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Baroque a.k.a. Ultima is a chess variant in which all the pieces except the kings have quite different powers than in regulation chess. They all make non-capturing moves like queens (except the "pawns" which move like rooks and the kings which are just normal kings), but each piece has its own weird way of "capturing". The game is played on a normal chessboard with a normal chess set except that one rook on each side is turned upside down: the queen is a withdrawer, the bishops are chameleons, etc. The object is still to checkmate the enemy king. The rules can be found at the Wikipedia page.

Back in the 60s I had a friend who was much better than me at chess. We often played chess variants, including baroque, and on occasion we even played chess vs. baroque: one player would have a set of normal chessmen, the other had a "baroque" set with king, withdrawer, coordinator, immobilizer, leapers, chameleons, and pinchers.

Given the great dissimilarity between the two armies, chess vs. baroque is hardly likely to be a balanced game. Almost certainly one side has an overwhelming advantage. Nevertheless, to my humiliation, I always lost, whichever side I took.

Question. Which side has the advantage in chess vs. baroque?

Clarification: checkmate, or capture the king?

According to the rules of Baroque Chess on the Wikipedia page,

The objective of the game is to capture the opposing king.

I'm not sure if that's how I was playing Baroque over 50 years ago. In Chess vs. Baroque, it seems only reasonable that either both sides should be playing to capture the king, or else both should be playing with regular check, checkmate, and stalemate rules. As a chessplayer I guess I'd slightly prefer both sides playing to checkmate, but if you find it more convenient to have both sides play to capture the king, that's fine, and I can't imagine it will make much difference to the answer. I guess capture-the-king is easier to program, if you're going to try analyzing with a machine.

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  • Is the side with normal chess pieces trying to checkmate the enemy king or to capture it ?
    – Evargalo
    Nov 27, 2023 at 7:40
  • Good point. I hadn't thought about that. I will add a clarification to my question.
    – bof
    Nov 27, 2023 at 7:56
  • The vast difference in piece mobility and the possibility for multiple captures seem to give an overwhelming advantage to the player with ultima pieces. But as they say in opening books: this assessment needs practical tries.
    – Evargalo
    Nov 27, 2023 at 8:13
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    No doubt you're right, and my ignominious defeat handling the ultima pieces just goes to show what a patzer I was and am. Reminds me of the anecdote about the chess master who convinced a patzer that giving queen odds was an advantage to the odds giver, by alternately giving and receiving the odds and throwing the game every time he had the queen.
    – bof
    Nov 27, 2023 at 8:23

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