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MatPlus.Net Forum General Helpselfmate independence!?
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(1) Posted by Neal Turner [Friday, Dec 31, 2021 22:35]

Helpselfmate independence!?

I noticed in a recent award featuring 16 problems,that 7 of them (including the first 5!) were orthodox helpselfmates.
By 'orthodox' we mean that these were positions with no fairy content, but still picking up the top honours in a fairy tourney.
This is just an extreme example of what now seems to be a common trend.
Isn't it time that the helpselfmate became a recognised genre in its own right, with separate sections and tourneys?
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(2) Posted by shankar ram [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 07:54]

feenschach has a separate section for hs#s/hs=s called "hilfzwingspiel", but this includes "orthodox" problems, as well those with fairy pieces and/or conditions. There used to be separate sections for Circe and Madrasi too in the 80s. But these were subsequently removed, probably due to reduction in the number of originals. But hs#s/hs=s look like they'll remain.
The dominance of hs#s has risen over the last 15 years and the "orthodox" ones are almost always judged with other fairies, even in cases like the above.

The fairy section in the 6th world cup specifically asked for hs#s without any fairy pieces or conditions in 3-5 moves. Here are the judge Vlaicu Crişan's comments from the award:
"I consider the help-self genre as belonging merely to the heterodox group, together with helpmates, selfmates and reflex compositions. Unfortunately, due to a certain lack of proper classification, currently the help-self genre is viewed as a fairy genre. However, in my humble opinion, as genuine fairy problems should be considered only the chess compositions employing fairy pieces and/or fairy conditions. This kind of separation is also supported within the Romanian Tzuica Tournaments organized every year during the WFCC congresses."

Vlaicu seems to imply that changes in the stipulation without addition of fairy pieces, fairy conditions and of course, fairy boards should go into the "heterodox" group. Or maybe he doesn't? Maybe only those stipulations that have become "customary" should be included?

Perhaps a separate section for "orthodox" hs#s could be created in the FIDE/WFCC competitions like the Album, WCCT, WCCI, World Cup and Olympic tourneys.
But that proposal would need to go through the WFCC. Do you feel up to it, Neal? ;-)
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(3) Posted by Vitaly Medintsev [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 07:56]

So true, Neal.
I think it is the time!
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(4) Posted by Joost de Heer [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 09:53]

Then you should have a separate section for stalemate as well. And then series-movers. And a separate section for retros and proofgames as well, please. Can we have a separate category for mathematical problems as well?

At what point will you stop the separation?
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(5) Posted by Vitaly Medintsev [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 10:36]

A chess problem which stipulation other than a mate belongs to the fairy genre.
Several magazines, for example, StrateGems, hold separate tourneys for series-movers.
A separate section of retros and profgames is already exists.
Mathematical problems have no artistic value.

Considering the above limitations, the current popularity of some stipulation,
expressed in the number of the stipulated problems participating in composing tourneys,
can be a criterion.
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(6) Posted by Ulrich Voigt [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 10:47]

"Mathematical problems have no artistic value."

Who decides what has artistic value?
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(7) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 10:59]

@Ulrich: Obviously the local judge, no appeal possible ;-)

Here is a SCHWALBE problem'o'mine, which got a prize
despite being 100% math. But it has a high "WAT?" value :-)
Let ABCD be squares on a chessboard. A nightrider can move
between any pairs of these squares, except from C to D.
What (smallest) rider can move from C to D?
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(8) Posted by Vitaly Medintsev [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 12:08]

@Ulrich: Anthology of chess problems (FIDE Albums) decides.
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(9) Posted by Olaf Jenkner [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 12:31]

It's not the question to stop the separation.
The question is: How much can a stipulation dominate a section, before something happens?
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(10) Posted by Juraj Lörinc [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 14:51]

My view on some of the questions raised above are as follows. Take them, please, as views of someone actively working in many heterodox and fairy directions for more than 30 years, with most experience with fairy pieces and conditions and much less with orthodox h#, s# and other stipulations currently classified as fairies without further fairy elements, while I am usually just very interested admirer of direct mates of all lengths.

