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MatPlus.Net Forum General Fairy Chess - quo vadis?
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(1) Posted by Neal Turner [Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013 16:23]; edited by Neal Turner [13-04-17]

Fairy Chess - quo vadis?

This came up in the 1.66 points thread and I thought I'd extract it from there so we could have a discussion about the value of Fairy Chess.

Let's start with Marjan's statement:

"Fairy chess is certainly more in the spirit of our fast-food time, but I don't see it as a source of originality and quality. It is a fun to jump over the tradition to a new genre - without a history, or the set criteria. This may be attractive for new composers, but how to detect originality and quality in a just invented genre? And, how to value these problems for titles, without any great achievement in the field to compare with?"

I can understand this sentiment - orthodox problems have a long history and tradition and we've seen the evolution of ideas and the advancement of technique to the point where anybody operating at the front-line needs a great deal of both knowledge and skill in order to come up with anything original.

Compare this with some new fairy condition. There's no need for accumulated knowledge of what's gone before because there's nothing gone before, and there's no need for high technique because it's enough just to demonstrate simple mechanisms and still be original.
Saying this I'm not criticising composers of Fairy problems - it's the main reason I compose them myself!

But I do think that one of the problems is the tendency for Fairy enthusiasts to switch from one thing to another like butterflies flitting from flower to flower.
This means that for any particular Fairy form there's never a chance to put down a solid foundation on which to build and from which we can "detect originality and quality".
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(2) Posted by Marjan Kovačević [Tuesday, Apr 16, 2013 22:41]; edited by Marjan Kovačević [13-04-17]

Thanks so much Neal, for both opening the new thread, and formulating some of my thoughts better than I could have done!
I’ve been hoping for this kind of serious reaction to my last statements. Words are dangerous, they could be easily misunderstood in a discussion like this, and my English may take part in it.
Sven helped me the way he summarized the first part of my note („The only limit for chess composition is the human mind”), while you added a lot of good thoughts to make the second part clearer.
I planned to open a new thread like this one, in order to clear this subject from the content of the previous one. The evaluation of the contemporary fairy chess is too important to be confused with politics, ideology, Fide, subjectivity, studies, twomovers, and other emotional questions. What really interest me is to share different opinions about the qualities that make a composition worth a highest recognition.
I really don’t think the fairy chess is a fast-food by its nature. Not at all! We may just take a look at how Michel Caillaud and some others treat the fairy-chess art with high respect, and deny the title. The “fast-food” comparison was meant to describe the wider tendencies of the time and majority of composers: to go easier way, and to be self-satisfied whatever the result may be.
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(3) Posted by Ian Shanahan [Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013 03:06]; edited by Ian Shanahan [13-04-18]

"Compare this with some new fairy condition. There's no need for accumulated knowledge of what's gone before because there's nothing gone before, ...".

This viewpoint is rather simplistic. 'New' Fairy ideas are not produced from a cultural vacuum, but nearly always build upon, or are inspired by, some cognate predecessor. One must also remember that the evolution of so-called orthodox chess over the centuries has been driven by unorthodoxy. Bishop, Rook and Queen, for instance, were once Fairy pieces!
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(4) Posted by Neal Turner [Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013 09:12]; edited by Neal Turner [13-04-17]

I hope the new thread title is more appropiate.

Of course my comments were never meant to belittle Fairy chess composers, how could they be as I myself am one of them!
As Marjan indicated there are many experts out there displaying wonderful imagination and technique to produce masterpieces in the field.
In fact when I think about it, compared with those guys calling myself a 'composer' is something of an overstatement - borrowing a phrase from our OTB friends, 'wood-pusher' would maybe be a better description.
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(5) Posted by Sven Hendrik Lossin [Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013 23:19]

The question is not only valid for fairy chess.
In almost any other genre there are also some works that are funny but not profound on one hand and very deep or complex content on the other hand. There should be both and I think that it is good that the way that our art takes is not always straight.
To quote a word from Gamnitzer enhanced by Dowd: There should be fugues and popsongs. And heavy metal of course ;-)
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(6) Posted by Marjan Kovačević [Wednesday, Apr 17, 2013 23:54]; edited by Marjan Kovačević [13-04-18]

