Promoted pieces in fairy problems - problem or not?
This my reflection was prompted by comment by Kostas Prentos at Julia's Fairies.
He was commenting on the problem by Pierre Tritten & Chris Feather in Take&Make, where two black lightsquared bishops
were present. Kostas wrote:
"Although I agree that two same-colored Bishops are perfectly fine in Take & Make (or any other condition that
allows a color change without a promotion), I disagree with the opinion that 2 Queens or 3 Bishops are also OK.
Theoretically, all fairy pieces are promoted pawns, but since retroanalysis is not taken into consideration
in fairy problems (with the exception of fairy retros), we may have more than 8 fairy pieces without considering
the position illegal. Then, what's wrong with having 2 Queens or even 10 Queens? It has to do with the principle
of economy of means. Even when we use fairy pieces, we, the composers, try to express an idea with the material
we have available. Anything over and beyond this material does not feel economical.
This feeling is enhanced, when there are no fairy pieces. Especially, if the same content is possible without
the use of extra-set pieces. If this is not possible, then the promoted material becomes an option, but, as
in orthodox problems, it will be a flaw, maybe excusable, but a flaw, nevertheless. It is up to the composer
first, and then the audience to weigh the pros and cons of such "irregularities", but the first impression is
The last sentence contains disclaimer - it is composer's and audience's right (or duty) to weigh pros and cons
of using promoted orthodox pieces in specific composition. Wise and I agree with that - therefore what I state
below from my viewpoint should be put to that test too - on case-by-case basis. But I can hardly agree with the rest
of Kostas' contribution.
My view on the use of fairy pieces differs significantly. I will try to demonstrate my views on specific examples.
Let's start with problems where fairy pieces are involved. It means that the composer is using in his creation
wider set of options than those offered by orthodox rules. Fairy pieces. With exception of specific theme tourneys
(e.g. Formanek 70 JT that asked from problems with at most one fairy piece on each side) the number of used fairy pieces
of the same type is generally not limited. Nobody cares whether 2, 5 or 7 grasshoppers are used - of course, if they
are economical in standard sense. Why we should then care about number of orthodox pieces?
Take as an example outstanding example of 6-fold Lacny cycle by Rotenberg & Loustau.
There are 7 black grasshoppers on the board. At the same time 3 black rooks as well as 3 white knights are used. Are
they a problem? Surely not, the problem is widely reprinted and entered FIDE Album.
Is this an exception?
My own SAT #2 with Mlynka theme is not so exceptional problem. Besides SAT
the problem uses camels and significantly nightriders. There are 3 nightriders as a part of mechanism, closing
and opening of their lines is fully used - and the same is true for 3 white rooks. If the rooks were paos and were
similarly involved in the play, hardly anybody would care. Why should 3 white rooks be a problem? By the way,
Rh6 could have easily been a queen, but I have chosen the thir rook. Analogy again:
would you prefer two paos and one leo (without use of diagonal movement for leo) or three paos? Probably
majority of composers would choose latter - why not then use the third rook?
My own Anticirce #2 with Zagorujko theme uses leos - and three white knights.
If there were used e.g. three maos, nobody would care. It would not be so difficult to choose one additional type
of fairy piece (but not for the 27th TT CCM, where the problem competed, as it was dedicated to problems with
leos as single type of fairy piece) and avoid use of knights. But using only leos and orthodox pieces is actually
more difficult. Obviously, only Sd5 plays actively, but using two additional knights allowed the most economical
construction among all positions that I had on the board.
Joint #2 with complete Shedey cycle is of another type. Three white rooks are
in the core of the mechanism. Using white queen was out of question given the geometry of flights. But is it a flaw
once we deal with transmuting king and rose on the board? For me definitely not.
#3 with cyclic Novotnys on the same square and black nightrider as single fairy piece on the
board is a very special case. The tourney E. Manolas 60 JT was judged by Kostas Prentos and besides pointing
thematical predecessor (not anticipation) he has remarked in the award:
"Pity that the four white knights could not be avoided." But actually they could! For me the choice of the
position to be sent to the tourney was obvious, but after this remark I have felt necessary to include
constructional remark while sending the problem for FIDE Album selection:
"single thematical bN. It was possible to show the content without promoted white knights, but with other
nightriders. I have chosen to show it with perfect economy of fairy means, as promoted orthodox pieces are always
more economical in this sense than any fairy pieces." (I guess CCM readers can indentify knights for turning
into nightriders and having "flawless" position.)
Let's continue with more difficult case: problems without fairy pieces. Here it is somehow felt that
using promoted white force is even less justified than in a case of problems with fairy pieces. But why? Once we
allow ourselves using new rules, often of the most suitable choice, we are allowing ourselves much more
than just promoted force within orthodox chess frame. So adding a few promoted pieces should not be such a problem.
Obviously, problems with mechanism based on the promoted force are a separate category.
Unto Heinonen's seriesmover uses Madrasi play of many black queens that are in final position
paralyzed by a single white queen. #2 by Vaclav Kotesovec needs many queens of both sides to
to show excellent play using both Circe and Madrasi for ecto-battery checkmates.
Circe #2 by Frantisek Sabol uses promoted bishops in the mechanism and can be basis for
discussion of economy of means. But not about justification of promoted force (it is out of question for me
as bishops form important part of mechanism), but rather use of some white pieces in one phase only. Is it ok?
Some people think yes as for them phases are equal, some people think no as for them solution is the most important
However if some promoted pieces are not in the core of mechanism, it can be possible to question their economy.
Take as an example #2 by Yves Cheylan in Madrasi showing black AUW answered by mates
on the same square. This is a respectable thematical complex and moreover and the construction of problem then seems
quite light too. Is then a promoted knight a problem? How can employing only standard force improve the problem?
s#3 in Andernach chess by Uri Avner and Kjell Widlert is from the other side of spectrum: very
heavy force, with some pieces promoted, even if we consider that specific properties of Andernach chess. 7 rooks are
7 rooks. Given the specific strategy - would you consider the promoted force as a flaw? Is it possible to show
something similar without promoted force?
My final example is well known #3 in Anticirce by Hans Peter Rehm. Three black queens
cyclically guard three rebirth squares d1, f1, h1 and after defences on the same squares Jacobs theme follows.
Hans Peter Rehm has composed it, Petko Petkov as judge has given the 1st Prize to this threemover. Three FIDE Album
judges has agreed that problem is fine and have given 2,5+3+2,5 points to it (in order Christian Poisson,
Juraj Lörinc, Cedric Lytton), thereby nominating it for FIDE Album. Is then the use of three queens bad? Note
that it was possible to show the same content by replacing Qd3 and Qg2 by Se3 and Bg2. Why then Hans Peter Rehm
has chosen to use three queens? Why nobody complained? Perhaps the unit of three queens starring in the content,
perhaps stronger black force, but I do not know about anybody who complained. Do you?
Please, don't consider my remarks are directed against Kostas (I highly esteem him) or against his views. Rather
I feel, based also on my own extensive experience, that use of promoted force in fairy problems is sometimes (or often)
undeservedly criticized. Therefore I think it is useful to explain motivation - and not only theoretically.
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