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Pillars of Medusa. A variation of Turkish Great Chess plus two additional pieces, the Morph and the Medusa. (11x11, Cells: 121) [All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
George Duke wrote on 2009-01-13 UTC
In context of the same year 1997, Ralph Betza has piece Medusa, or Gorgon, from 1997 at ''Chess Variants with Inverse Capture.''

Gary Gifford wrote on 2009-01-11 UTC
(zzo38) A. Black - Yes, a very good catch! You are 100% correct. I do not recall who played that game, but White thought he had checkmate, announced it, and Black missed the save that you found. I must admit that I did not notice the save either, but now that Medusa move can certainly be seen as the saving move. You are the first person I know to catch that! Many thanks.

(zzo38) A. Black wrote on 2009-01-11 UTC
In the example game, can you move D11 to F9 to stop checkmate?

Gary Gifford wrote on 2009-01-11 UTC
Mr. Smith. You stated, 'I meant that your Bishops are on the same colour.' Reply: I look at the rules setup and see 4 bishops (2 for each side) and on different colors. I look at this preset (/play/pbm/play.php) and see the same setup. However, I found that another pre-set was setup wrong. So your Bishop criticism it seems, was to one of two pre-sets, not to the true setup as seen in the rules. I fixed the error.

Regarding your White advantage and asymmetry equalizing statements you also say,'I don't need examples.' Reply: But an example (if it existed and if it was not an exception to the rule) would clarify and tend to validate your statements.

In your most recent comment you give me credit for a little equation that I have nothing to do with and as I see it, has nothing much to do with the game. You go as far as to give another persons' different answer to the equation. An example of a game position would be relevant. Showing us a zero and a 1/2 tells us nothing about the game.

Yesterday you mentioned,'... and I didn't say that the Morph was powerful.' But it seems you did, indirectly. Because there are really only 2 new pieces in that game (the Morph and the Medusa) when compared with Turkish Great Chess. So, with simple logic we see:(a) your statement that new pieces are ridiculously powerful and (b)we understand that the Morph is one of two new pieces then (c) we conclude the Morph is ridiculously powerful.

On a final note from me this time around, you implied that perhaps you would not play the game against me using White pieces because I would have an advantage due to playing strength. So that brings us to another point... the point that playing strength actually influences the outcome of a game. I would go as far as saying that the stronger player will generally win at Pillars of Medusa, regardless of color... with the occasional exceptions due to an oversight, but not due to game mechanics.

John Smith wrote on 2009-01-11 UTC
I meant that your Bishops are on the same colour. I don't need examples. What you're saying is that 1-1+1-1+1... != 0. (Then again, George Duke would probably say that it's 1/2! ;-D) For every Black favoring position, there exists a White favoring position.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2009-01-11 UTC
Mr. Smith. Thanks for attempting to clarify. Note that there is no need for a second rating of 'Poor' from yourself (the first one counts and continues to count just fine for a long time).

I do not understand now, when you now say 'Bishops are colourbound as a pair.' Yes, isn't that normal for Bishops? Each side has 1 white square bishop and 1 black square bishop. And Bishops by nature stay on their color.

Also, I do not understand when you say, 'It doesn't matter if play can be assymmetrical. Assymmetry evens out.' I really don't see what you are trying to get at. The possible piece and pawn placement is astronomical. What exactly is 'evening out?' Have you some actual game move lists and or positions (from real games) to serve as examples?

John Smith wrote on 2009-01-11 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
I meant that the Bishops are colourbound as a pair. It doesn't matter if play can be assymmetrical. Assymmetry evens out. I don't care if some new pieces already in Turkish Great Chess, and I didn't say that the Morph was powerful. You also have an advantage because you're an excellent player.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2009-01-11 UTC
Mr. Smith - Thank you very much for commenting. Though I have a few simple counterpoints:

1) You say 'The Bishops are colourbound.' Reply: Yes, Bishops, by definition, typically are colorbound.

