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This item is a game information page
It belongs to categories: Orthodox chess, 
It was last modified on: 2001-11-05
 Author: Hans L. Bodlaender. Inventor: Robert  Abbott. Ultima. Game where each type of piece has a different capturing ability. (8x8, Cells: 64) (Recognized!)[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
Kevin Pacey wrote on 2018-03-01 UTCExcellent ★★★★★

A seminal variant that perhaps deserves to be part of a seperate category (e.g. 'Ultima-style Variants') on a CVP menu somewhere.

TH6 wrote on 2017-03-18 UTCGood ★★★★

First, I wanted to say that my opponent handily outclassed me in our game.  I felt like every move of mine was a blunder. 

Aside from that heavy loss, I found the game very enjoyable.  I was definitely out of my element in this type of game, but the types of pieces really complimented each other and I see why this game gets a lot of correspondence and OTB traction.

Georg Spengler wrote on 2015-01-20 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Ultima is a puzzling game in more than one sense. It seems to violate all rules for game invention. Even its inventor called it a flaw and his reasons are all pretty true. yet it is one of the most successful chesslike games, and its also one of my favorites.

First point, he says, it lacks clarity. Of course it does. Playing it does not feel like playing chess at all, its more like solving a puzzle in every turn, so for every move you need much much time. Does that make it a bad game? No, it doesnt. Its exactly what we like on it.

The other big point is, that it favors the defender. And so it does. This should lead to draws, at least at a high level of competition. But thats okay. Draughts and Morris are even more drawish, yet they are not bad games. If following an interesting fight it does not matter that much if it finally leads to a draw. 

Maybe it is even the lack of clarity that makes the game playable despite the strong defending power of its pieces.

I cant see that it is bad to advance your pieces rather than stay at home. The more space youve got the more mobility you have. And what is the biggest advantage of that? To be able to bring your immobilizer in a strong position.

That may be the only ugly thing of this game: that the immobilizer is too important. As far as my experience goes, he is the central piece in every successful attack. Immobilize the king and capture it with the chameleon. I rarely succeeded in winning in any other way.

But yet not ugly enough yo reduce my rating.

JohnnyLuken wrote on 2012-05-28 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Fascinating concept, the idea of pieces of homogenous movement
differentiated only by their capture method.

Perhaps not strictly a chess variant, but a unique subgenre in its own
right, & one that I feel deserves more popularity.

As for the game itself, there are some strange imbalances which I find
surprising; why allocate 2 slots for the powerful long leaper but give
pride of place next to the king to the feeble withdrawer as an standalone
piece? This is the kind of imbalance one sees in older prechess variants
but would not expect in a newer variant...

Another issue is the overly defensive nature of the game, with current
setup. Having 2 chameleons with no mutual attack method tends to stagnate
and cluster gameplay in my experience.

Also an issue is the increasing irrelevance of the pawns in endgames. They
of course have no promotion ability, which is not feasible for such mobile
pieces, and offer minimal threat to the FIDE king, due to its residual
ability to capture adjacent pieces.

I propose the following alterations;

1. Replace king movement with that of a knight. This adds variation to the
dynamic of the game and allows the pawns to present a threat to the king,
as they can now be positioned adjacent to it without fear of capture. This
also increases their relevance in endgames.

2. Replace the spare long leaper and chameleon with 2 pieces of offensive
type; advancer/displacer(orthodox FIDE queen)/queen moving cannon etc.

3. Allow the chameleon to capture king and pawns in the manner of their own
capture, but without being restricted to their movement types. This, along
with the inclusion of new powerful offensive pieces, which the chameleon
the acts as a counterbalance to, makes it a much more important standalone
piece, and serves as an important leveller against the power inequity of
different piece types.

4. (optional) Allow the withdrawer to capture from 2 spaces of distance
(this might make it a little difficult to counterract in opening play, but
a far more respectable piece overall) OR merge the withdrawer and advancer,
freeing up another piece slot.

These alterations would, in my opinion, add a much more open, fluid,
balanced, dynamic, and varied mechanic to an already excellent concept...

Matthew Roberts wrote on 2011-10-16 UTCGood ★★★★
Thank you for the visual illustrations. I noticed that the written description for the placement of pieces is not accurate. Immobilizers, coordinators, kings, and withdrawers are pictured on opposite files, not the same files as typed out.

George Duke wrote on 2008-09-14 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Reexamination of Abbott's Rococo Comment from almost five years ago is placed at Rococo. Tchervenkov shows where to play Ultima online. Crudely estimating, we use in 2004 P1, K2, W3.1, Co2.9, Ca4.3, L5.3, I8.2. Aronson names other Ultima-derived games already by 2003: Maxima, Stupid, Optima, Rococo. The Excellent is for Ultima's standing the test of time after 45 years, despite its problems in gameplay these Comments address, for example, Lavieri's.