Let us try to close the Pandora ’s Box of the “1.66 thread” that attracted many subjective, aggressive and even offensive statements. Now that there is no Administrator to control the discussions, we have to rely on self-control in order to avoid the sad destiny of most forums and blogs.
Fairy chess seems to be the most interesting phenomenon of the contemporary composition. It is its fastest growing part. A completely new genre gives the freedom and innocence to a novice. No wonder it attracts interesting people. In fact, it brings us somehow to the beginning. It reminds of the good old times, when chess and chess problems attracted most educated people.
Seven days ago we missed to celebrate the first year of the wonderful novelty, the “Julia’s Fairies” website. No wonder it was fairy-chess that attracted this precious lady to our small community. In a single year, Julia Vysotska managed to create a miraculously friendly garden, that may serve as a far away dream for the rest of the problem world. Thank you, Julia!!
While fairies surely bring pleasure to the composers, they also bring questions, like those Neal mentioned. One of them is about originality:
Are first problems in a completely new fairy genre original by the definition? Or we could say exactly the opposite: that they have the smallest chance to be original – again by definition?
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(7) Posted by Ian Shanahan [Thursday, Apr 18, 2013 03:22]

"Are first problems in a completely new fairy genre original by the definition? Or we could say exactly the opposite: that they have the smallest chance to be original – again by definition?"

Marjan, these are very good questions. A pioneer problem in a new fairy genre is at least trivially original *ipso facto*; it is truly original only if some effect peculiar to the new genre is manifest in it. I don't think the second question you pose is true: there is a bigger chance of it being original than if the problem were in a well-explored field such as the orthodox H#2. Cheers!
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(8) Posted by Jacques Rotenberg [Thursday, Apr 18, 2013 03:26]


Why should fairy chess and originality be bound ?

Fairy or not fairy, I think you are perfectly able to enjoy when you meet a good problem.
Originality may be difficult to appreciate in any kind of problems.
I don't feel that authors go to fairy for originality matters specifically.
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(9) Posted by Neal Turner [Thursday, Apr 18, 2013 11:33]; edited by Neal Turner [13-04-18]

"Are first problems in a completely new fairy genre original by the definition? Or we could say exactly the opposite: that they have the smallest chance to be original – again by definition?"

I think we have to differentiate between what's happening in a problem and how it's happening.
In any new fairy genre the 'how' should by definition be original, as to the 'what' in all probability there won't be much that can be done that hasn't already been done.
Any genuinely new possibilities have to wait for Michel to find.
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(10) Posted by Eugene Rosner [Thursday, Apr 18, 2013 15:37]

I recall hearing, a long time ago, that one of the needs of fairy chess is to show themes that cannot be shown in their orthodox counterpart. As an example, if it is shown that a certain cyclone theme cannot be shown in orthodox form without twinning and then can be shown without twinning using the fairy form, that would be considered a good use of the form.

so, in a sense, from the above, it is good to have a working knowledge of previous themes in their orthodox counterpart to create something original.
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(11) Posted by Marjan Kovačević [Thursday, Apr 18, 2013 23:47]

There seem to be different meanings of the word “originality”. I had in mind the one that we value as an important quality of the certain composition. Perhaps it could be described as the opposite from being one among too many similar renderings. In such a scale, the number of earlier examples actually increases the chance to use the word “original”. Being different from hundreds is more original than being different from only one.
Here is a very concrete case. Long ago I judged a tourney that was specifically aimed to reward the most original and the most striking composition. All 9 Album genres were represented. One of the fairy problems used the rules of the “Kazan chess”. The author’s comment was: “Probably the first example of the Kazan chess!” From my point of view, the last sentence automatically downgrades this entry in the concrete competition. What do you think?
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(12) Posted by Neal Turner [Friday, Apr 19, 2013 11:41]

Ok now I think I get what you mean - I was confused earlier.
'Original' is when it's different than what's gone before - if there's nothing gone before then it can't be original.
Maybe we could call it 'new' in that case.
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(13) Posted by Marjan Kovačević [Friday, Apr 19, 2013 12:43]

Neal, "new" sounds appropriate to me in this case.
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(14) Posted by Juraj Lörinc [Friday, Apr 19, 2013 14:17]

So we can say that there are still large possibilities for both novelty and originality in fairy chess. There are fairy fields already well exploited, but most of them are far less exhausted that similar orthodox fields. In these well exploited fairy fields there are the largest possibilities for true originality.

