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MatPlus.Net Forum General Conformity to genre categorization
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(1) Posted by Kevin Begley [Tuesday, Jul 7, 2020 22:20]; edited by Kevin Begley [20-07-08]

Conformity to genre categorization

I always thought this problem was smartly stipulated, because you can convince chess players to give it a whirl...

Karl Fabel
Rätselstunde, 1952
(= 13+9 )

White to play and not deliver mate.

Recently, I noticed that he might have turned this around, where it would be a sound helpmate in 2.

(= 9+13 )

I think he chose the correct stipulation (For a variety of reasons: primarily because the published presentation best reflects the focus, but not least of which is that it speaks directly to the audience, rather than to a judge). Still, even agreeing he made the best choice, I confess that I might have considered sending the inferior stipulation (h#2 version) anyway, because it corresponds more neatly with genre categorization in the vast majority of problem publications. If you don't conform to the genre categorization, you may wonder to which sub-editor it should be sent; and, if you hoped for some commendation, you're more likely to stir the ire of some purist judge (who considers this an insult to his pet genre).

People talk of originality, but problemists do tend to over reward conformity.
I find that unfortunate, because conformity is a betrayal of any artistic endeavor.

There should be more tournaments where the theme is simply to resist conformity.

note: edited for grammar.
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(2) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020 10:07]

Nice find, this must be the "first" Berlin theme in the h#.
(Searching K='Berlin Theme' AND G='h#' on PDB gives a few more.)
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(3) Posted by Kevin Begley [Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020 11:59]; edited by Kevin Begley [20-07-08]

You would think there would be MANY more examples (perhaps PDB entrants do not take great care to record thematic content).

Deep in the spirit of helpmates, you would prefer that black actively prevents checkmate(s) befalling the white King.
And, you'd certainly expect this would be a profitable pursuit in fairies; alas, our WCCF solicits only directmate fairies employing overworked fairy units (which amounts to a reckless favoritism, akin to Picasso's friend running an international art contest where he systematically rejects all artworks using colors other than grey -- but, I digress).

Of all the worst helpmates accidentally played in blitz (and I have seen my share!), or theoretically possible, this position would easily rank among the most embarrassing.
If a top GM managed this most ultimate of blunders, even in a bullet game, I daresay the diagram would forever haunt them.

PS: The proper method to run an art contest is to solicit interpretations of a specific thing (say a sunflower, or a light post), and allow each artist to interpret the idea using their own palette (that way, Pablo Picasso may expect a fair competition with Vincent van Gogh).
If WCCF values their leadership role, they need to get their act together!
And, somebody should move that their entire contest rules be tossed.

If they refuse, send them works of non-conformity.
If you are interested in building a non-conformity federation, let me know!
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(4) Posted by Jakob Leck [Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020 21:26]

Not exactly a Berlin theme, but clearly in the same spirit is P1001826 by Norbert Kovacs (1923!), and repositioning two of the white minor pieces this can in fact be turned into a Berlin theme.
Indeed, searching in the pdb with a keyword does not guarantee that you find all (or even a majority of) problems to which the keyword would apply.

As to your views on conformity:
"People talk of originality, but problemists do tend to over reward conformity.
I find that unfortunate, because conformity is a betrayal of any artistic endeavor."
I think one should be careful with such generalisations.
You are accusing generations of composers (and I'm mostly thinking of music here) of "betraying artistic endeavours".
Conformity is necessary to some degree: having a common ground to work on, not straying away to much from what you can expect your audience to appreciate etc. And where you go from there is pretty much your choice. Nobody will stop you from being original. Although it is not easy. It is often surprising to find that interesting, seemingly modern or new ideas have been worked on already; in helpmates, for example, the Hungarian composers can always surprise you in that respect.

P.S.: Isn't your "proper method to run an art contest" the way how thematic tourneys are held?
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(5) Posted by Joose Norri [Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020 22:34]

Many promotion tasks in helpmates work with a black battery giving mate on wrong promotion, e.g. 1.g8Q??

