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MatPlus.Net Forum General Of The Standard of Taste
 
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(1) Posted by Milan Velimirović (+) [Wednesday, Dec 13, 2006 12:55]

Of The Standard of Taste


Uri Avner has recently recommended the essay Of the Standard of Taste by David Hume. In some way I was privilegued to be recommended the same several years ago. First time I read it I had a troubles with for me very difficult author's English language (I think it is called "High English", but I'm not sure) and odd interpunction. It was a very slow reading, but the slower it was my I enjoyment was bigger. Since then I have read the essay many times (always with same difficulties, and same pleasure). I would join to Uri's recommendation and advice everybody, especially the tourney judges, to read the essay carefully and apply the windsom found there in estimating the merit of chess compositions they evaluate.

Regardless of whether you have read the essay or not, I invite you to take part in discussion I propose here. I feel that the problem quoted below should be analyzed more methodically and rationally than the tourney judge did. The best starting point for the analysis is to solve the problem first, therefore the solution is hidden.
 
Sally and Tony Lewis
1.Pr The Problemist 2004(= 6+11 )
#2
 

========
*1... Qc5 2.Re6#, 1... Se7 2.Rd5#
1.Qh5? ~ 2.Re6#, 1... Sf7 2.Qg6#, 1... Be5: 2.Qe5:#, 1... Rd5!
1.Qe4? ~ 2.Rd5#, 1... Be5: 2.Qe5:#, 1... Qa5:!
1.Qe3? ~ 2.Rd5#, 1... Qa5: 2.Qc5#, 1... Be5: 2.Qe5:#, 1... Sf7!
1.Bc1! ~ 2.Qf6#
1... Be5: 2.Ba3:#
1... Ke5: 2.Qf4#
1... Rd5 2.Qd5:#
1... Rf1 2.Qd5#
1... Bc4 2.Sc4:#

========
(if you are inpatient, select the area between "========" lines: point to first line, press the left button and drag the pointer until the last line).

I am sure that, having solved this problem, everybody felt the same strong and positive sentiments.

Now, imagine you have this problem in a tourney you judge. It is time to put the sentiments aside and evaluate the real merit of this problem. The ever growing experience and knowledge established several general principles according which it should be done, like: originality, economy, harmony, aesthetics... And don't forget the complexity of theme and difficulty of its realisation.

Take you time to make your opinion and then please take the part in discussion! One thing I am sure is that there will be a lot of controversy in this thread, but with benefit for all of us eventually.
 
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(2) Posted by Uri Avner [Thursday, Dec 14, 2006 01:54]; edited by Uri Avner [06-12-15]

I wouldn't dismiss Marjan's comments as judge so hastily. In fact, much of what Marjan says in his award (Problemist, Nov 2006) matches my own feelings and thoughts.

Sally & Tony's problem is unusual and as such defies conventional analysis.

The main feature, as I see it, circles around the element of surprise.

The present problem redoubles the element of surprise originated by Loyd's own problem. It does so by building another layer of surprise, wrapping Loyd's old and astonishing idea with a misleading fog of innocent looking modern try-play. This little drop of irony is exactly what leads us to rediscover and reevaluate Loyd's ancient idea.

Finally, we are left with an unusual blend of contrasting elements: a well known symbol of our legendary past and a rather routine contemporary practice. This irreconcilable contrast is part of our enjoyment of this particular problem.
 
 
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(3) Posted by Milan Velimirović (+) [Thursday, Dec 14, 2006 17:57]

Actually, I did not dismiss the judge's comments at all. Perheps you noticed the implied not disaproval but rather scepticism in my words. I just cannot help feeling a discomfort with making my opinion only by emotions, disregarding all the experience, comprehension, views on chess compesition, etc., etc. and (without the false modesty) knowledge, I acquired or formed during 40 years. Every work of art must be submitted to the examination and criticism, this one is no exception.

In your words, Uri, I still find more emotions than ratio in explanation why this problem is so good. The only concrete reason you mention is a "surprise", but it sounds to me very laconic. Is this problem so good to be amnestied from further analysis? Is it the "ultimate quality and beauty" to make the judge so convinced that there can exist nothing better ("The moment I saw it I gave it First Prize")? And is it really better composition than two, I would dare to say "masterpieces" if I am not afraid to be too hasty, immediately following it in the award, especially to my opinion outstanding 3rd Prize?

