[Retros] The basics of the relationsship between laws and conventions

joose norri joose_norri at hotmail.com
Thu Jun 12 01:50:09 EDT 2014

I would just like to make one point, rather irrelevant to this discussion. You can well ignore this.
Nigel Short's proposal, a popular one I believe, would indeed "yield a significant reduction in the threshold for victory". But whether that would lead to a smaller number of draws is far from clear. The reduction of the drawing margin might well result in the players taking far less risks, at the professional level anyhow. It is exactly because more mistakes can be made without necessarily losing what makes it a fight.
I also wonder how much people, like GM Short, who propose such things, really understand  about chess. (I'm serious, fron many interviews it seems that for him it's just a game.) The change would mean an entirely different "chess" universe. For one thing, the beautiful philosophical principle of balance of position, the reason why I have played and studied chess for 34 years, would be thrown overboard.
Joose Norri
Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2014 20:01:03 -0700
From: kevinjbegley at gmail.com
To: retros at janko.at
Subject: Re: [Retros] The basics of the relationsship between laws and	conventions

Pardon me -- I wasn't entirely clear...
GM Nigel Short asserted that a stalemated player SHOULD earn no half-point (that, for the purpose of improving chess game tournaments, the stalemated player should be treated equivalent to the checkmated player, as was once the default orthodoxy, for several countries -- including England, if I remember correctly).  

On Wed, Jun 11, 2014 at 7:53 PM, Kevin Begley <kevinjbegley at gmail.com> wrote:

I certainly will agree that a more fundamental understanding is the proper direction. I also appreciate your efforts to disambiguate our Laws from our Conventions. 

However, some of the terminology I find needlessly confusing. Worse, I find one term particularly troubling:  "FIDE Laws" 
Let's be clear on this point: FIDE is a federation of chess players (it is not the institute for the preservation of one sacred chess variant). 

It may sound blasphemous to say this, but FIDE laws (and any alterations thereof -- experimental or otherwise) should have no impact upon problem chess (neither upon our notion of Orthodoxy, nor upon our problem classifications).

The WFCC charter was carefully constructed to provide problemists with ample independent space to create the laws governing problem chess;  as such, it is WFCC's responsibility to formally standardize a universal language by which all chess problems may be expressed. 

It is our language -- which depends entirely upon our own dictionary, and our own coherent rules of grammar.  WFCC requires its own definition of Orthodox Chess (which need be nothing more than a static set of universal default rules, which provides us with a foundation to express problems in all possible genres). 

Problem chess has a variety of rule books (some may share common features with many aspects of FIDE rule book), and a variety of conventions. 
Rules govern the size and shape of the board, and the interconnections of its squares.

Rules govern the movement of specific units upon any board. 
Rules govern a number of presumptions about the history of the diagram position (castling rights, en passant rights, rebirth rights, etc). 

Rules govern the termination of play (checkmate, stalemate, dead reckoning -- perhaps even 3R and 50M). Stipulations express the contract of a chess problem (the motivation, the goal, the aim, and the limitation in number of moves).  

Conventions govern the correctness of a problem (cooks, duals, promotion duals, illegal positions, etc). 
Beyond all that, many of our tourneys are governed by thematic definitions. Sometimes, our titled judges will not even agree what constitutes the publication of a chess problem (like when a few judges tossed out all studies employing fewer than seven total units, alleging anticipation by the EGTB). 

Only a few of our rule books are currently consistent with the FIDE Laws. But, FIDE laws can change... do change... whereas our universal language for describing formal chess problems should avoid all such changes. 

FIDE has its own unique charter -- to benefit the game of chess (their audience, their players, their sponsors, etc). Despite having a vast crop planted in the field (and thousands more problems are planted every year), WFCC laws currently offer no solid foundation for growth. 

Instead, WFCC has been fixed upon the mercies of a chess gaming federation.
To illustrate...  
Yesterday, while listening to coverage of Norway's "No Logo" super-tournament, I was particularly interested in GM Nigel Short's assertion that a stalemated player earn no half-point. 

Without getting lost in the weeds of the controversy, just absorb that information...
He even expressly stated (paraphrasing) that chess enthusiasts should acknowledge that a number of beautiful studies exist, in which stalemate is considered as something less than a win. 

We can all acknowledge that, neglecting possible side-effects, it is virtually certain that the change GM Short suggests would achieve his desired outcome:  his alteration of "FIDE Laws" would undoubtedly yield a significant reduction in the threshold for victory, in a chess game. 

In fact, as he rightly points out, this change is not even a new rule for chess -- it's actually a return to an older rule. 
FIDE enthusiasts (their audience, their players, their sponsors, etc) are free to promote a wide range of alternative tournament formats, in the interest of improving game competition. In fact, they have experimented with a number of alternative ideas (changes to the scoring, changes in the tiebreak resoultions, changes to the clock, changes to the rules of draw offers, etc). 