Kristoffer Beder wrote on 2007-02-22 UTCGood ★★★★

There is a better solution to 'Ultima Problem 9! The variant that I play does not allow for suicide, so barring this, the soluction is simply: White: LL at F8 -> G7, blocking all moves but a suicide, or leaping (LL H8 go have fun!)

White now threatens checkmate with LL G7->G6!

This brings up an important question of mine:

Do pieces in Baroque/Ultima have 'Kill zones' (areas of instantaneous vaporization) - That is, Do they create instant death in their 'kill zone' at all times, or must a piece move into a position to make the kill?

(ie: can my LL G7 move into G6 in above solution?)


- Kris

Nathan Lloyd wrote on 2006-07-30 UTCGood ★★★★

Roberto Lavieri wrote on 2006-07-22 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
That's a good idea. We need a new Page, what about 'Ultima Tips'-?. A good theoretical developement may need tons of material; some of us are moderately experienced players, but I�m sure we are not big authorities,and a theory developed by us may be biased, somewhat primitive and far from exhaustive and water-proof. I can do something about it time to time, I suppose that other experienced players here can do something too: Matthew, Antoine, some others and, generally, everybody who visit TCVP can give us something interesting...

Todor Tchervenkov wrote on 2006-07-21 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Every game should be played by people that master the rules in order to
reach a theoretical depth. It's not serious to have discussion on rules -
this doesn't serve any purpose.

It's impossible to find some real game theory on Ultima in the Internet.
How about having it here, at the chessvariants pages? If there are any
experienced players around, perphaps they would like to gather
observations just in one place?

H.G.Muller wrote on 2006-01-18 UTCGood ★★★★
When I was playing this game I simply could not do it with a regular chess
set. Being a fanatic speed-chess player of 5 min. games where you have to
move mostly as a reflex, the chess personalities of the piece images were
simply hard-wired in my brain.

So I made a separate set of pieces, looking nothing like chess men, based
on a set of checkers chips and other pieces of wood. The pawns were just
plain chips (since I don't play checkers, they meant nothing to me, so
harm there). The King could of course still be represented as an ordinary
chess King, since it moves like one. But for the Long Leaper I used a
cylinder (remaniscent of a draughts King), for the Immobilizer a Cube
(looked pretty immobile...), for the Coordinator a checkers chip mounted
perpendicular on another (representing a dish antenna, symbolizing its
action at a distance), for the Chameleon a spere (supported on a chip) to
represent a spherical mirror in which every piece would see itself. The
whole set looked quite nice, with a pretty homogeneous style.

Ultima wrote on 2005-06-25 UTCGood ★★★★
I wanna play! And is it like chess???

Matthew Montchalin wrote on 2005-06-13 UTCGood ★★★★
Nice description of the game of Baroque, but we always played it with Leapers limited to capturing one piece, and multi-leaping was illegal; as for deciding which Coordinator (aka 'Vaporizer') to turn upside down at the start of the game, thereby turning it into an Immobilizer, that was White's prerogative to do first, and Black had to choose second. <p>There are (or at least WERE) versions of Baroque played on a 9x9 board, with a 1 square Bomb occupying an extra square on the 1st rank, next to the King on his right, if I recall correctly. An immobilized Bomb could not explode on its own accord, but an Imitator (Mirror) could detonate it, so long as it was not immobilized too. The 9x9 version - with a Bomb - used to be called Renaissance. I think the history of the 'Bomb' variation to Baroque was a matter of interference from the 1960s game of 'Camelot.' Blowing up both Kings resulted in a Draw. Anyway, like Baroque, Renaissance ended with the capture of the enemy's King. <p>Regards, <p>Matthew Montchalin <br>[email protected]

George Duke wrote on 2005-01-24 UTCGood ★★★★
In contrast to the Carrera family, which have less differentiation, Ultima-like games are more sharply delineated in their features, metaphorically like USA Colorado's 54 'fourteeners', not somewhat similar hills of Carrera-Capablanca terrain. I would much rather have invented the 'Rococo peak' within the Ultima family than the 'Gothic hill' in its family; yet that one stands out within its environment.

Mark Thompson wrote on 2004-12-18 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Robert Abbott now has a set of Ultima puzzles on his website!

