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Stupid - the chess variant

Mike Hutton ((email removed contact us for address) wrote the following description on `Stupid', a crossover between `usual' chess and Ultima. In an email to me, he wrote about the game:

"Stupid" has got to be one of the toughest games I have ever played. It is almost impossible to look more than 4 moves ahead, and any decisive move is fraught with danger.

As was pointed out by Michael Keller, the initial position is different from that of Ultima, and the functions of bishops and knights are interchanged: in Ultima, bishops are chameleons, and knights are long leapers.


Stupid was invented several years ago (1987ish) by, amongst others, Paul Monckton (paul_(email removed contact us for address) com) and Chris Shaw. Credit is given to the inventors of the chess variant 'Ultima'.


Stupid is an amalgamation of chess and the chess variant 'Ultima'. The principle of the game is that a piece may EITHER move as a chess piece, OR move as an Ultima piece.


Each piece is given a double barrelled name of its chess and Ultima names. Thus we have:

8 Pincer-pawns (or Roller-pawns)
2 Leaper-bishops
2 Chameleon-knights (or Amoeba-knights)
1 Freezer-rook (or Immobilizer-rook)
1 Coordinator-rook
1 Retreater-queen
1 Emperor-king.


Yes! Stupid actually has two variants. The first ('Pure Stupid') does not allow a piece to amalgamate chess and Ultima moves. That is, a piece may not move as a chess piece and then take as an Ultima piece in the same move (or vice versa). The second variant ('Total Stupid') allows this amalgamation. For example, a pincer-pawn taking another piece by moving diagonally forward one square CANNOT take pieces adjacent to its new position as an pincer capture in 'Pure' Stupid, but CAN in 'Total' stupid.

I will outline the rules for 'Pure' Stupid (as these are somewhat simpler than 'Total' Stupid) below. If you require rules for 'Total' Stupid then I will try to oblige at a later point.

'Pure' Stupid

The object of the game is to TAKE the opponent's Emperor-king (checkmating is an optional rule and is not advisable for newcomers to the game).


Set the pieces up on the chessboard as for chess, and turn the queen's rook (the Coordinator-rook) on its head. In addition, place the black king opposite the white queen, and black queen opposite the white king, thus:

Emperor-king e1; Retreater-Queen d1; Freezer-Rook h1; Coordinator-Rook a1; Chameleon-Knight b1, g1; Leaper-Bishop c1, f1; Pincer-Pawn a2, b2, c2, d2, e2, f2, g2. h2.

Emperor-king d8; Retreater-Queen e8; Freezer-Rook h8; Coordinator-Rook a8; Chameleon-Knight b8, g8; Leaper-Bishop c8, f8; Pincer-Pawn a7, b7, c7, d7, e7, f7, g7. h7.

The reason for swapping the black queen and king will become obvious later.

General Principles

Only one piece may occupy a square at any one time. A piece may never move into a square occupied by a friendly piece.

The pieces

Emperor-King may move one space in any direction. If the space is occupied by an opponent's piece then it is taken.

Pincer-Pawn: May either:

  • Move one space forward into an unoccupied square, OR
  • Move two spaces forward into an unoccupied square if the pincer-pawn has not yet been moved, OR
  • Move one space diagonally forward to take an opponent's piece, OR
  • (Optional) take an opponent's pawn en passant (as in chess), OR
  • Move as a rook. If at the end of the rook move the pincer-pawn is adjacent to an enemy piece which itself is adjacent to another piece the same colour as the pincer pawn, the enemy piece is captured (all three pieces must lie in a straight line). When a pincer-pawn moves as a rook it may never move onto occupied squares.

Leaper-Bishop: May either:

  • Move diagonally in any direction and take as a bishop, or
  • Move as a chess queen, and leap horizontally, vertically, or diagonally over an opposing piece if the square immediately beyond is empty. The leaper may then continue taking opposing pieces if there are further enemy pieces, in line with the Leaper-bishop move, with one space between each piece.

Retreater-Queen moves as a chess queen. This piece may only take one piece at a time. It may either capture an adjacent enemy piece by moving directly away from it at the start of the Retreater-queen's move, or may take an enemy piece by moving onto its space (as per a chess queen).

Freezer-Rook moves as a chess queen. It may only capture enemy pieces as a chess rook (i.e. when it moves horizontally or vertically). In addition, any enemy pieces adjacent to the Freezer-rook may not be moved.

Coordinator-Rook moves as a chess queen. It may capture enemy pieces as a chess rook (i.e. when it moves horizontally or vertically). If it does not capture a piece in this way, then if at then end of its move an enemy piece is on the same file as the Coordinator-Rook and the same rank as the friendly Emperor-King (or same rank as Coordinator-Rook and same file as Emperor-King) then that piece is taken.

Chameleon-Knight: (deep breath in) This piece is a knightmare (apologies for the pun). That's why I've left it 'til last. This piece may either:

  • Move and take as a chess Knight (2 sq hor/vert + 1 sq vert/hor), OR
  • Move as a chess queen and take any enemy piece as that piece would take it in Ultima. I.e: It may take each opposing piece as follows:
    • Emperor-King: Moving onto square when 1 space away
    • Pincer-Pawn: Sandwiching P-P between C-K and another friendly piece.
    • Leaper-Bishop: Moving up to and Leaping over L-B into empty following space
    • Retreater-Queen: Starting move by moving directly away from R-Q.
    • Freezer-Rook: Cannot actually take F-R, but does immobilise it.
    • Coordinator-Rook: Takes if opposing C-R is on same rank/file as C-K / E-King @ end of move.
    • Chameleon-Knight: Cannot take (except as an optional case where end of C-K move results in all 4 C-K being adjacent thus:
    •         C-K  C-K
              C-K (C-K)

      when all but the C-K just moved are taken).

Well, there you have it. A few question and answers:

Why swap over the black king/queen at the start of the game?
- Stupid is difficult enough without having to worry about having your king coordinated. By switching the position of the black king & queen, it should be more obvious when someone intends to use their Coordinator-Rook to attack your Emperor-King.

Why use double barrelled names for all the pieces?
- OK, calling the King an Emperor-King may be a bit OTT, but the other pieces are double barrelled just so you can remember the duality of their moves (it's quite easy to forget sometimes!). Besides, it adds more annoyance value to the game.

Why no checkmate (for beginners at least)?
- Try it and you'll see!

OK, I'm a real masochist and want to try Total Stupid. How do I know which amalgamations are legal?
- Generally speaking, all of them are. You may (for instance) use your Retreater-Queen to move directly away from an opposing piece (taking it, of course), and then take a second piece by moving onto its square as a queen would. You may also take a piece with a Pincer-Pawn using a diagonal pawn-capture move, and then use pincer captures on enemy pieces now adjacent to that P-P. The only case I can think of which MAY be illegal is the following Leaper-Bishop move:

L-B ** ** C-R P-P ** R-Q **

L-B moves onto (and captures) C-R. It then leaps over P-P, and again over R-Q (capturing both). I THINK this is legal (but I may need to discuss this with Paul).

If you have any queries then please email me at huttm%(email removed contact us for address), and I'll try to answer you a.s.a.p.

Written by Mike Hutton.
Last modified: February 7, 1997.