawn
h7 black pawn
g6 white queen
h6 black bishop
d4 black king
d3 black cross
e2 white knight
f2 white king
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The Withdrawer's movement.

Withdrawer[edit]

The White Withdrawer moves g6-d3, capturing the black pawn on h7. The pawn on g7 and the Imitator (Chameleon) on h6 are unaffected because the Withdrawer did not move in their respective lines, but the Withdrawer could have captured either by a move in the g-file or sixth rank respectively. Note that the Withdrawer also gives check to the Black King by threatening to move away on the d-file.


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d8 black cross
d7 black rook
d6 black cross
d5 black knight
d4 black cross
f4 black queen
c3 white pawn
d3 black pawn
g3 black king
a2 white upside-down rook
b2 black pawn
d2 white knight
f2 black pawn
g2 black pawn
d1 black bishop
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The Long-Leaper's movement.

Long-Leaper[edit]

The white Long-Leaper moves d2-d4-d6-d8, capturing three black pieces. It might instead have captured the Black Withdrawer with either d2-g5 or d2-h6. On the other hand, the black pawn on b2 and the Black Chameleon on d1 are safe from the Long Leaper because there is no square on the opposite side on which the Long Leaper could land. Also the black pawns on f2 and g2 cannot be captured by d2-h2, because there is no space in between the two pawns which would allow the Long Leaper to make two separate jumps. A move of d2-b4 would be illegal because long leapers may not jump over friendly pieces. Some variations of Baroque forbid multi-leaping, if only because it is felt that the game is more playable if the Leaper is less powerful. By requiring the Leaper to stop its movement immediately after capturing the first piece, that objective is met.


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c6 black knight
e6 black bishop
f6 black cross
g5 black king
d4 white rook
f3 white pawn
c2 white king
d2 black pawn
f2 black upside-down rook
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The Coordinator's movement.

Coordinator[edit]

The White Coordinator moves d4-f6, capturing black's Leaper on c6 and Immobilizer on f2. If White had played d4-d6 instead, he would have captured black's Leaper and pawn. The Coordinator threatens only pieces on the same rank or file as the friendly King. This kind of capture can be visualized by imagining an invisible cross emanating from the square the King is sitting on, and another invisible cross emanating from the square the Coordinator arrives at. The points where these two crosses intersect are the places where captures are possible.


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b6 black king
c6 black bishop
d6 black rook
e6 black queen
c5 black knight
d5 black cross
c4 white king
d4 black pawn
g4 black knight
f3 white upside-down rook
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The Immobilizer's movement.

Immobilizer[edit]

The White Immobilizer moves f3-d5, immobilizing 5 black pieces. The black Leaper on g4, which had been immobilized, is now free to move again.

An Immobilizer can never be captured by an Immobilizer, or Imitator (Chameleon). An Immobilizer can never be captured by a King or Withdrawer unless the variation popular in Cambridge is being played, in which case the Immobilizer itself must first be immobilized. When an Immobilizer comes into contact with an Enemy Chameleon or Immobilizer, the two pieces freeze each other, after which neither can move unless the other is captured. In the version played at Cambridge, the power of an enemy Immobilizer to arrest a friendly piece's movement is defeated when another friendly Immobilizer or Chameleon is brought up to it, effectively cancelling out each other's power to arrest movement.

Some versions of Baroque allow an immobilized piece to commit suicide, i.e. be removed from the board, in lieu of the regular move of that player. There may be strategic reasons to open a line. For example, after the above diagrammed move, the Black Leaper on c5 may wish to commit suicide, so that the other Leaper can capture the White Immobilizer by jumping over it on the fifth rank. White cannot hinder this plan, because the Immobilizer is itself immobilized by the Black chameleon.

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c8 white rook
b7 black king
c7 black pawn
a6 white pawn
b6 black pawn
c6 black cross
d6 black knight
e6 black cross
f6 black knight
g6 white bishop
h6 black queen
c5 black pawn
c4 white knight
a1 white king
c1 black rook
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The Chameleon's movement.

Chameleon/Imitator[edit]

On the diagram on the right, the white chameleon moves g6-e6-c6, astoundingly capturing all seven black pieces except the king in one move and delivering check.

  • It captures the black withdrawer by moving away from it.
  • It captures the black long-leapers by jumping over them.
  • It captures three black pawns by surrounding them. (A chameleon can only capture pawns on a horizontal move or vertical move, not on a diagonal move.)
  • It captures the black coordinator by rank/file coordination with the white king.
  • It delivers check by moving adjacent to the black king.

In the Cambridge rules, this capture is not possible. The move is legal, but it captures only the two leapers, because the move is not a legal move for any of the other target pieces. In the absence of the two black leapers, the same move would capture the other five pieces.

Variants[edit]

UofA[edit]

This is a variant that was very popular in the early 1980s at the University of Alberta and mastered by the Physics students there. It encompasses rules from many of the variants. Here is a brief breakdown of the pieces:

The object of the game is to get any two of your own pieces into the off board squares behind the opponents bomb and immobilizer starting positions. Pieces are initially placed is the traditional chess starting positions, with the exception that the queens castle is inverted.

Pawn – Tweek. Can move one square in any direction or can jump any piece once. Any opponent piece jumped is removed.

Bishop – Super Tweek. Moves and captures the same way as a tweek, except that it can keep jumping as many times as possible.

King – Immobilizer. Arguably the most powerful piece in the game, and the hardest to destroy. Can move one square in any direction. It immobilizes any opponents pieces that it is next to. It cannot be jumped because any time a tweek gets near it, they are immobilized.