Why there are created and kept separate sections for different genres? My understanding is that there are two main conditions to be fulfilled:

1. real difference in the composing approach and usual thematical content to be shown, requiring besides specific requirements from composers also specific knowledge of judges,
2. sufficient amount of works with interesting content, with large creative space still open ensuring future inflow of creations.

As Shankar Ram has pointed, the sections in feenschach (for me laboratory of fairy chess) are changing over time, with Circe and Madrasi once being kept separately, precisely for the reasons above – and disappearing as soon as at least the second condition was no longer fulfilled.

The appearance of the separate h# and s# sections in the second half of the 20th century was on the larger scale due to the longer time fulfilment of both conditions that was confirmed by then future development of both h# and s# genres (greatly aided by use of computers for the most complicated ideas making correct).

Does orthodox hs# genre deserve its own section?

Let’s look at some numbers first. In the FIDE Album 1980-1982 there are still no separate sections for h# and s#. How many orthodox h# and s# existed before 1980? Hard to say, but at least I can do search in the big WinChloe db, I have used condition Annee1 < 1980 and Annee2 < 1980 for both:
- 32645 h#
- 21441 s#
And how many orthodox hs# are there up to now in the big WinChloe db?
- 1624 hs#

This is lower number by whole order! Of course, big WinChloe db is far for complete, but on the other hand when I use it for various purposes, it is already quite useful and close to complete thanks to fantastic tireless work of Christian Poisson and his team of contributors over more than 20 years. It could be the largest existing database of chess problems (WinChloe has as of 12.12.2021 832722 problems, as of writing time PDB 456192, YACPDB 529511). Another caveat – I could have made some error in working with the database.

In any case I think this quantitative argument is sufficient to be against creation of separate section for orthodox hs# on top level. (Of course, private tourneys are very different matter... any sections are very welcome.)

What about the requirements for the composers and judges and general specific interesting content and creative space available to orthodox hs#? This is more question of the opinion, but based on my experience, I think that they are too close to orthodox h#. They have usually very similar content (I even remember bernd ellinghoven making in his h# revolutions series in feenschach a remark about one idea in a sense “I was unable to finish it as h#, but it worked as hs#”, hinting that technical possibilities of hs# helped to overcome difficulties set in the h# genre). While it is by no means different genre having some details very different from helpmates, many constructional and thematical elements are very similar. Even the lists of authors of good problems found in orthodox h# and hs# genres are probably very similar. There is usually much more difference between average orthodox hs# and hs# with fairy elements than between orthodox hs# and orthodox h#.

We do not need new sections, there are already quite many. Any further spin-offs from the fairy section should be considered very carefully.

The fact pointed by Neal in the first post (“in a recent award featuring 16 problems,that 7 of them (including the first 5!) were orthodox helpselfmates”) is in my view more signal of either preference of judge(s) or coincidence coming from other circumstances (orthodox h# composers having hs# inspiration, timing of the tourney, motivation for orthodox composers to cover the fairy section...).

(And I will not delve now into slightly related questions of the help-play brutally over-powering the antagonistic play recently, or in the overal question of eroding quality of fairy FIDE Album entrants...)
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(11) Posted by Ulrich Voigt [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 16:26]

@Vitaly: Nope. FIDE Albums decide what artistic values they are interested in. There are things outside the FIDE Albums that do have artistic value.
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(12) Posted by shankar ram [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 16:32]

Here are the year-wise numbers of helpself problems from the latest WinChloe Echecs database. How does one do tables here??
Obviously they can't match the h# and s# numbers yet, since they only took off in this century. The numbers for 2020 and 2021 may be incomplete for pandemic and other reasons. There is a definite trend of HS problems with fairy pieces/conditions overtaking the orthodox variety.