Roberto Lavieri wrote on 2004-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
Well, in my fourth game against Chess V, the program beated me, playing in a good manner. I have not played bad, neither commited fatal errors or clear blunders. Analyzing the game, I have played different than in my previous three games, with a relatively open position. It seems that Chess V plays well this kind of instances.

Roberto Lavieri wrote on 2004-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
Three tests more, Zillions playing White, Chess V playing Black, 10 seconds per move. Results: Chess V won 3-0 !. Chess V is still relatively weak playing against humans, but it is definitely stronger than Zillions. I have detected an important bug, as I said, that must be corrected inmediately: When Chess V King is immobilized, it appears that if you can capture it, the prgogram does not detect it is Checkmated, you capture the King and the game cam continue endless. Now I think that 50% of penalty for immobilized pieces is perhaps too much, but I suggest augment it a bit, 30%, but if your immobilizer is immobilized, the value of your immobilizer must fall at least to half. There must be an important penalty for an immobilized King, much more if the immobilizer is potentially safe, Chess V takes not a good care with its King sometimes against the enemy immobilizer. I´ll add more when I have more to add.

Roberto Lavieri wrote on 2004-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
Comment on the game: ChessV vs. Zillions, 30 sec. per player per move.

Opening was weakly played by both programs, and you can observe the that
the Pawn movements are not the best in both. The game play was more
tactical than positional, the pair King-Coordinator is not used in the
best way, and Immobilizer potential-and-risks is not well appreciated. But
Chess V 'understood' better the game philosophy, and the end was played
relatively good by Chess V, although with clear deficiences by Zillions.
Very interesting test game!.

Roberto Lavieri wrote on 2004-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
Chess V, playing White, beated Zillions, 30sec. per player, in this ULTIMA
test game:
Zillions Save Game File Version 0.02 HC
RulesFile=C:\Archivos de programa\Zillions Development\Zillions
1. Pawn g2 - g5
1. Pawn a7 - a6
2. Pawn b2 - b5
2. Pawn f7 - f3
3. Pawn h2 - h4
3. Pawn c7 - c4
4. Pawn h4 - f4 x f3
4. Long-Leaper b8 - h2 x f4
5. Pawn c2 - c3
5. Long-Leaper h2 - e5
6. Pawn f2 - f5
6. Long-Leaper e5 - a5 x b5
7. Long-Leaper b1 - b3
7. Coordinator a8 - a7
8. Coordinator h1 - h2
8. Withdrawer d8 - c7
9. Withdrawer e1 - g3
9. Coordinator a7 - f2 x e2
10. Withdrawer g3 - h4 x f2
10. Pawn c4 - e4
11. King d1 - e1
11. Pawn e4 - a4
12. Long-Leaper g1 - g3
12. Pawn d7 - d6
13. Coordinator h2 - f2
13. Withdrawer c7 - c5
14. Withdrawer h4 - b4
14. Pawn a4 - a3
15. Long-Leaper g3 - e3
15. Pawn d6 - d4
16. Withdrawer b4 - a4
16. Long-Leaper a5 - b6
17. Withdrawer a4 - b4
17. Long-Leaper b6 - c7
18. Long-Leaper e3 - e6
18. Chameleon f8 - f7
19. Long-Leaper e6 - e4
19. Withdrawer c5 - d6 x b4
20. Pawn c3 - c4 x d4
20. Pawn b7 - a7
21. Pawn c4 - a4 x a3
21. Long-Leaper c7 - a5
22. Coordinator f2 - c5
22. Long-Leaper a5 - a3 x a4
23. Coordinator c5 - c3
23. Pawn a7 - c7
24. Pawn f5 - a5
24. Long-Leaper a3 - c5
25. Chameleon f1 - f5
25. Long-Leaper c5 - a7
26. Chameleon f5 - e5
26. Chameleon f7 - f2
27. King e1 - d1
27. Withdrawer d6 - c5
28. Pawn d2 - d5
28. Long-Leaper a7 - b8
29. Pawn a5 - b5 x c5
29. Long-Leaper b8 - b2 x b3 x b5
30. King d1 - c2
30. Pawn h7 - h5
31. Coordinator c3 - f3 x f2
31. Chameleon c8 - f5
32. Long-Leaper e4 - g6 x f5
32. Immobilizer h8 - h6
33. Chameleon e5 - f6
33. Pawn e7 - e5
34. Coordinator f3 - f5
34. Pawn c7 - c5 x d5
35. King c2 x b2
35. Long-Leaper g8 - c4
36. Pawn a2 - a3
36. Pawn h5 - h3
37. Chameleon c1 - b1
37. Pawn h3 - d3
38. Chameleon b1 - d1
38. King e8 - d7
39. King b2 - b1
39. Long-Leaper c4 - a4
40. King b1 - a2
40. Long-Leaper a4 - f4
41. Chameleon d1 - a4
41. Long-Leaper f4 - f3
42. Immobilizer a1 - d1
42. Long-Leaper f3 - h5
43. Immobilizer d1 - g4
43. Pawn a6 - a7
44. Chameleon a4 - f4
44. Pawn a7 - a8
45. Chameleon f4 - e3
45. Pawn d3 - d1
46. Chameleon e3 - d4
46. Pawn e5 - e3
47. King a2 - b3
47. Pawn c5 - e5
48. Coordinator f5 - e4 x e3
48. Pawn e5 - f5 x g5
49. Chameleon f6 - f7
49. Pawn a8 - a6
50. Coordinator e4 - e6
50. Pawn g7 - g8
51. King b3 - b4
51. Immobilizer h6 - g5
52. King b4 - c5
52. Pawn g8 - g7 x g6
53. Coordinator e6 - g6 x g5
53. Pawn d1 - d2
54. Coordinator g6 - h6 x h5
54. Pawn d2 - a2
55. Chameleon d4 - d6
55. King d7 - d8
56. Chameleon d6 - e7
56. Pawn a6 - a4 x a3
57. Chameleon e7 x d8