There's also a text in Die Schwalbe Dez 2013:

Whether one can speak of a real Berlinthema in a helpmate is a different matter.
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(6) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Wednesday, Jul 8, 2020 23:02]

@Kevin: A German aphorism (anonymous) says: "I love nonconformists,
they all look so alike!" And here is the scientific article about it: (SCNR :P)
So, as the guy from Hamburg says, "Butter to the fishes!"
- Name a few todays problemists that are nonconformists.
(I would, for example, name Gerhard Maleika.)
- Feel free to start a flame war by naming some problemists
that are conformists :-) (Not that they necessarily see that as
an insult, pray tell, I happily conform to using no promoted
material, just for example ;-)
- What exactly are the con-forms you like to see burning?
If you want a comrade for bitching against the "letter" genre,
I'm you man, but IMHO it's not the letters themselves that are the
culprit. (If anybody would be as mercyless as the great Ahues,
always fighting for the "Letztform", and throwing away what doesn't
conform to highest standards, I doubt we'd have a letter
problem at all!)
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(7) Posted by Geoff Foster [Thursday, Jul 9, 2020 01:20]

It is possible for a helpmate to almost seem like a selfmate. Computers solve the problems below very quickly, but not using "intelligent" mode!

Gyula Neukomm, Feenschach 1955
(= 7+12 )

1.e5 Qg6 2.fxg6 f7 3.g5 f8=Q 4.Sh3+ Qf1 5.Rg1 Qd1 6.Rxg2 Qxc2 7.Qb1+ Qxb1#

Gabor Cseh, 1 Prize The Problemist 1997
(= 8+11 )

1.h6 d8=Q 2.h5 Qd5 3.Sxh4+ Qg2+ 4.Sxg2 e8=B 5.h4 Bc6 6.Sf4+ Bg2 7.Sd5 b6 8.Sc7 b7 9.Sxa8 bxa8=Q 10.Bxg2+ Qxg2#

Karlheinz Bachmann, Achim Schoneberg and Hans-Peter Reich
Special Prize, Die Schwalbe 1995
(= 15+8 )

1.dxe6+ Rd7+ 2.Bxd7+ Sc6+ 3.Qxd3+ c4+ 4.Qxc4+ bxc4+ 5.Kd6+ Be5+ 6.Rxe5+ fxe5+ 7.Rxe5+ c5+ 8.Rxc5+ bxc5#
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(8) Posted by James Malcom [Thursday, Jul 9, 2020 22:46]; edited by James Malcom [20-07-09]

The idea of this "conformity" idea reminds me of of an old humor problem-P1187774.

Noam D. Elkies, H2728 The Problemist 01/2004

(= 9+1 )

Since the sequence is entirely forced for Black, it works as both a h#10 and a #10.5.
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(9) Posted by Kevin Begley [Thursday, Jul 9, 2020 22:48]; edited by Kevin Begley [20-07-09]


"Isn't your "proper method to run an art contest" the way how thematic tourneys are held?"

LOL. Was that rhetorical? I like nothing better than somebody willing to play devil's advocate, but c'mon, choose your battlefield.
In fairy chess, there's a vast palette from which artists (generally seeking greater expression possibilities) may find endless room for originality.
Have you not read the WCCF international tourney announcement?

Every analogy I can muster will get into serious trouble.


You are asking me to name names? Flame war? AYFKM?
No, I'm not here for that. Even at my worst, I was never here for that.
I don't even keep a list of names in my head, my dear friend. There are no names. It's the system.

That's a nice quip about non-conformists, but like all good quips, and meme logic, it's entirely wrong.
Stay off Instagram.

Oh, and FWIW, contrary to popular belief, I actually LOVE LOVE LOVE problems which show paradoxical letter themes.
What I do not love is the pursuit of letter themes for the purpose of achieving letter themes, for the purpose of achieving easy awards and titles.
I understand the motivation -- and hold no animus to those who aspire to awards and titles.

My animus is to a system which encourages very talented composers to produce many problems which, well frankly, are not even problems.

I don't get my dopamine fix from letter themes, per se. I get it from problems which show me something paradoxical.

Note: chess problems are a dopamine delivery vehicle, and a known gateway to the checkered tie and socks.

