[Retros] Ch5: Place of the Retro Logics

Andrew Buchanan andrew at anselan.com
Sat Jun 21 14:33:40 EDT 2014



Thanks for your reply.


I think we have agreement of Magic now :)


Maybe you’ve got a different concept of “timestamp” in mind from what I imagine here. I am thinking of something extremely course-grained: perhaps one tick of the clock every 3-5 years. Surely even our limited resources could support that kind of geological evolution? It’s just the same speed of change that the rules & conventions have at the moment. All I am really asking is that we associate each problem with some period. I think I will stop using the word “timestamp” since it does suggest something very granular, and that’s not my thought.


And we are really only talking about a tiny number of problems where the assignment of period could possibly be a challenge at all. It’s just a few problems with forward commitments, where retro reasoning does not tell us all about the position. If I thought it was even 0.01% of the workload that you predict, of course I wouldn’t suggest it.


But if we cannot change anything, then, for example, we could not one day allow Chess960 to be the subject of orthodox problems. And who knows what future changes there may be in the rules in a hundred years, when quantum computers have perhaps solved conventional chess completely?


The distinction between FIDE & WFCC is a good point. My personal opinion is that for retro-analysis, I like looking at real sets of rules. That basically means rules based in FIDE or USCF, Any set of WFCC rules (as opposed to conventions) is not real. Perhaps there has been too much attention on FIDE rather than USCF. FIDE is not the “only game in town”. For me, the reason for working with FIDE is that it’s simply the most widely-used set of rules around, not because of any historical connection with PCCC. The relationship between FIDE & USCF may become closer over time – there have certainly been detailed talks already, and I would certainly appreciate if they were able to be unified.




From: Retros [mailto:retros-bounces at janko.at] On Behalf Of Kevin Begley
Sent: 22 June 2014 01:40
To: The Retrograde Analysis Mailing List
Subject: Re: [Retros] Ch5: Place of the Retro Logics


>" They came to understand through reflection and experimentation that new players are critical to the game, and now ensure that barriers to entry and retention are as low as possible. In particular, they have taken a lot of care to craft their rules very thoroughly, and put in place a smooth learning curve with no bumps." 




On this point, we might agree... 

MtG has done some things well -- particularly in how they have worked to establish a clear and logical set of base rules (orthodoxy) upon which all variants of the game might easily depend. 


Moreover, they have targeted this material specifically at an audience of complete beginners. 

By developing an intelligent classification system, they have significantly reduced the study required, to achieve a practical expertise in understanding the rules of their game. 


On these fronts, I wish Problem Chess could say the same... we would be wise to make analogous improvements. 


WFCC has reserved authority, by charter, to establish an independent orthodoxy, and to promote this, with a complete (and independent) Codex;  by ownership of this document, WFCC derives authority to sanction those fairy elements which are well defined, and properly classified (read: they may encourage elements which promote the integrity of their orthodoxy, and of our art form).  

The only trouble is getting WFCC delegates to admit that the rules for problems are necessarily unique, with respect to the FIDE game rules. It is not easy to assuage their fears that our ship will drift away, if not anchored to FIDE... that titles will still be there for those who favor the FIDE Chess canvas, even after all the unfair bias recedes.


If you want to draw analogies to MtG.... consider this: 

The card manufacturers are the default governing body for MtG (like our WFCC, except they are elected by dollar votes). 

They are required to oversee that the cards manufactured serve the interest of preserving game integrity (in accord with the healthy set of base-rules, which they have labored to produce).

They have plenty of resources, and plenty of motivation to perform this function (they net more than $800M in annual revenues, from North America alone). 


By comparison, our WFCC has been completely negligent in addressing the manufacture of elements, by individuals, within the problem chess "game."  Any cowboy can create a new fairy condition (or a new fairy unit, or a new stipulation,  a new aim, etc), without any regard to preserving the integrity of the base-rules (or the "game"). 

Imagine if you could print your own MtG cards... imagine if you were required to license the base rules from an organization with a unique charter, which had no interest in your need to preserve consistency, in order to maintain the integrity of your game...  


In fact, by default, WFCC has no base rule -- our orthodoxy has been at the mercy of a game federation's rules, beyond our influence -- the best we can do is whine when GM Short suggests that the game might improve if stalemate were an equivalent result to checkmate. Furthermore, we have no logical classification system to sort the types of new cards produced, and nobody can produce a clear definition for the sub-divisions within our own FIDE Album (the very sub-divisions which we pin, as ribbons, upon every Judge's badge, carry absolutely no legal meaning... and our Judges aren't even observant enough to notice). 


