Appraising Chess Problems

By Maxwell Bu\ofzer, Bellaire, L. I.

Among the requests from solvers one of the most often repeated is: "Please state a rule by which a chess problem's merit may be properly appraised."

It is not an easy task to lay down a rule that will meet with the approval of every one. In the first place all rules are apt to be tinged with arbitrariness. In the second place the merit of a problem is depending on so many factors, some of which are deemed important by all authors and some of which arc repudiated by some, that it becomes extremely difficult to attain uniform acceptance of any rule after it has been expressed. However, since there are a good many solvers that are willing to listen at least to other men's opinions, I shall attempt to set forth what I might call "My system."

All of us that love chess problems form personal opinions, almost involuntarily, on solving. Unfor-tunately not all of us perform this job correctly.

To begin with, before we are able and entitled to express judgment on the work of others, we must, beyond all, possess that type of special, I might even say "professional," knowledge of the subject that is the result of study, introspection and experience. It is a simple and easy task to voice a mo' mentary, fleeting reaction in the manner of a mere spectator. Any tyro can do that. But is such an utterance, based on sentiment, worth while? Does it justice to the work we criticize? Docs it ju.S' tice to the efforts of the author? Docs it even justice to ourselves, our acumen, our sense of fairness, our intellect? I fear me, not often. Whatever you may think of "first impressions" and "snap judg' ment," the fact remains that those who have acted as problem judges, again and again, uniformly agree on one point, to wit, that only conscientious study and recognition of all the qualifications that go into the making of a meritorious problem, enable us to arrive at an adjudicication that is fair, hon-est, sincere and capable.

My observations, collected during more than 30 years, inform me that all friends of chess prob' lems can be included in one of four distinct classes and that their conceptions on what constitutes a perfect problem are influenced materially by the demands each class makes as a "conditio sine qua non."

Class One consists mainly of youngsters devoid of tutelage and relying solely on their individual likes and dislikes. It is true that these young people frequently exhibit a nice sense of appreciation and honesty; but their utter ignorance of the fact that problems are not merely sentimental products leads them generally to a disregard of essential principles of construction and other supreme factors. The result is, of course, that any spectacular feature in the problem kindles their enthusiasm and blinds them absolutely to any and all glaring faults with which the selfsame problem may be ballasted. Naturally, the proffered criticism, however sincere, is practically worthless.

Class Two consists entirely of board players that occasionally take to problem solving. To these men a problem represents without exception, nothing but a portion of a chess game. Familiar with only the rules and regulations pertaining to the board game they apply them as a matter of fact to the problem, and, if the unfortunate problem does not strictly work within the board game limits, why, it cannot possibly be any good. What do the representatives of class two expect in a chess problem? Precisely what they look for in a game: a fight, an attack, a forceful parry, strategical fireworks and similar qualities. It never dawns on these men that it may be possible to attain something else with chess pieces than the customary scrap. To these men the chess board is a battle-field. If the action does not reck of blood it is not "natural" and hence without attraction. These are the solvers that protest to the Problem Editor when a problem presents a big white force against a minimal black contingent. They call such a problem "cowardly," because, to them, the problem is just a chunk, an abbreviated fraction of a game. • They do not grasp the nature of a problem, because of lack of informaiton and understanding.

Group No. 3 is different. It encompasses the solvers of some experience who by dint of much solving have awakened to a more or less clear conception that a chess problem is not a portion of the game of chess. Some conscious or subconscious sense tells them that a problem does not represent a scrap for superiority of one of two adversaries. They begin to reason out to themselves that, after all, in a problem the element of uncertainty as to the "victor" does not at all exist. They know not only that White is going to mate Black but, also, that such outcome is the result of a stipulation and that this stipulation could easily be reversed, with a simultaneous alteration of the setup, to read: Black to mate White (as, for instance, in Selfmates). Class three representatives find out for themselves that in a problem there is but one player, he that solves, and that he manipulates both sides. Seeing that a fight is not the object' of the problem play they ask themselves: What is the object? and answer themselves: The accomplishment of a hidden task. Thus as they keep on solving for years they learn that a chess preblem is a work of art, not a battleground; that art cannot exist without beauty; that beauty may be found in subtle ideas,, constructional purity and perfect mates. And so, realizing that a vicious attack and a powerful defense are not the ultimate mandates of a chess problem, they focus their attention on other features, and, when they judge a problem, seek features utterly divorced from the game that is played across the board.