There are also some formal issues. Why was the remark "after Samuel Loyd" omitted in the caption of the problem? Of course, because the element of surprise would probably be evaporated, no joke is funny if you tell it from the point. But does this conscious breaking of the codex of behaviour make this problem at least partially anticipated? Is this the invitation to other composers to add the mist to other Loyd's ideas (hundereds are at offer!) and justify it by précédent established by possibly exaggerated rewarding this problem? I cannot think of other person as competent as the President of PCCC to answer these questions.

I also have a considerable doubts regarding the content, economy, harmony, aesthetics and real depth of this problem. But who am I, a poor mortal, I to offer the answers? I am only asking the questions and please try not to criticise me for that: only the answers can be critisized.
 
   
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(4) Posted by Uri Avner [Thursday, Dec 14, 2006 18:55]; edited by Uri Avner [07-01-02]

Sorry, Milan, if I misunderstood you. Thanks for the correction.
About emotion in judging: sometimes you cannot avoid basing your judgment not on pure logic but on emotion.
But if so, whose emotions should be trusted? An answer to this intricate question would require much more than the use of emotion alone...
Another related question: is there really such a big gap between reason and emotion? Recent psychological research tells us that this is not necessarily the case. It seems sounder to speak of interdependence between these faculties.
This touches upon the subject of "objectivity" in criticism, and how to recognize and hunt such an exquisite animal.
More to come...
P.S. Please see an amended (and reamended) version of my previous post.
 
   
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(5) Posted by Uri Avner [Saturday, Dec 16, 2006 03:04]; edited by Uri Avner [06-12-16]

To the question of "After Loyd", in my opinion there is no need for this indication here, not just because the element of surprise would be lost, but because it is absolutely clear (after solving) that Loyd's idea is embedded there (like the embedded figure in certain puzzles). It is obviously not an attempt to steal Loyd's idea (and therefore not an ethical issue); the intention is to use the idea and its form in a context which gives it another impact. Don't we do much the same when we are making use of the Novotny mechanism?
 
 
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(6) Posted by Milan Velimirović (+) [Saturday, Dec 16, 2006 03:06]

I am not sure if Sally and Tony had ambitious competitive aspiration with their twomover, but knowing them both personally, especially a "less beautiful half" with whom I had numerous conversations supported by two or three (or more, but who counts) times numerous rounds of beer, one thing I am sure is that they did have in mind the solvers' amusement. They certainly paid another trubute to Samuel Loyd, the greatest bard in history of chess poetry.

This post is a slight digression from discussion we started, but it seems to be a suitable time and place for it. It will take a lot of typing, but decided not to be lazy... I will also quote few positions we all know, but it's good to have them in front of our eyes.

Many years ago I wondered what was actual Loyd's idea with American Indian. Of course, destruction of the battery and sacrificial ambush key are not questionable, but was the BQ behind the BB (or second BR in lateral version - see example 1) an integral part of the idea, or just the most convenient way to prevent the WB to mate from shorter range. For example,
 
S. Loyd
New York Sunday Herald 1889
(= 12+12 )
#2
Frank Janet (after S. Loyd)
British Chess Magazine 1918
(= 6+5 )
#2
(example 1)
 
(= 6+5 )
#2
does the third position show a real American Indian? The best place to search for the answer, if there was one, was Alain White's monumental biographical book "Sam Loyd and His Chess Problems". And indeed, in chapter "The American Indian Theme" we can find quoted Loyd's spcification: "The key withdraws a guarding piece to a remote square, so as to attack a Black man which in turn threatens a White piece previously guarded by the key piece but now open to capture by the Black King. If the Black man captures the piece initially guarded, the key piece passes through the square vacated by the Black man and captures a second Black man giving mate". Looks more like the description of the content than the definition, but it is clear and with no ambiguity. So what we see on third diagram is not an American Indian.

[I wonder why Loyd "missed the opportunity" to add another BS and few black pawns to give the black evident material advantege :)) ]

Later in the same chapter there is a (rather long) paragraph related to one of the issues mentioned in our discussion.