Absolutely, we problem enthusiasts could substantially benefit from the engineering of a stable framework, similar to that built by MtG -- from an unambiguous set of base-rules, which every beginner can quickly understand ... 

Though our resources to achieve this are far more limited, there is no reason we can not begin the process... 


But, in the midst of this struggle, comes your suggestion... 

You say we should attach "timestamps" to our base rules, as a means to stipulate FIDE's evolving set of game rules. 

The FIDE game is NOT an orthodox base, by any means, regardless how frequently people confuse the two concepts. 

There is a reason that the WFCC charter spells out its proper authority to create an independent set of base rules. 


What you have suggested is exactly the wrong policy -- it would bring only unnecessary chaos to Problem Chess.  


You and I both well know that your timestamps would actually serve only as a hidden set of rules.  For what foul purpose would you want to deliberately hide the rules of a problem, in a timestamp? 

And, by what delusional motivation should we desire to burden ourselves with supporting rules for chess problems, according to the time of day, at publication? 

Think hard... the only answer you can possibly offer to these questions:  we would burden ourselves with changes in the FIDE rule book, in order to facilitate the illusion that Problem Chess is in complete agreement with the game. 


We do not have the resources to support a constant rewrite of the definitions for all fairy elements (which are sure to be destructively impacted, every time the game federation improves their rule book, for the purpose of their own unique charter). 


This is exactly what MtG has worked to avoid -- the card manufacturers have labored to produce a consistent framework (read: a set of unambiguous, orthodox base rules), in order to avoid the torture they might suffer if individual manufacturers were allowed to play shell games with new cards. 


Intellectual Property is what grants them sanctioning authority, to stay true to the consistent framework they have labored to produce. 

You may devise and print new cards, to your heart's content, but until they are sanctioned (read: until it is determined that they preserve the integrity of the base rules, and the game), they will essentially constitute a separate game. 


WFCC has the responsibility to oversee a similarly consistent framework, and the potential to exercise an identical sanctioning authority. 

What they lack is sufficient resources, or financial motivation, to invest in producing such material. 

...and they apparently also lack the foresight to ask for help. 


The key difference, which you can not deny, is that Problem Chess has no profit motivation. 

We do not sell fairy elements, and thus we profit nothing in laboring to support an artificial expiration regimen. 

We do not have the resources to support a constant upheaval in the definition of our fairy elements -- which is exactly what would occur, if we adopt your suggestion to declare rules according to a timestamp placed on our base rules. 


The position you are actually advocating is that we allow constant expiration of our base rules, in order to create the illusion of parity with one federation's game rules. 


FIDE has only authority to sanction the framework of their variant of the chess game. 

Problem Chess has an independent orthodoxy, which predates FIDE by several centuries, from which we can always leverage to represent the varying FIDE rule books. 





ps: Boredom comes from within (same place from whence your MtG analogies spring). 





On Sat, Jun 21, 2014 at 8:20 AM, Andrew Buchanan <andrew at anselan.com> wrote:



You are still missing my intended point completely, despite the numerous emails you have sent back on the subject today.


I am not interested in assessing whether Chess (game or problem world) is “superior” to Magic. I am not interested in judging the moral rectitude of companies who manufacture Magic, Harry Potter, or for that matter World or Warcraft or League of Legends.


So let me restate my point for clarity. It’s about the challenge presented by the maturing of the chess problemist population. We might learn from another commercial organization dealing with a recreational artefact of comparable complexity to chess problems. After a decade of decline, they have reaped new success in the last 4-5 years. They came to understand through reflection and experimentation that new players are critical to the game, and now ensure that barriers to entry and retention are as low as possible. In particular, they have taken a lot of care to craft their rules very thoroughly, and put in place a smooth learning curve with no bumps.


Enough already with this particular rabbit-hole - it’s getting boring.





From: Retros [mailto:retros-bounces at janko.at] On Behalf Of Kevin Begley
Sent: 21 June 2014 16:40

To: The Retrograde Analysis Mailing List
Subject: Re: [Retros] Ch5: Place of the Retro Logics


final point: 


The Phenix of mythology is a story that was freely shared, for generations, for some mutually beneficial (generally moral) purpose.  

The fantasy creature contained in the volumes of Harry Potter is something that was sold to you, repeatedly, for profit. 


If you don't already know which of these must continue to endure, at least one card in your deck must have expired.


