[Retros] Favour/En Passant
kevinjbegley at gmail.com
Tue Jun 17 16:09:46 EDT 2014
Andrey makes a valid point: the modern chess problem is not presented with
complete information -- instead, it is presented with information
deliberately obscured, through the lens of our faulty diagram convention.
If problem chess were conducted in the spirit of a "perfect game," there
would be no room for debate.
For example, if problems were presented in the form of an Extended FEN
String (which includes nearly complete information: provide the player to
move, the castling rights, en passant rights, proximity to 50-move claims,
etc), problemists would have only to argue about how best to further extend
the information contained in the Extended FEN String...
The correct answer to GM Mestel's problem would be immediately apparent.
Oddly enough, such a valid point takes us almost nowhere... it almost seems
counterproductive to even mention that problemists have deliberately
imposed this information blindness upon the solver, in a ridiculous bid to
approximate the analysis from a FIDE chess game.
We all prefer to tolerate this nonsense, because of the beautiful
retrograde problems which spring from our absurd tradition.
While we are on the subject, we should admit that it is faulty to presume
that a problem must have been born from a legal game.
The chess problem exists unto itself, and requires no faulty default
attachment to a game history.
The problem form of chess predates the existence of game rules; thus, only
by a deliberately impaired sense of history could we pretend that the
rules, conventions, and drawing mechanisms of a game (which is still
evolving) take precedent.
Unless a hidden history is explicitly stipulated to exist in a given
problem, history should be, by default, ignored.
Orthodoxy in the problem form should have never attempted to be consistent
with the present form of the FIDE Chess game -- particularly 3R (if
repetition draws have any value in the problem realm, they should be
stipulated as automatic, after a single repetition).
The proper orthodoxy (read: default rules) for any problem (chess or
otherwise) is to impose no retrograde component, whatsoever.
No math problem contains an answer specific to its revelation from some
arbitrary, evolving game of mathematics, and similarly, the chess problem
should not depend, by default, upon an arbitrary game of chess.
It is ironic that retrograde enthusiasts (whom insist that they care about
the past) have completely forgotten that problem chess was around before
the game of chess!
Retrograde Analysis, therefore, would seem a faulty attempt to
retroactively impose, by default, a set of rules and conventions upon
problems which precede all rules and conventions.
The parallels between problem chess and every foolish religion ever
created, are remarkable.
For instance: Orthodox Values always depend upon a deliberately limited (if
not false) view of history.
Why argue about conventions which extend clear back to the late 1800s (and
Modern FIDE chess was never the one constant...
Why not acknowledge the true history of problem chess?
A problem society does not draft its default rules according to the
preference of one specific board game, which is still evolving, and is
unlikely to long endure advances in computer intelligence.
Problem Orthodoxy is not something we should surrender, in order to falsely
encourage problems which better approximate the analysis of a particular
On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 9:53 PM, afretro <afretro at yandex.ua> wrote:
> Dear all,
> What is the underlying reason making discussions like this one possible?
> Incompleteness of information.
> I believe there are lots of board games in which at any point the player
> who is to move doesn’t ever have to consider any fact about the moves that
> have already been played in the game.
> Chess is not like that.
> Since some of the rules of OTB chess necessitate knowledge of certain
> facts about the past of the game, diagram positions usually provide us with
> insufficient information about the situation in the hypothetical game to
> draw any unequivocal conclusions on.
> Instead of demanding that a chess composer provide, along with the diagram
> of his composition, a particular game leading to that position so that the
> solver will know the basic facts, or that the composer provide at least a
> list of these basic facts (whether or not the previous moves leave any of
> the castlings legal, whether any “thinkable” e.p. capture is legal, whether
> any particular position(s) was (were) repeated in the course of the game,
> how many moves have passed since the last pawn move and/or capture),
> someone decided centuries ago that a diagram was enough for a chess
> composition. Would this debate go on if it were necessary to attach a game
> history to any diagram?
> Chess composers decided to hide a lot of essential information related to
> any of their compositions; then they had to address the resulting
> difficulties and started inventing conventions.
> At present, the World Soccer Championship is underway. Suppose we see a
> photograph showing a few players near a goal and a ball inside the goal,
> and we are asked to determine whether a legal goal has just been scored. We
> do not know whether the scoring player was offside or whether any of the
> attacking players committed a foul before the ball touched the net. Then we
> start inventing conventions like “if there is no clear evidence that a foul
> was committed or that a player was offside, then we are to consider the
> goal to have been scored properly.” In other words, “no one is guilty till
> proven guilty.” We do not care whether Mr. X actually murdered Mr. Y; what
> we care about is the verdict passed by the jury. If the jury finds Mr. X
> guilty, then he is guilty – regardless of whether or not he actually
> committed the crime. We do not give a damn about the fact that a different
> jury might find him not guilty. Justice is one of the games adult people
> play. Well, the game of justice is justified at least because in most cases
> there is no video of the murder being committed, nor can we reasonably
> expect to have any video evidence of that sort, or it can be faked. In
> chess composition, however, it is not “practically impossible” to require
> that composers attach game histories to their diagrams. But we prefer not
> to eradicate the source of our difficulties, inventing conventions instead,
> considering the conventions-based approach to be “more natural” that the
> game-history-attachment-based approach.