When judges must rely on letter arrangements to measure the paradoxicality (how is that a new word?) of the "artistic" content, you are witnessing a dopamine con job that has been perpetrated so hard, for so long, on so many, few will admit they have been swindled.

The problem isn't some person, or list of persons. People who take advantage of this system are only doing what the system asks of them (no hard feelings there).

The problem is the system, and the prevailing conformity to these systems.


Great example!
From a pinnacle of non-conformity.


I now retract everything I said about non-conformists being non-identical. Yes, we are all mathematically identical to Prof. Noam Elkies.
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(10) Posted by James Malcom [Friday, Jul 10, 2020 04:16]; edited by James Malcom [20-07-10]

Many thanks Kevin. Also, I just remembered this other somewhat obscure, afaik, longer "Don't Mate" problem that is also be Fable-

Karl Fable, Die Welt, 29 Dec 1951
(= 11+8 )

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(11) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Friday, Jul 10, 2020 13:30]

Quoth Kevin: "What I do not love is the pursuit of letter themes for the purpose of achieving letter themes, for the purpose of achieving easy awards and titles."

I'm completely with you here. At least in the first half, since I never
cared much for FIDE albums - except buying them - and titles. I never
partake in the albums. (Or Instagram or any social media :-)

You claim, though, it's "easy" to get awards and titles. I have some
doubts about that. Nowadays you won't wake up anyone with a simple
Nowotny or Indian, and likewise, to my best knowledge, all permutations
of letters are known, named and filed, at least to n=3. Thus, you
likewise don't get into the album with a simple, say, Pseudo LeGrand.

Since you are reluctant to J'accuse specifically (I wouldn't do that
either), I suggest that you PM me an especially undeserved (in your
opinion) album exemplar just for some joint bitching :-)
In return I maybe mail you a sneak preview of a shitty problem'o'mine
which merely fills some holes in the theory of white line combinations,
and has not that much value otherwise (SCHWALBE, to appear...maybe).

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(12) Posted by Kevin Begley [Friday, Jul 10, 2020 19:17]; edited by Kevin Begley [20-07-10]

A joint complaint session does sound promising, but I don't want to point fingers (not even privately).
And, I'd need to scour the earth to find the worst example (I don't keep a list of those, either).

I did once make a list of ~25 published problems which I deemed completely unpublishable, but they were all mine.
At that time, I had published maybe 35 problems, so... let's focus on the ten which were somewhat publishable, right?

I do agree that nothing is easy, but alphabet themes (like the dreaded alphabetic fairy condition) was always the easiest path to achieve an undesirable desired aim.

I might like the idea of a bunch of problemists complaining in covid masks -- that way, nobody knows who said what -- if I didn't fear people would assume the worst statements came from behind my Red Dawn mask.

LOL, I confess, when I first heard all the news media here warning us "the Russians are coming!", I assumed some unknown football coach from Kazan had achieved the $100 theme. Alas, no -- turns out, they only spent that hundred bucks to overthrow some billion dollar election.
Themes change, I guess.

Nowotny themes are long dead. Sadly.
Years ago, I sent a decent Nowotny + anti-Nowotny #2er to some editor.
I was told it appeared original, and without flaw, but it just wasn't publishable because the theme is old and overworked.

I couldn't entirely disagree, so I ditched the problem.
I only wanted to publish a #2 before the entire genre admitted it had hit an iceberg.

Of course, the very same complaint could be leveled against many themes chosen by WCCF!

I am hearing that directmates offer more room for originality than fairies -- which, incidentally -- I don't have this on good authority, but you can take it on good faith! -- was to be the eighth seal in the Book of Revelation, but the prophet later convinced himself he had dreamed that part, while drunk, and later rejected it as outright impossible.

These are post apocalyptic times, my friends.
It's beginning to look like the rapture already happened, and it only took the Branch Davidians. Who saw that coming?
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(13) Posted by Olaf Jenkner [Friday, Jul 10, 2020 21:29]

@Hauke: MATPLUS-Forum is a social media too.
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(14) Posted by Hauke Reddmann [Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 11:33]

@Olaf: You have a point there. Maybe I should have
written "asocial media" :-)
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MatPlus.Net Forum General Conformity to genre categorization