On Sat, Jun 21, 2014 at 1:24 AM, Kevin Begley <kevinjbegley at gmail.com> wrote:

Speaking of timestamps... do you know why MtG cards expire, Andrew? 

I think you'll discover the reason, if you read carefully the information contained in the link I suggested -- but, you really needn't read that, to know... 

The answer is plainly obvious: the only expire because those who manufacturer cards (and sell licenses) want players to keep purchasing cards... even in vast excess of their needs, for the game!  


No such analogy exists with Problem Chess. 

Fairy units do not expire, and nobody wants to profit selling you a new fairy element. 

We have not profit motivation to timestamp our rules. 


So please, think more carefully before you suggest we take a MtG approach to problem chess. 


I actually do value your opinions about problem chess, Andrew, and it pains me to see you frequently offering suggestions from MtG, without understanding the damage they would do to problem chess. 


There are profound differences. 

I think it would do your analogies some good if you learn to see MtG from the "Intellectual Property" perspective -- I assure you, this is how it is seen by the folks who sold you every card you paid to add to your deck... and every card you paid to remove. 


MtG players never want to admit to having been commercially exploited... and pretty soon, the fish loses all sight of its own bowl... suddenly, their choices begin to be influenced by a need to obscure reality... they believe that the expiration rules of MtG are natural, for any game... why not put a timestamp on Dawson's grasshoppers, too?  


No license is required to enjoy problems in the Circe form. 

And, until you can claim the same about MtG, you should look carefully in the place you dare not look, and see the capitalists staring back from your every analogy. 



On Sat, Jun 21, 2014 at 12:41 AM, Kevin Begley <kevinjbegley at gmail.com> wrote:

I will say this... 


I wish Problem Chess had the same focus for creating a basic orthodoxy (a clear set of fundamental rules, which govern all types of variants, unless expressly altered). 

Hmm, if only WFCC could find a way to profit by peddling a fairy codex to children... 

Maybe WFCC should put a dragon on the cover... 


Regardless, you would expect that even the MtG pushers would know better than to litter their own cards with a profoundly absurd timestamp rule-mechanism. 

It should be self-evident that the rules governing an object (whether a pokemon card, a aMtG card, or even a variant chess game) should not be hidden in a timestamp.  





On Sat, Jun 21, 2014 at 12:30 AM, Kevin Begley <kevinjbegley at gmail.com> wrote:

ps: in problem chess, we need not buy our pieces. 


Good luck selling Hasbro on the potential revenues in the MtG Problem market. 

You should read this: http://www.superdataresearch.com/content/uploads/2009/08/TCG2010.pdf


The first thing you should note (if you don't already know): revenue was always the primary motivation for MtG.

The second thing you should note:  the folks who have been playing MtG enthusiasts for suckers are actively seeking some means to draw revenue from solitary enthusiasts. 


Read that last statement carefully... 

The primary limitation on sales projections:  the suckers who purchase MtG can not find anyone to engage in active play. 

As a result, they discontinue the endless purchase of what are essentially pokemon cards. 


You want to know the only reason why MtG can not compete with chess problems?  Because Habro has found no way to make money selling takebacks! 


Do not make the mistake of comparing problem chess with such an absurd commercial endeavor, -- it only erodes your own credibility to profess to have been taken by their fantasy marketing pitch. 




On Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 11:50 PM, Kevin Begley <kevinjbegley at gmail.com> wrote:



Magic (the Gathering) is, like FIDE chess, a game. 

If you want to compare the success of MtG, compare it with another game. 


Watch this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLPiJHGZkJ0

By comparison, MtG doesn't even have a decent parody.


If you want to draw comparisons with problem chess, you must draw references to the problem form of MtG (which, I presume, you have yet to invent).  Good luck with that (I think you'll find that MtG doesn't much care for problems, as they do not represent an especially purchase-driven enterprise). 


I do sympathize with your enthusiasm for MtG. 

I will even concede that MtG may be wrongly perceived by popular culture (in all the same ways that Fairy Chess can be). 


But, the analogies you make, between MtG and Chess (or Problem Chess) are, well, a backfire of careless wizardry. 


As I understand it, the ratio of rules to cards, in MtG, is only compensated by a profound excess of cards. 

Its selling point is not even the game itself, it is in fact a misadventure of a game, which must masquerade as a dungeons and dragons fantasy, for the purpose of sales. 


You'll not find anybody seriously advocating for the benefits of teaching MtG in our schools. 

But, you'll find plenty of studies which suggest that there are benefits to chess problems.  


The best anyone can say about MtG:  children could be doing worse things...






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