I cannot accept idea that fairy problem showing the same theme as orthodox one (and not much else) is automatically inferior to the latter. The comparison between orthodox and fairy forms are welcome and often very useful, but as in all judgmental issues without objective criteria the comparison cannot be automated.
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(15) Posted by Steven Dowd [Friday, Apr 19, 2013 20:42]

I am not so vain as to think it may have been other issues with a problem I once developed, but I think I was the subject of the same type of critique, only in reverse, that Juraj describes. I took great effort to show something in an orthodox moremover that had only previously been shown in orthodox form with promoted pieces and with fairy pieces and conditions and the sole comment to the problem was that what I showed was "no big deal" as it had been shown many times already in fairy chess. I gave up trying to compose such moremovers right after seeing that critique, for better or worse.
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(16) Posted by Eugene Rosner [Friday, Apr 19, 2013 22:28]

now that's a shame Steven, it is a completely wrong approach. If it has never been shown in an orthodox moremover and you showed it, than that's original. The arrow only goes one way, from orthodox to heterodox, not the other way around!
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(17) Posted by Steven Dowd [Saturday, Apr 20, 2013 19:54]

Thanks for the uplifting words, Eugene, but the problem may also have been flawed in other ways.

Evidently Fairy Chess has always been polarizing:

The Talk of the Town March 27, 1943

Fairy Chess has been a hard row to hoe in the U. S. Mr. Geoffrey Mott-Smith said. For instance, the Chess Review, an American magazine, came out a few years ago with a six-page Fairy Chess Department conducted by an enthusiast named Maxwell Bukofzer. After a couple of issues Bukofzer demanded ten pages. The editors refused, and Bukofzer quit in a huff.

That's as much as they give you for free.

I can't afford a subscription, but if anyone here has a digital subscription to the New Yorker, I would be interested in this now 70 year-old story. I have all the Chess Reviews, and there is some interesting discussion of fairy chess in those years, but nothing to suggest this.
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(18) Posted by seetharaman kalyan [Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 13:34]

I have the happy task of judging the entries for my Jubilee tourney featuring the Superguards Chess. The award will be ready in a week. Sorry for the delay. I was happy to see the interesting views above which will be useful in my task. However my personal view is not to devalue problems in the new fairy genre just because that theme has been done neatly and done many times in orthodox chess. Should a reciprocal change in Superguards chess be devalued just because it has been done so many times in orthodox chess? I will be looking at how the new genre has been used in the new problem and whether the end result is interesting and entertaining. Nothing more, nothing less.

If a new theme is shown it is a lucky find and will be recognised, but familiar themes will not be ignored.
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(19) Posted by Uri Avner [Thursday, Apr 25, 2013 10:12]

This discussion is important in a sense, because there's a lot of misunderstanding going-on about the essence of chess composition in general and fairy chess in particular. This misunderstanding seems to be shared not only by inexperienced composers but by the best composers among us.
Shortly, before we fall into the trap of a somewhat hollow (and dogmatic) discussion, we should first try, in my opinion, to reach a solid ground (more or less) regarding the question of what chess composition is all about.
The answer to this question (just try to think about it) is not immediate or easy at all, and although I do have some personal idea about it, I will not bring it presently, as I need some more time to put it into sensible words.
In the meantime I would be happy to step aside and read other people's opinions.
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(20) Posted by Eugene Rosner [Thursday, Apr 25, 2013 23:25]

we can start with Wikipedia's 5 statements and go from there!

The position is composed – that is, it has not been taken from an actual game, but has been invented for the specific purpose of providing a problem. Although a constraint on orthodox chess problems is that the original position be reachable via a series of legal moves from the starting position, most problem positions would not arise in over-the-board play.
There is a specific stipulation, that is, a goal to be achieved; for example, to checkmate Black within a specified number of moves.
There is a theme (or combination of themes) that the problem has been composed to illustrate: chess problems typically instantiate particular ideas.
The problem exhibits economy in its construction: no greater force is employed than that required to render the problem sound (that is, to guarantee that the problem's intended solution is indeed a solution and that it is the problem's only solution).
The problem has aesthetic value. Problems are experienced not only as puzzles but as objects of beauty. This is closely related to the fact that problems are organized to exhibit clear ideas in as economical a manner as possible.
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MatPlus.Net Forum General Fairy Chess - quo vadis?