2) You say, 'The board is too big, discriminating the weak pieces.' Reply: I imagine one can always view weeker pieces as being discriminated. For the number of pawns and pieces the board is certainly not too big. I base that statement on having both played and having observed the game being played on a real set with actual players sitting face to face before the game ever came over to CV.

3)You say, 'White has an advantage with symmetrical Sword play.' Reply: My testing of several over-the-board games and watching strong chess players play this live indicate this is not the case. As in Chess, symmetry usually does not last long.

4)You say, 'The new pieces are ridiculously powerful, especially the Medusa.' Reply: Both sides have the same power. And the big board you don't like helps keep the power from being too great a factor. The non-fide chess pieces, aside from Morph and Medusa, exist in Turkish Great Chess (under different names)and are no more powerful in this game than in that game and in the many other games we see them in. The Morph is not that powerful, just a shape shifter that starts out like a Bishop. As for the Medusa - again, both sides have one and need to use it wisely. Again, in watching and playing the game, the idea of too much power doesn't seem to hold up with what is seen in actual game play.

As a final point... I have won many games with the Black pieces. In fact, I don't think I've yet lost with them. If White has the advantage that you point out, well I certainly don't see it.

If you want to play a game as White against me to prove your point, I'll gladly take up the Black army. My guess is that even if you manage to win with White, you will have no easy time of it... in fact, you might even lose.

John Smith wrote on 2009-01-11 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
The Bishops are colourbound, the board is too big, discriminating the weak pieces, White has an advantage with symmetrical Sword play, and the new pieces are ridiculously powerful, especially the Medusa.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2007-10-25 UTC
This is in response to the recent 'Chess with Inverse Capture' comment (by George Duke).

I am putting my reply here, in the POM category because that is where Mr. Duke's remarks once again lead me.

Mr. Duke's comment is informative and tells of the Ralph Betza Medusa concept.

Duke mentions, quote: '... a 1997 pamphlet 'How To Play Medusa Chess', precisely the lead-in for 'PoM', Gary Gifford calls 'Medusa' an equivalent to 1960's Ultima Immobilizer(one-, two- or three-stepping) plus normal captures. Gifford must have been aware of Ultima if not web-based Chess Variants.'

That last statement is a logical assumption, but it is incorrect. I was not aware of Ultima and I was not aware of web-based Chess Variants. I had never heard of Ralph Betza at that point in time and I had no external inspiration for my Medusa or Morph. I thought of them on my own. It is possible for people to come up with the same or similar ideas. History is abundant with examples.

The original name for PoM was Medusa Chess. That was the name I used when I submitted it to CV. I submitted it at the request of a friend. His mention of CV to me was the first time I ever heard of the impressive site.

After submission and acceptance of my Medusa Chess I discovered that there was already an earlier Medusa Chess. So, I asked one of the editors to change the name of my version to Pillars of Medusa.

Why a Medusa piece? Because in a novel of mine, I have a Medusa [she is beautiful, but is based on the ugly one from mythology]. She is feared and the chess game on that world has a piece to represent the lady. This may seem fatuous to some, but it is true.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2007-10-25 UTC
Mr. Duke, in a recent Rococo comment stated, quote: 'Gary Gifford's Comment about his own PoM ''The Medusa is not be underestimated'' is rather fatuous...'

Well fatuous is an adjective meaning 'foolish and idiotic.' I believe that the insult is simply not true. Here is why:

First-time players of POM often did under estimate the Medusa. So such a friendly comment is not at all fatuous. It would be like telling a newcomer to chess, watch out for the Knight forks... there is nothing fatuous about such sound advice.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2007-10-25 UTC
George, thanks for the detailed comment.

Pillars Of Medusa is largely based on Turkish Great Chess (circa 1797), and so, is not very imaginative, on my part. I was, however impressed with Turkish Great Chess and I needed a chess-like game for a sci-fi novel I was working on. So I added a Medusa and a Morph and played around with piece-names only for the sake of the novel (I did not know there was a CV web-site).

To see how POM plays I highly recommend the strong Zillions game version created by software engineer Jason Jakupca in January of 2004 (after he and I played a few games of POM face-to-face).