Group four embodies the problem experts, often men that diecarded the excitement of the board game to embrace the beauty of the "poesy of Chess." They \now that a problem, even though it is built with chess pieces, is no more chess than a game played with a golf or billiard ball is baseball, because a little ball is used. They protest against the anachronism that in our modern days con' demns the chess problem to obey rules that were made for the board game long before problems were thought of. Why should it be compulsory, for instance, to have a white King on the diagram when he is not only not needed but, as often happens, must be nailed down with black Pawns or pieces to prevent him from doing mischief? Why cannot a Bishop be used, because the two exit Pawns in front are still "obstructing" that piece? What is shown in the problem is an artistic picture in which existing chess pieces are needed. If the game position of the chess pieces, perchance, clashes with that picture, does that render the picture less attractive? Who cares about the game of chess when the task is to unravel a pictorial mystery? Is it not about time to free the problem from the meaningless, decayed shackles of the game and put away the "game rules," so far as problems are con' cemed, with grand dad's meerschaum pipe and the photo in which he paraded in a fireman's uniform?

Well, so much for four vastly different viewpoints. It stands to reason that, according to the group you select for affiliation, you are going to demand different qualities in a chess problem. Then, since you alone, according to your lights, can tell what group you consider as the true exponents of chess problems, how is it possible for any man to "lay down an imperishable rule?"

What to do?

You must, resting on Common Sense, Problem Sense, Experience and your psychic and intellec tual make-up, decide for yourself what a perfect problem should proffer and, thereafter, work out your system.

And that brings me to my statement that I would explain to you "my system."

Well, I am not going to back out, though space forbids that I set down "my system" today. But in a subsequent article I shall most certainly outline how I appraise a chess problem. Meanwhile I shall be satisfied if these paragraphs have been instrumental in setting some of you, gentle readers to think' ing and, possibly, to revising your opinion on the merit of chess problems.

THEODORE C. WENZL P. L. ROTHENBERG

Irvington, N. J. New York City

Mate in 2 moves

Mate in 2 moves

No. 129 ( Original) DAVID C. McCLELLAND Jacksonville, 111.

Mate in 2 moves

No. 130 ( Original) EDMUND NASH Madison, Wis.

No. 129 ( Original) DAVID C. McCLELLAND Jacksonville, 111.

Mate in 2 moves'

No. 130 ( Original) EDMUND NASH Madison, Wis.

Mate in 2 moves

No. 131 ( Original) DR. GILBERT DOBBS Carrolton, Ga.

No. 132 ( Original) DR. GILBERT DOBBS Carrolton, Ga.

Mate in 2 moves

Mate in 2 moves'

No. 131 ( Original) DR. GILBERT DOBBS Carrolton, Ga.

Mate in 2 moves

Mate in 2 moves

No. 132 ( Original) DR. GILBERT DOBBS Carrolton, Ga.

Mate in 2 moves

No. 133 ( Original) A. C SIMONSON New York City

No. 133 ( Original) A. C SIMONSON New York City

Mate in 3 moves
Mate in 3 moves
Mate in 4 moves

No. 134 ( Original) WILBUR VAN WINKLE Endicott, N, Y.

No. 134 ( Original) WILBUR VAN WINKLE Endicott, N, Y.

Mate in 3 moves

No. 136 ( Original) KONRAD ERLIN Vienna, Austria

No. 136 ( Original) KONRAD ERLIN Vienna, Austria

Mate in 3 moves

No. 138 ( Original) Dr. C ERDOS Vienna, Austria

No. 138 ( Original) Dr. C ERDOS Vienna, Austria

Mate in 4 moves

Correspondence

Dr. Dobbs—Approve of a Fairy Section? Re-member: "Quae fuerant vitia nunc moves sunt." Let me hear from you.

Ludwig Maenner—I am in the saddle again. Will write to you soon.

Lynn Davis—Welcome to the family.

Dr. Ed. Birgfeld—Wieder im Sattel. Brief folgt.

M. H. Kleiman—Extra points have been added. Please inform me if everything is OK.

W. T. Scott—Problems sent in notation are generally incorrect. Can you not put them on diagrams? Please, do.

Franz Palatz—Have your name put on our exchange list. Contributions will be appreciated.

Wilbur van Winkle—Thanks for problem. Have written to you. Keep up the good work.

A. C. SlMONSON—I like your problems. Please send more. Why don't you enter our ladder contest?

Dr. B. Paster—Points have been added. Please send your full address with next solutions.

Dr. H. M. Berliner—Points have been added. I appreciate your clean cut solutions. Wish every one took such pains.

C. F. Berry—22 points were added to your score. Allright?

All Solvers—Kindly write on one side of paper only and put name and address on your communications. Problems should be diagrammed to insure correct printing.

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