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  • An Illustrated Guide to Ultima Pieces

    This page is an illustrated guide dedicated to explaining how Ultima pieces capture. The diagrams use special graphics to represent the Ultima pieces, although typically, ortho-chess pieces are used to reperesent them.

    For more information on Ultima, see our Ultima web page, or use Zillions-of-Games to actually play a game.

    Note that the King does not appear in the following table. That's because the King in Ultima moves and captures just like the King in orth-chess, except for castling -- there is no castling in Ultima.

    None of the pieces in Ultima (except the King) capture by displacement. The one exception to this is the Chameleon which can threaten a King via a displacement capture.


    Coordinator | Long Leaper | Withdrawer | Immobilizer | Pinching Pawn | Chameleon


    The White Coordinator captures the Black Pinching Pawn at a4

    The Coordinator

    The Coordinator moves like an ortho-chess Queen, but captures in a special way: it captures by 'coordinating' with the King. When a Coordinator moves, any enemy piece that is on the same rank (or row) as the Coordinator, and the same file (or column) as the King, is captured. And vice-versa, any enemy piece that is on the same file as the King, and on the same rank as the Coordinator, is also captured.

    The Coordinator never captures when another piece moves. It only captures on its own move.

    See also: the Coordinator entry in our Piececlopedia.

    The Black Long Leaper captures both White Pinching Pawns by leaping over them

    The Long Leaper

    The Long Leaper moves like an ortho-chess Queen, but captures in a special way: it captures by leaping over an enemy piece. The enemy piece must have a vacant square directly behind it (behind relative to the location of the Long Leaper). The Long Leaper jumps over the enemy piece and lands in any of the vacant squares behind it. The Long Leaper cannot jump over friendly pieces, but it may make multiple leaps in a single direction.

    The Long Leaper leaps in a straight line in any of the eight directions.

    In the diagram to the left, the White Long Leaper could make any of the following moves:

    • a1-a3 (xa2)
    • a1-a4 (xa2)
    • a1-a6 (xa2) (xa5)
    • a1-a7 (xa2) (xa5)
    • a1-a8 (xa2) (xa5)

    See also: the Long Leaper entry in our Piececlopedia.

    The Black Withdrawer on b3 captures the White Pinching Pawn on b4 by moving away from it

    The Withdrawer

    The Withdrawer moves like an ortho-chess Queen, but captures in a special way: it captures by moving directly away from an enemy piece. It must start its move adjacent to the enemy piece, and move one or more squares in a straight line directly away from that piece. The piece moved away from is then captured.

    See also: the Withdrawer entry in our Piececlopedia.

    Black Immobilizer paralyzes the White Chameleon, Pinching Pawn, Long Leaper, and King

    The Immobilizer

    The Immobilizer moves like an ortho-chess Queen, but is unable to capture. Instead, the Immobilizer paralyzes any adjacent enemy pieces, causing them to be immobile. The Immobilizer does not paralyze friendly pieces, nor does it paralyze non-adjacent pieces that move past or over it. Pieces that can never capture an Immobilizer are: Kings, Immobilizers, Chameleons, and Withdrawers. Pieces become unparalyzed when the Immobilizer paralyzing them moves away or is captured.

    In the diagram to the left, the White Chameleon is paralyzed by the Black Immobilizer, and in return, the Black Immobilizer is paralyzed by the White Chameleon. On White's next move, the Long Leaper (at d3) can capture the Black Immobilizer by leaping to a3.

    Any piece that is paralyzed by an Immobilizer, is allowed to capture itself (ie. commit suicide). This counts as the player's move.

    See also: the Immobilizer entry in our Piececlopedia.

    The White Pinching Pawn on b1 captures the Black Withdrawer on b4 by pinching it between itself and the White King

    The Pinching Pawn

    The Pinching Pawn moves like an ortho-chess Rook, but captures in a special way: it captures by pinning an enemy piece between itself and another friendly piece. So when a White Pinching Pawn moves to a square, if there is a Black piece directly to the east of it, with a White piece directly to the east of the Black piece, then then Black piece is captured. The same holds true for pieces to the west, north, and south of the destination square.

    Pinching Pawns only capture when they make a move. They never capture passively. So a piece moving directly between two Pinching Pawns is not captured.

    See also: the Pinching Pawn entry in our Piececlopedia.

    The Chameleon

    The Chameleon moves like an ortho-chess Queen, but captures in a special way: it captures an enemy piece using the enemy piece's method of capturing. The diagram to the left is an illustration of the Chameleon capturing seven pieces in one move.
    • It captures the enemy Withdrawer (at c1) by moving away from it.
    • It captures the two enemy Long Leapers by leaping over them.
    • It captures the three enemy Pinching Pawns by pinching them.
    • It captures the enemy Coordinator by coordinating with the King.

    Note that the Chameleon can only capture Pinching Pawns by moving like a Rook. Chameleons can never capture enemy Chameleons, but they can paralyze an enemy Immobilizer by moving adjacent to it (of course, in that case, the Chameleon itself is also paralyzed).

    In the diagram to the left, the White Chameleon also gives check to the Black King.

    See also: the Chameleon entry in our Piececlopedia.

    Written by David Howe.
    WWW page created: March 5, 2000.


    This item is an article on pieces,
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2000-03-05
 Author: David  Howe. Ultima Pieces: Illustrated Guide. Illustrated guide to how Ultima Pieces capture. (8x8, Cells: 64)
    2011-01-01 L. Naumann UnverifiedNone

    I played this game as a teenager during the 70s with my mathematician father who found the rules in the card game book mentioned on this site. Dad died in 2006, and I'm not sure what became of the book, but on a whim, I did a web search tonight and am thrilled to find such a thorough discussion of the game! Just renewing my acquaintance with the names of the pieces brings back fond memories, and I'm glad to see it's still being played. Thanks for providing this information!

    2004-02-04 Michael Nelson Verified as Michael NelsonNoneYou had one of Abbott's later books. The original game did not have the distance limitations, this is the change he proposed that no one else liked. View
    2004-02-04 Ed UnverifiedNone


    As a boy back in the 60s I owned Robert Abbotts book and learned of Ultima from it. I was so impressed by the game, that I made my own physical board and pieces and have taught a few people the rules from memory. In fact, not more than 2 days ago, I taught the game to my new wife. However, I had run across a couple of sticky problems and did not remember if they were addressed in the rules. I told my friend about this game yesterday at work and to my surprise I found an email with a website with information on the actual game. It lives!

    I looked through everything and did not see the complete rules but it alluded that they were expounded on by Mark-Jason Dominus. I would appreciate any more info I could obtain, the more detail the better. I remember from memory that Abbott had even mentioned the historical sources for some of the pieces (Greece, Rome, Madagascar, etc.). I found this interesting because one of the things that appealed to me about chess was its historical aspect.

    Also, the site mentioned that Abbott had changed the rules, but that everyone liked the original version better and still plays that one. Was this rule change that he wanted to remove the distance limitation (if on the 1st row, you can move only 1 space, if on the 2nd row, you can move only 2 spaces, etc.)? Were there other changes also? Any info you can e-mail to me would be thankfully received.

    Looking forward to hearing from you, Ed Kennedy


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    Author: David Howe.

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    Last Modified: Sun, 01 Apr 2012 20:50:58 -0400
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    Last modified: Sunday, April 1, 2012