I had the pleasure of watching two strong chess players play POM over-the-board [on my homemade set] while a crowd gathered around. One player was from Russia, the other from Venezuela - so the game had the feeling of some important championship. The crowd and players all seemed to be quite impressed with the game. Mainly Medusa play... that was the real excitement.

It has been my experience that 'a game where pawns simply get picked-off' does not happen.

Often good Medusa play will decide the game. The Medusa is not to be underestimated. I believe Tony Q. missed a win against me in my first POM game here (at CV) by missing a strong Medusa move.

Again, to get a good idea of game play, I highly recommend playing against Jason's Zillions application. I think you will find it to be a fun and challenging game... and that you may have a hard time beating the Z engine.

George Duke wrote on 2007-10-24 UTC
Above Average 6.5 out of 10. The newer prolificists Joe Joyce and Gifford are relatively untested objectively. Here 11 piece-types on 121 are close to the norm roughly 10%(wide divergence sometimes makes a good game too, so this measure is mostly descriptive). Let us begin to place these new bodies of work(as done by looking at 10-15 Charles Gilman's 150 CVs mostly June 2007). Renaissance (1980) 120 squares, Vyremorn (developed 1987-1999) 132, and Jester(1999) 120 are three 'comparables' as a rough starting point, somewhat randomly chosen. PoM and those three all are characterized by being very large 105 to 132 squares(not extremely large: that would be 144-196) and somewhat complicated. There has to be a pretty compelling new mechanism to expect much following for a CV bigger than 85 or 90 squares and so rather complex. Most pieces here are just renamed longstanding variant fare. In PoM of the two actually novel pieces, the Medusa is only another name for 'Ultima/Rococo/Fugue'(PoM predates Fugue) Immobilizer restricted to one, two or three steps. Unique castling rule of trading places and extended Pawn two-step from Rank 3 are possibly unique features. The Sample Game and Problems enhance the product, but over-all somehow lack of imaginativeness compared to Vyremorn and Renaissance. The other two very large Chesses from the same period(excluding earlier Renaissance) have wider more original piece mixes. The other new piece is the Morph, superficially Rococo Chameleon-like. Since captures are not so common or controllable, Morph would remain a prosaic Bishop on the average the first maybe 10 or 20 moves before opportunity to Morph. Just Medusa as restricted maximum-three-stepper and Morph on 8x8, 8x10, 9x10 would make a Good game, but PoM stretched to 121 looks to be long drawn out. It has the usual disadvantage on >=100 of poor Knight(Horse) and Bishop(Adviser) being lost or foresaken by the more powerful long-rangers battling to pick off Pawns or bully those weaker pieces.

Joe Joyce wrote on 2007-10-06 UTC
;-) Now I have to apologize for being a wise-guy... :-( [Isn't there another game I could mention?]

Gary Gifford wrote on 2007-10-06 UTC
Joe... Mini-POM has no 'Pillar' pieces. Please no more apologies. I accept in advance, if needed.

Joe Joyce wrote on 2007-10-06 UTC
Apparently I owe Gary apologies again. I, of course [ ;-) ], meant mini-PoM.
Joe :-)

Gary Gifford wrote on 2007-10-06 UTC
I read in the recent 'Bland Chess' comment that the Pillars are the Medusa. This is not correct. Pillars moved like Rook+Knight. The Medusa, a completely different piece, moves as does a Queen, but only up to 3 spaces at a time. It immobilizes adjacent enemy pieces. It can also capture the frozen pieces.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-08-18 UTC
Stephen, thank you for the comment. You are correct about no pawn en passant in P.O.M. This game is my first chess variant and was created for a fantasy novel; and Pawns were called Swords. The rules indicate the following: 'Swords move and capture like pawns; with the following exceptions: (a) there is no 'pawn en passant,' (b) Swords can only promote to a Medusa, (c) Swords which have not yet reached their army’s forth row can move 2 spaces.' Note that there is also a smaller version of this game (Mini-Pillars of Medusa) and a Shogi variant (Medusa Shogi). P.O.M. and Medusa Shogi both have ZRF files. It is important to note that a Medusa can 'freeze' a piece that is checking a King, thus turning 'off' the check.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-06-02 UTC
Jeremy: That is a fair question.  The answer is 'Yes, Medusas can
capture each other.'  They cannot freeze each other.