> If we like creating unnecessary difficulties and then addressing them with
> the help of conventions, why not e.g. publish diagrams with “fog-covered”
> corner squares and then offer conventions as to what types of pieces may or
> may not occupy such “blackhole squares”?
> 17.06.2014, 07:11, "Andrew Buchanan" <andrew at anselan.com>:
> Dear Guus,
> I agree that PRA is not really the appropriate domain for Jonathan’s
> offering. Indeed I stated in my email that PRA was not the main point. It
> was still worth mentioning for clarity since that’s the default rule these
> I also agree that RS (and AP which I will not venture into until the other
> conventions are nailed down completely) are perhaps more fruitful than PRA.
> My real point which you never answered was that the problem already has a
> totally definite answer under RS. Namely: there is no #1, and that’s just
> fine. And there are some similar diagrams where White has no other move.
> Totally fine – wish I could dig one up. The conventions were originally
> developed to support orthodox problems, and do a good job. As a side effect
> we have some diagrams where White has no permitted move, although we may
> know that the game cannot be stalemate. This is no cause for grief, indeed
> it is neat. There is no paradox, because we understand that stalemate only
> applies when there are no **legal** moves.
> But you seem to think there is something broken here, and you stated:
> >Deciding that white is stalemated would be illegal as there would exist
> no proof game leading to stalemate.
> >Clearly some e.p. move must therefore be permitted.
> Nooooo! :D
> (1) White is not stalemated. There are just no **permitted** moves for
> White under the e.p. convention.
> (2) Nit: I think you meant “invalid” not “illegal”.
> (3) I do agree there would be no proof game leading to stalemate, but
> so what?
> (4) The second sentence is a complete non sequitur. But PRA would in
> fact give you that e.p. move, if you must have it.
> Guus, I will probably never be able to compose chess problems at your
> level. But you really make no sense to me with your “paradigm change”.
> We have already in the conventions a brilliant simple notion of *
> *permission**, which separates retro logic applied to the rules from the
> action of the conventions. Under your new “paradigm”, why do we have to
> throw this away?
> More, we can extend the use “permission” as the basis for a consistent way
> of handling other areas where problems differ from games. This has many
> advantages: (1) relatively simplicity (2) proven model (3) protection of
> prior art. And I submit this can also be extended to cover the fairy area.
> *From:* Retros [mailto:retros-bounces at janko.at <retros-bounces at janko.at>] *On
> Behalf Of *Guus Rol
> *Sent:* 16 June 2014 19:45
> *To:* The Retrograde Analysis Mailing List
> *Subject:* Re: [Retros] Favour/En Passant
> Hi Kevin, Andrew and Jonathan,
> Actually I fully agree that pRA is the default assumption and resolves the
> In fact, this is so obvious that I haven't even considered this to be
> Jonathans case. The logics are by nature a dimension separate from the
> basic conventions in the sense that they can be an independent part of the
> stipulation. In the old days I needed to write "pRA" if I didn't like the
> idea of my problem being resolved by RS. Today I need to do the reverse,
> namely add "RS" if such is what I desire. I have taken Jonathans example as
> one to be resolved under the "RS stipulation" and I answered it in this
> You can take that as a general context for my theory. Most interesting
> situations arise in RS and AP logics. In the pRA and retro-vairant logics
> all retro-active issues are compressed at the entrance gate. Though they
> are not at all obvious - especially in fairy forms - it is clear that all
> is plain sailing after the initial conditions have been established.
> Andrew and I will continue to disagree on the nature of conventions. I
> have written 1 post about that and will write 1 more to address the precise
> delineation (as I see it). Everyone can decide for himself which side he is
> Note: An essential characteristic of RS-logic is that things are different
> in the solver domain than in the player domain. You may be able to prove
> that you can mate in 1, but not be able to execute it under RS logic. See
> my PB R309. One can prove that white can mate in either 5 moves or 8 moves
> (in pRA style), but under RS logics it can only be done in 7 moves. The
> reason is that RS-logic fuses variants from different proof games. But I
> will write much more about that.
> Best wishes, Guus Rol.
> On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 12:58 PM, Andrew Buchanan <andrew at anselan.com>
> I disagree again with your main point.
> First, I do agree that Jonathan’s diagram is an excellent case. But I
> think it’s handled adequately by the existing conventions. It is not an
> issue nor a joke.
> Before the recent changes to the conventions driven through by Werner
> Keym, under the en passant convention the diagram would have no *permitted*
> mating move. That’s fine. The sky doesn’t fall apart. Even if there was no
> other legal move for White, this doesn’t put White in stalemate. Stalemate
> is the result of having no legal moves. It is **not** the result of
> having no permitted moves.