I'll try to quote the words of A. C. White with as few typing errors as possible:
"Loyd refers to his two versions, in his MS., as an example of how themes may be treated in separate problems without actually infringing on copyright as embodied in the ownership of definite renderings. The distinctions which mark the boundaries between renderings that may be considered original and those that are merely reproductions, cannot I fear be decided in any dogmatic way. The shades of varying relationships are too intangible. Even the distinctions between actual themes depend sometimes on the placing of a piece or two. In No.495 (diagram below, - MV), place the Black Rook at e5, remove the other Black Rook and the King's Pawn, and shift the Knight from h6 to g7, and a twomover (1.Re6) results almost identical with a celebrated problem by J. B. of Bridport (Ill. Lond. News, 1863) (example 2 - MV), which has no apparent thematic connection with the American Indian. Thus do very small changes in problems have great effects, and thus are most two-ers, however widely separated in appearance, really closely interrelated. The legality of individual renderings, which Loyd wanted to regulate as it were by statute, can never be regulated, except by the decisions of particular judges in particular cases".

Samuel Loyd
N. Y. State Association,
22nd February 1892(= 8+8 )
#2 (1.Ra6)
 
(example 2)
 
(= 8+6 )
#2 (1.Re6)
 
(example 3)
 
(= 6+4 )
#2 (1.Re6)
Note: dual in example 2 is easily corrected, e.g. example 3.
 
   
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(7) Posted by Uri Avner [Saturday, Dec 16, 2006 14:29]

Milan, if your interest was aroused by Hume's dissertation, I suspect that you would find other writings interesting as well.
May I suggest the following article as a starting point to many others that can be found on the internet, with the apparent danger of turning you into an addict to the philosophy of aesthetics:
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aesthetic-judgment/
 
   
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(8) Posted by Milan Velimirović (+) [Sunday, Dec 17, 2006 13:58]

Uri, I could hardly say that I am interested in Hume's dissertation itself, but I enjoy very much finding the connection with chess composition. As a matter of fact there are some points where I cannot agree with his thoughts, at least when this connection is concerned. I think that each chess composer is to some degree a philosopher.

Anyway, thank you very much for recommending another text!


 
 
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(9) Posted by Milan Velimirović (+) [Monday, Dec 18, 2006 17:16]

If anybody is interested, I've searched for the twomover Alain C. White refers to, and found - two positions:
 
John Brown Of Bridport
Ill. London News,
Oct. 31, 1863(= 6+6 )
#2
S. Gold
(after J. B. of Bridport)
Bahn Frei 1893(= 6+4 )
#2
 
My personal "Codex of Behaviour" says that, despite the elimination of a serious dual, a more appropriate caption above the second diagram should have been:
J. B. of Bridbort (version S. Gold)
 
   
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(10) Posted by seetharaman kalyan [Friday, Aug 20, 2010 20:53]; edited by seetharaman kalyan [10-08-20]

Has anybody got an English translation of the essay ("Of the Standard of Taste" by David Hume) referred to by Milan in the first post of this thread ? !!
 
   
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(11) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Saturday, Aug 21, 2010 18:03]

Eh...it's linked in the post? :-)
Here's another:
http://www.csulb.edu/~jvancamp/361r15.html

Hauke
 
   
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(12) Posted by seetharaman kalyan [Saturday, Aug 21, 2010 19:08]

Oh... I thought it was Spanish.!!
 
   
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(13) Posted by Kevin Begley [Sunday, Aug 22, 2010 15:11]

I'm no #2 expert, but for me, Loyd's American Indian problem is one of the ugliest, and one of the most beautiful.
In different respects, of course.

I suspect that Loyd's aesthetically incorrect rendering (I understand he has some excuse, but how fully this can pardon him is a matter beyond my pay-grade) has retarded the development of a remarkable thematic idea.

I think we all knew something much better must be possible; and, perhaps this 1st Prize proves we were right.
Still, I can't help but still think that this new problem, too, doesn't yet penetrate the depths of what might be possible...

Can a judge, at a glance, render an accurate judgment on this problem?
Certainly not.

I assume the judge's comment to be based upon a poor expression, rather than an actual "snap-judgment."
I think I know what was meant: it is natural to WANT this problem to win (assuming it holds up under closer scrutiny).
But, before I'd hand it a commendation, I'd attempt a few dozen problems using their idea... to learn what they put into their version.

Much time is required to formulate any opinion about the merits of this particular judgment.
I very much enjoyed reading this discussion, and hope to hear more from the experts in this field...

I can say this: I hope this award leads to more development of this theme.

Though, I do wonder if the name of the theme is appropriate... given Loyd's time & place, etc...
Not long ago, a problem author made a remarkably poor reference to this theme name... and it caused some serious tension.
 