Like it or not, FIDE is primarily committed to its own federation -- those affiliated by an enthusiasm for the chess game competition -- and these experimental modifications are completely coherent with their charter. 

Problemists have no grounds to dictate FIDE Laws. 
Nobody can argue that a beautiful stalemate study should prohibit FIDE from adopting whatever rules are in the best interest of chess players. 

If beautiful compositions were a valid criteria for dictating FIDE rules, their players would be forced to play the chess game in reverse. 
Let FIDE be FIDE. We have to tend to our own set of unique laws, for the benefit (and integrity) of problem chess. 

Let's get away from this false pretense that FIDE Laws and WFCC Orthodoxy can be one in the same -- these are inherently irreconcilable ideas.  
 Best,   Kevin.

On Tue, Jun 10, 2014 at 10:46 AM, Guus Rol <grol33 at gmail.com> wrote:

Dear retro-friends,
In the past weeks I have reacted on several posts related mostly to 3R. Now this is kind of a random subject to plunge into the retro-field and not easy to handle as an isolated item. It is part of a larger structure of concepts I developed many years ago. You can find the results of that research in Probleemblad since 2007 starting with R309. Not many problems, but all the essentials to demonstrate the scope and power of this approach.

In this post I go back to the very beginning of that research which is the understanding of the retro-active subject - everything retro that is not purely analytical but contains uncenrtainty - through its conepts and structure. Nothing in this analysis is based on opinion. Everything is either fact or inevitable. That is probably not true for everything in my theory but it is for this part.

The first environment to define is the one where the FIDE laws operate. It is filled by the set of all (partial) games played according to the FIDE laws. There are operations such as moves and there are positions and players and others things. We cal this set the Game-set.

The second environment is the one of chess diagrams. Every diagram represents billions of proof games leading from PAS to the diagram. We call it DGC, the Diagram Game Cluster. All DGCs together form a superset of the previous set and we name it the DGC-set. There are no FIDE rules defined for the DGCs, no moves and no other charateristics associated with games.

And there are chess problems. Most problems like #3 are formulated by diagram. Formally you cannot solve any problem since there are no 'playing' rules for game clusters, but one may assume - as a necessity - that FIDE intended that you can reduce the DGC to an arbitrary game in the Game-set. As long as it doen't matter which game you take!

Here complexity starts. In retro-active problems the solution may change with the game you pick from the DGC and therefore FIDE laws cannot decide. They were only made to decide moves in known states and not for unknown histories. Here - as a necessity - something is needed to reduce the DGC to games where FIDE rules can apply. And these are "the conventions". Whatever personal opinion you may have about the conventions, it is clear that there are no other concepts or items anywhere in chess that are capable of performing this task. And so, this is what conventions do, as a bare minimum necessity: The conventions reduce a DGC to a game or games that can be handled by the FIDE laws. It does not mean that everything is decided all at once, it only decides what must be decided in view of an intended action.

Examples: (1) you wish to play e.p.; the e.p. conventions evaluates it and hands back 0 games where e.p. is allowed. The request is denied (2) you wish to play e.p. but this time under Petrovic a posteri logic. The convention and logic allow it (provisionally, you must prove somrthing later) and hand back all games where e.p. is legal. The move is then executed by FIDE law (3) you do not castle and think you can get away with it; the convention on castling detects however that you play reflex chess and must mate by castling which is the preferred assumption. It returns 0 games without castling rights and your request to 'not castle' is thereby rejected.

In a mathematical sense we have a very simple set - superset combination here which basically represents the whole retro-active spectrum. The functions for the DGC-set are "selections" - queries in database language - designed to deliver games that can be handled by the Game-set functions such as "moving". Many posts I read show that the authors (con)fuse the functions performed on both sets. There exists no FIDE law - DR, mate , stalemate, 3R - that requires that a conditions is true or false for "all games", only for "all moves in a game". The decision on which games can only be delivered through the conventions.

The impact of these very simple principles is fantastic. It uplifts the status of the conventions to stellar heights. Not only are they equals to the FIDE laws, they preprocess all input for the FIDE laws, they have a domain all of their own where FIDE laws cannot possibly enter. And finally, they are required for any fairy type which pretends to support the retro-field. Provided that these fairies introduce new retro-active attributes which is quite often the case..

Does this resolve issues such as DR and 3R, or dynamic castling evalautions in relation to 3R? Not quite, but you may be able to see that it takes us quite a long way in the right direction. I hope to show that some other time.

Best wishes, Guus Rol.


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