> It’s not a crisis: the sky doesn’t fall. We just admit the fact that in a
> few diagrams, it is not possible to determine whether certain en passants
> are allowable, and indeed whether the game is over or not. Those are
> interesting diagrams, and it’s certainly not worth twisting everything in
> order to ensure that some en passant must be allowed. That would be
> Under the PRA convention, which now applies by default, things are even
> more straightforward. The problem splits into two parts, according to
> possible histories. Each history allows one en passant, so the problem is
> solved. I believe that Werner Keym would say that the problem has 1
> solution, in two parts. I don’t particularly like PRA in this context,
> because it excludes any history in which neither e.p. is allowed. That just
> makes things too easy: most of Jonathan’s work is about showing that
> Black’s last move must have been one of the double hops. This is rendered
> irrelevant by PRA. However, PRA is not the main point.
> I think our main disagreement is coming clearer. Once again you are mixing
> together rules and conventions. My position remains that just because the
> conventions don’t **permit** us to play a certain move should have no
> impact at the level of the rules themselves.
> I made the next point in an earlier email, but I don’t think I got it
> across to everyone so I will say it again.
> If rules and conventions operate at the same level as you propose, then *
> *every** help pat is unsound, because the players are constrained by
> convention (i.e.: the definition of mandated player behaviour in a help
> pat) to work with one another to reach stalemate. Alternate lines of play
> which do not end in a stalemate are irrelevant, because the players are not
> permitted to play moves that diverge from the solution. So A1.3 kicks in
> right at the start. Similarly, **every** direct pat is unsound. White is
> bound by convention to eschew any path that can avoid a stalemate, and
> despite Black’s best efforts, the composition must end in a pat. Hence A1.3
> will kill the solution right from the start.
> Now the issue here, I submit, is not A1.3, but the mixing together of
> rules and conventions. Please let’s distinguish the rules from the
> conventions, and say the rules are about legality, while the conventions
> constrain which legal and possibly-legal moves are permitted, then we do
> not get in the horrible confused state that you are proposing.
> And I don’t even believe that your planned path makes it easier to scale
> to fairy compositions. I think the idea of rules (including fairy rules)
> addressing legality, and conventions (including perhaps fairy conventions)
> then determining permissibility, is a bedrock upon which we can build a
> solid artifice.
> *From:* Retros [mailto:retros-bounces at janko.at] *On Behalf Of *Guus Rol
> *Sent:* 16 June 2014 17:33
> *To:* The Retrograde Analysis Mailing List
> *Subject:* Re: [Retros] Favour/En Passant
> Dear Jonathan,
> Excellent case and a real issue. There are many similar situations,
> particularly in fairy land like with the "fuddled men" in Turnbulls
> infamous article. I had preseved the treatment of these cases for an
> "advanced topics" post but I can outline it here. You could have made
> things a little worse by making sure that white was "stalemated" apart from
> playing the e.p. moves. Deciding that white is stalemated would be illegal
> as there would exist no proof game leading to stalemate. Clearly some e.p.
> move must therefore be permitted.
> The reduction principle on the DGCs is based on the premise that some
> preferred option for play remains but such is not always the case. Besides
> that, there is the possibility of a "group right", a right that cannot be
> proved for each individual member of the group but van be proved to exist
> somewhere in the group. The handling of the cases occurs on a higher level
> than the handling of the DGC-set / Game set.
> *The natural approach is the temporary promotion of all "secondary rights"
> to "primary rights" (I am not sure about this terminology yet but you know
> what I mean) in a "rights group" allowing each one the be executed as such
> - i.e. as if it were a right to castle. After this promotion, the reduction
> from DGC to Game resumes with the modified "rights".*
> One issue remains and is reflected by your example. Do you wish to allow
> "promotion" only when no other playing option remains or do you wish to
> allow it whenever a group right exists - as in your example? There is an
> aspect of personal taste in this choice, but also one of best workability.
> Having contemplated this for a while on the basis of fairy forms, my gut
> feeling is that it is best to stick with the first choice. Which means that
> white cannot play e.p. in the example you presented.but he could if he were
> stalemated (or mated) otherwise. But you are entitled to disagree since the
> choice steps outside the necessities of a a sound and consistent
> decisioning system.
> Note: On top of the retro-decisionig-tree is the 1st command: *There must
> always be a proof game*.
> Best wishes, Guus Rol.
> On Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 10:22 AM, A J Mestel <ajm8 at maths.cam.ac.uk> wrote:
> Now that I'm connected again, I'll repost something I wrote a month ago.
> It feels a bit like a poor joke, which had some point at the time, but
> loses everything in the re-telling, but still, here it is/was.
> Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2014 11:04:56 +0100 (BST)
> From: A J Mestel <ajm8 at maths.cam.ac.uk>
> To: The Retrograde Analysis Mailing List <retros at janko.at>
> Subject: Re: En passant
> Did this ever get posted in the list? I never saw it, and got no replies.
> It's a bit dated now, but someone said that en passant was only legal if
> you could prove what the previous move had to be etc. Needs to be a bit
> more precise.
> On Wed, 28 May 2014, A J Mestel wrote:
> Someone must have done this before, but consider:
> W: Kc5 Rd8 Bc8 Nc6 a5 a6 e5 e6
> B: Kc7 Bb8 b5 d5
> Can White mate in one? Not according to the definition I read here a few
> mails ago.
> Retros mailing list
> Retros at janko.at
> Retros mailing list
> Retros at janko.at
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