Year Ortho Fairy All
1912 102 44 146
2000 1 14 15
2001 2 29 31
2002 5 33 38
2003 12 23 35
2004 22 42 64
2005 36 56 92
2006 150 133 283
2007 46 230 276
2008 57 161 218
2009 68 180 248
2010 87 156 243
2011 66 132 198
2012 75 391 466
2013 59 235 294
2014 58 190 248
2015 118 415 533
2016 135 167 302
2017 133 149 282
2018 109 137 246
2019 108 325 433
2020 102 97 199
2021 61 55 116
Total 1612 3394 5006
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(13) Posted by Vlaicu Crisan [Saturday, Jan 1, 2022 18:56]

@shankar ram: For me, there is absolutely nothing fairy in a stipulation like "stalemate in 2 moves". Yet, the stalemates in 2 moves are still included within the fairies section in the FIDE Album. That makes the fairies section merely look like a big "garbage collection", where we throw almost everything that doesn't quite properly fit into the other established and respectable sections. :-)

I also agree with Juraj: any declaration of "HelpSelf[Mate] independence" should be very carefully considered. But I have a slightly different view on the main reasons.

I think there are two main groups of chess compositions - the antagonistic play (i.e direct mates, selfmates and defensive retractors) and help play (i.e. helpmates, helpself compositions and proof games). Therefore switching from one genre to another one from the same group in order to [best] express an idea is quite common in composing! This is called "exploration" and sometimes comes quite naturally - see for instance why many leading #3 composers are also excellent #n composers.

The historic argument is again a double-edged one: why should we wait 100+ years until we have at least 20K+ published HS to make such a separation decision? Why shouldn't we compare instead the number of published HS against other established genres within the same period of time? That might probably give us another perspective.

So, my main reserve against the HS independence is based on a perceived injustice to other genres which are currently still classified as fairies instead of heterodox. Another reserve is related to the impact on solving competitions like WCSC: I think it is very difficult to suggest changing the current format to include the newly created heterodox section.

Anyway, I will strongly support any such independence declaration, but for a rather faulty reason: it provides an excellent opportunity for composers to break the submission limit of 30 problems / section in the FIDE Album! :-)
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(14) Posted by Dmitri Turevski [Sunday, Jan 2, 2022 13:44]

eroding quality of fairy FIDE Album entrants...

Is there no mistake? "Entrants" means persons, why personal qualities should be a concern?
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(15) Posted by Andrew Buchanan [Sunday, Jan 2, 2022 14:31]

@Vitaly & Ulrich,

Got to strongly agree with Ulrich here. Mathematics is an art as much as a science. Beauty is an aesthetic which helps us all navigate its otherwise forbidding terrain. "Proofs from the Book" have the capacity to delight and awe as much as any chess problem. There are wonderful YouTube video channels (e.g 3Blue1Brown) which show visually the beauty inherent in mathematics. And the humbler domain of Mathematical Puzzles show artistry: look at Gathering 4 Gardner, which still takes place annually and where the participants share delight at the artistic constructions of their peers. Look at how an entry is judged in puzzles.stackexchange.

And I suppose we say that chess problems exhibit artistry. So it would be extraordinarily surprising if mathematical chess problems (whatever they are) did not allow for artistic sensibility to be shown.

I think one difficulty may be that historically and even to the present day, problems which didn't quite fit into another genre got lumped into the mathematics genre. A bunch of things where perhaps one simply counted the number of solutions, without any abstraction, symmetry or purpose. A general issue seems to be that we have a paucity of terms for all the compositions in exile from the densely-populated (and now less fertile) lands of orthodoxy.

It's curious that Vitaly should make his post at New Year, for this is when Noam Elkies, myself and for the last couple of years, two other composers try our hand to make problems with a specific number of solutions corresponding to the coming year. What is interesting this year is not just that the four stipulations are all very different, but the arithmetic too. Four completely different arithmetic routes have been taken to reach the total of 2022.

I think as a community we are getting an increasing notion of how to embed constructional artistry in mathematical chess problems. In my own efforts, I have been influenced not just by Noam, but also folk like Richard Stanley, Valery Liskovets, Vaclav Kotesovec and others.

Have a look here:

Onwards and upwards!
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(16) Posted by Juraj Lörinc [Sunday, Jan 2, 2022 15:02]

Thanks Dmitri - I meant entries, not entrants... I apologize to all entrants :)
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(17) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Monday, Jan 3, 2022 21:13]

@Juraj: As long as you don't confuse awful/awesome or terrible/terrific on a funeral/wedding... :-)
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MatPlus.Net Forum General Helpselfmate independence!?