Knight – Coordinator. Can move one square in any direction or can jump any piece once. Any opponent piece jumped is NOT removed. The Coordinators work in pairs and destroy pieces at a distance. You form a rectangle with the coordinators at the opposing corners of the rectangle. The pieces at the other corners are removed. Note that all pieces are removed, both opponents as well as your own. If the coordinators are on the same line, then no pieces are removed.

Castle – Tank (pusher). Can move one square in any direction even if the square is currently occupied. If it moves into an occupied square it pushes against the other piece and forces it into the next square in the line. If there is more than one piece in a line, then the whole line of pieces is moved. If a piece is moved off the board it is destroyed. If a piece is moved into a coordinated field, it is destroyed. If a tank pushes against an immobilized field, then all immobilized pieces are moved including the immobilizer (remember that only opponent pieces are immobilized).

Queen – Bomb. Can move one square in any direction or It can explode destroying all adjacent pieces as well as itself (9 squares of destruction). It can do both in the same move. If a bomb is coordinated, it explodes. If a bomb is pushed off the board, the move is completed, and it then explodes based on its final off board position. An immobilized bomb can still explode.

Inverted Castle – Immitator. Initially placed on the bomb side of the board. The most complicated piece in the game. When moved, it imitates the identity of the opponents last move, for the duration of one move only. It MUST be moved to imitate. It can imitate any opponent piece and move accordingly. If imitating a coordinator, it coordinates off BOTH other coordinators, creating an additional 4 coordination spots. If moved as an immobilizer, it only immobilizes opponent pieces for the next move only. If imitating a bomb, it can explode without moving or first move and then explode. An immobilized imitator can still act as a bomb and explode.

Maxima[edit]

Baroque played on a somewhat larger board that is mostly rectangular but for a couple extra squares that are outside the board, located at D0 and E0 just behind the King and Queen's squares. A matching pair of squares are also on the other side of the board, just beyond the Black King and Queen (D9 and E9). Although one objective of the game is to capture the King, an alternative objective allows depositing a piece in the pair of squares on the other side of the board. Unlike Baroque, the King in Maxima moves like the Knight in Chess, making for a game with much more fluid movement of pieces.

Optima[edit]

Baroque that is similar to Maxima with additional pieces and rules.

Renaissance[edit]

As Shogi is to Chess, Renaissance to Baroque—Pieces may be revived and reborn. Renaissance is played on a 9x9 board with a Swapper (or Resurrector or Ankh) that moves like a Queen for all ordinary purposes, but for swapping actions must move like a King, trading places with any adjacent piece (both friend or foe), never capturing it. Consistent with the concept of the Swapper (or Resurrector) being a piece wholly incapable of killing, it can also step into any adjacent empty square, and leave behind a previously captured piece resurrected by placing it in the square just vacated. Although, seen in that light, though the Swapper is like a piece of life, it can be transformed into a 1 square Bomb when captured and readmitted to the board - but capable only of death. Instead of moving, a Bomb need merely explode to effect the destruction of both friendly pieces and enemy pieces adjacent to itself, and suiciding in the process. The destruction of pieces in this way causes all affected to be unrevivable.

There are also two more pieces that, like the Coordinator, are not capable of unassisted capture: the Pusher and the Puller. They can move like Queens for ordinary purposes, but for the purpose of exercising their special powers, they must be adjacent to the affected piece at the start of the turn. If they begin adjacent to a piece (regardless if friendly or foe), they can push or pull it by 1 square. For a Pusher, the empty square on the other side must be open (except for the unusual circumstance of driving a King into an enemy piece, or an Imitator into a King.) Although the Pushers and Pullers are not capable of capture, their pushing and pulling maneuvers can result in other pieces being forced to make captures, regardless of the captured one being a friendly or enemy piece.

Rococo[edit]

Rococo is a species of Baroque that is played on a 10x10 board for the purposes of captures, but on the inner 8x8 square just inside it for the purpose of movement. To put it another way, the outer perimeter of squares can only be entered as a result of a capturing maneuver. In addition to the traditional Baroque pieces, Rococo has an Advancer piece that moves like a Queen, but captures the enemy piece it has run up next to, stopping just short of the piece taken. As is usual for most pieces of the Baroque family, the Advancer will not enter into the space vacated by the captured piece, it merely runs up to it, and stops short by 1 square. Unlike the game of Renaissance described above, Rococo has a similarly named Swapper piece that moves like a Queen, but trades places with the enemy it runs up to, a full Queen's move away. The Rococo Swapper has the unusual property of self-destructing at will, in lieu of moving, provided it is not at the same time immobilized, with the effect of taking one enemy piece alongside it. What sets Rococo apart from Baroque the most is the way the pawns work; they are called cannonball pawns and move like a King, stepping 1 square in all directions, or leap over any adjacent piece (friend or foe). The only way that they can effect capture is by leaping, and landing on the enemy piece. They cannot capture like a King does. Apparently as compensation for their limited mobility, the cannonball pawns can be promoted into other pieces when they reach the other side of the board.

The pawn formations unique to the parent game, Baroque, already significantly different from traditional chess, are not seen in Rococo. Instead, Rococo's cannonball pawns seem to hang away from enemy pieces by two or three squares, rarely coming into contact with each other without advance preparation. In both Chess and Baroque, however, fine nuances in maneuvering are made possible by locking positions together, made concrete by the establishment of well-defined pawn structures. This sort of thing is lacking in Rococo.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]