   
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(14) Posted by seetharaman kalyan [Sunday, Aug 22, 2010 20:16]

My answer to Milan's question in the first post is:

I wouldnt give that problem a prize. A commendation perhaps. I consider it partially anticipated by Loyd's pioneer. Dressing it up with deceptive set-plays of grimshaw and self-blocks adds a new twist to it but doesn't make the problem original. If they had made a mutate (which is their specialty) out of that setting I might have had second thoughts.
 
   
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(15) Posted by Gerhard Josten [Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010 17:47]

There is no standard of taste at all: De gustibus non est disputandum.
Gerhard
 
   
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(16) Posted by Kevin Begley [Wednesday, Aug 25, 2010 20:39]; edited by Kevin Begley [10-08-25]

I submit that one reason this modern recast of an ancient Loyd theme draws such caws ("anticipated"), might be due to a collective desire to supplant Loyd's original, unaesthetic expression.

I've seen modern two-move themes get stepped on harder, without a chirp.
I'd often wonder if the preceding #2 might have been lost in a tense poker game (only to be lost again, before every next issue).
This is particularly true in formal themes (where there's scant vacancy for originality, the judges are forced to make accommodations).

Have a look sometime at award statistics, by theme, and you'll quickly realize what fine accommodations our judges have made.

There is a narrow spectrum of themes which appears to be winning prizes at the rate of nearly 40% (awards at nearly 70%) -- where it often requires a diamond cutter lens to distinguish one "original" from another.
I'll give you one guess (hint: many flaws were overlooked, based merely upon the achievement of these themes).

It is cause for concern if the "standards of taste" must conform to such a narrow band.

Frankly, I question whether a clique of modern composers can ever be trusted to judge the work of modern composers.
I'd have more faith were these matters entrusted to a more impartial referee: experienced, but still unpublished solvers.
 
   
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(17) Posted by Geoff Foster [Thursday, Aug 26, 2010 00:38]

"I submit that one reason this modern recast of an ancient Loyd theme draws such caws ('anticipated'), might be due to a collective desire to supplant Loyd's original, unaesthetic expression."

It was supplanted long ago by the following problem, which was reproduced in Brian Harley's "Mate in Two Moves".

F Janet (after S Loyd), British Chess Magazine, Sept. 1918
(= 6+5 )
#2
 
   
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(18) Posted by Kevin Begley [Thursday, Aug 26, 2010 09:51]

Geoff,

>"It was supplanted long ago by the following problem..."

Yes, the corrected versions are well known.
The point was that we desire to continually supplant Loyd's problem... with whatever is the latest & greatest.
This fulfills our desire to show Loyd's problem in the manner that he should have originally chosen to express it.

It seems highly improbable, to me, that Loyd would have arrived at the prized version opening this thread.
And, even if I thought he might have, I would not consider it fair to credit Loyd for what is, clearly, a modern work.
 
 
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(19) Posted by Sergiy Didukh [Thursday, Aug 26, 2010 17:46]

Gerhard, the Latin expression doesn’t mean there’s no standard of taste. Your translation or interpretation of it is not exact. It’s just an advice not to start discussion about tastes because they are different. By saying that there’s no standard of taste you claim that there are no better and worse tastes, no better and worse compositions (no scale to measure them). Why then do I doubt that the taste of a very weak chess player is as good as Kasparov’s? Because tastes can be developed, get better. For that, standard of taste must exist, and philosophers understood it.
 
   
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(20) Posted by Gerhard Josten [Thursday, Aug 26, 2010 22:04]

Sergiy,
who can decide on the quality of chess compositions in a reliable manner? And who is able to declare without any doubt that one taste is better and the other one is worse? All composers are aware of the fact that different schools came and went, because the tastes changed from time to time. A look into the history of chess informs us that chess compositions originally were developed as riddles. However, today endgame studies are flooded by themes which originated in mate compositions of problems. The reason is clear: There is no more space for new ideas in problems and therefore the problemists are infiltrating the endgame studies.
If you compare the judgement of composition with games in tournaments, you are not right, I believe. Chess players are able to control their quality simply by the results which they receive in their games - against Kasparov or someone else.
Finally let's have a look at another form of art, eg paitings. Who was better: Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cezanne, Pierre Auguste Renoir oder Peter Paul Rubens? No one would dare to answer this question but in chess compositions we dare to do so. My opinion is still: It doesn't make any sense to discuss on the quality of art - philosophers included.
Gerhard
 
   
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MatPlus.Net Forum General Of The Standard of Taste