Roberto Lavieri wrote on 2004-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
I sent the last message!

Anonymous wrote on 2004-10-04 UTCGood ★★★★
CHESS V BEATED ZILLIONS!. Well, Zillions is a weak ULTIMA player, and I have had curiosity in a test game with the two programs. The game have had not great quality, but it was clear that CHESS V played with much more concept, and it won in a good final. CHESS V game play should be improved, but it was a great thing that Zillions was beated. Congratulations, Greg!. To all the interested people, I can send the saved Zillions file.

Roberto Lavieri wrote on 2004-10-03 UTCGood ★★★★
Greg, I have tested three ULTIMA games using Chess V. Good effort!, I appreciate it a lot, but I have some observations. First, you can take the enemy King and the game continues without end. It happened with immobilized Kings in the three games, so I have not seen if it happens in other cases. The second observation is about the A.I. game play, it is possible that you have noted that Chess V is a weak ULTIMA player, (much more than I thought at first, surprisingly to me) and I noted a strong ingenuity with the Immobilizer power, perhaps you must augment the penalty for immobilized pieces to 50%, but it is necessary that the A.I. take also in account situations in wich the immobilizer is immobilized with a Chameleon and then be vulnerable in the future. I could capture the enemy immobilizer in this way twice. Kings can act in a better way in Coordination with the Coordinator, it is necessary augment the bonus in the position evaluation when there are more enemy pieces in line with the King after a King move. Pawn movement is ingenuous too, but it is not easy a solution, perhaps the best should be a good bonus in the position evaluation (not in the piece) for a movement that reduces the brut mobility of enemy pieces (number of squares the pieces can reach), and other bonus in the evaluation function (a bit less than the other) for a Pawn move that augments the number of potential capturing squares using the pawn moved, i.e., looking how many sandwiches can make the Pawn with own pieces, although there is or not an enemy piece between (covering potential). I know it is not easy improve a lot this game, but it should be good a revision. I´m very sorry I can´t help a lot with the code, but I´ll try to help you as I can.

Dan Baisden wrote on 2004-04-05 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
Is there anywhere to play the game online, other than against applets? I love the game, although when I used to play it the pawns moved one step orthoganally, could not be captured, and had still the (in that case) fairly unused ability to capture in a pincer fashion, one piece at a time. They mostly just got in the way. Civilian pedestrians, as it were.

carlos carlos wrote on 2004-03-30 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
thanks for the swift replies.

that is how i initially thought the withdrawers must operate.  but when
playing my game of ultima in the tournament, i got in a position to take
in this (diagonal) manner, but typed in my move and the piece remained on
the board.  so i changed my move.  until i saw ben's next move, i did
realise that i had to manually (as it were) remove the piece from the 
board myself with a separate command.  never mind!  thanks again for the

carlos carlos wrote on 2004-03-30 UTCExcellent ★★★★★
i have two questions about rules i am not completely certain on.

1/ can a pincer pawn capture more than one piece (in one direction)?  e.g.
if there is a friendly piece on f4, and enemy pieces on f2 and f3, can a
pawn move to f1 and capture both?  i think this is unlikely, but i want to

2/ can withdrawers capture by moving away on the diagonal from an enemy
piece?  e.g. enemy on g5, can a withdrawer capture it by moving from f4 to


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