The following, somewhat related question, was asked long ago is included
in the rules.  

'Why can’t one Medusa turn another to stone?'

Answer: Game testing indicated that Medusa immunity (from each other’s
stares) provided for a much better game than would result from the
Medusa’s turning each other to stone. Also, from a mythological stand
point, Medusa had two sisters… they saw each other without turning to
stone (mythological speaking, of course).

Jeremy Good wrote on 2006-06-02 UTC
Can medusas capture each other? Forgive me if you addressed this already in the rules.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-01-18 UTC
The new variation of Pillars of Medusa has been named 'Medusa Shogi' as we now have Shogi-like drops and pawns will be promoting to Medusas (these are quite deadly). The rules have been submitted. I made a preset for the new game, but for some reason the link to it goes to an 8x8 board with abstract pieces. I never had that happen before with pre-sets. I cut and paste the links so a typing error is not the problem. If anyone can tell me how to make an 11 x 11 board with a holding zone (3 or 4 files wide) to be used as a Shogi 'piece-in-hand' zone, I'd be muched obliged. Until then, I will keep experimenting.

Larry Smith wrote on 2006-01-18 UTC
I have been considering the dynamic of the Morph with drops.

Of course, it should be re-introduced as the simple Morph.  But what of
the pieces which it has absorb?

These pieces should be considered removed from play.  This will make the
Morph a power piece in a drop game as it will actually eliminate pieces
from the field.

This will add a unique dimension which will distinguish this game from

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-01-18 UTC
Larry: Your setup suggestion seems well-suited to the POM Shogi concept and a single pre-set could be used for either Shogi or non-Shogi play. I agree about lifting the Shogi pawn restrictions regarding dropping pawns (swords) in the same file. I will look into the aspect of promtion zones. The idea of a pawn drop with checkmate seems fine to me, at present. Thank you very much for your valued input.

Larry Smith wrote on 2006-01-17 UTC
This game with drops would be quite intense.

May I suggest that since the Swords are not bound to a file that the Shogi
pawn restriction of introduction should not apply. Though the placing of
the opposing King in checkmate might, but would not be that necessary with
the potential of all those other pieces making such a threat. And of
course, the restriction of placing a Sword on the far rank should also be

This is not necessary, but a restriction of drops on the four far ranks
might be considered.  This would give each player some area in which to
build a defense, and hopefully counter-act the introduction of some of
these power pieces.

If this latter rule is applied, then the restriction on the Sword
checkmating the King need not be in force.

So, the drop rule might be summed up as placement on any vacant cell of
the first seven ranks.  I like this.  Short and sweet.

Gary Gifford wrote on 2006-01-17 UTC
I've given more thought to Larry's suggestion of POM (original 11 x 11
game) having pawns on the fourth rank and Serpents on the right-hand side
of each King. It does seem like it could be a very different game with the
'behind the pawns' manuevers. If anyone is interested in playing that
variation I can quickly adjust the pre-set to create a 'Pillars of
Medusa, L.L. Smith Setup.'  Or, if Mr. Smith wants to make such a
pre-set, I have no objection.  I must admit that I do not like the green
color pieces, and I wonder if I was on strong cold-medication at the time
I made them.  On the plus side, that piece-set has morph-equivalents for
all pieces, and thus, despite the color, are preferable to the alternate
Grand/Great Set pieces (fot this game, that is... certainly not for others).  

I just had this idea, which would make for quite a game, but holding zones
would need added to the pre-set.  The idea is this: (1) Use the L.L. Smith
Setup.  (2) Play the game Shogi-style.  Captured pieces change color and
you can drop them.  Now that, I think would be a very dynamic game.  A
Medusa in-hand, would be very dangerous.  If Mr. Smith does  not mind, I
think I'd like to make this game and, of course, give him credit for the
setup concept.

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