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 certainly negative."

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 phase.

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.
Juraj Lörinc
Honourable Mention E. Manolas 60 JT C 12.7.2010

1.Bb1! th. 2.Qe6! (th. 3.Se4# A, Sd5# B)
1...Sg3 2.Sge6! (th. 3.Sd5# B, Qxd4# C)
1...Sf4 2.Sce6! (th. 3.Qxd4# C, Se4# A)
1...Re5 2.Sxb6! th. 3.Sa4#
1...d5 2.Qxb6! th. 3.Qa5#

Three white pieces Qf6, Sc7 and Sg5 can either play to e6 with Novotny interference or checkmate on d4, d5 and e4. The choice of right interfering piece is made based on the additional guard of potential checkmate square by Se2. Two additional quiet variations use the same square b6 in the second move too.

#3 (9+12)
nightrider f8

Unto Heinonen
1st Prize Springaren Summer Tourney 1998

1.Qe7 2.Qf7 3.Qch6 4.c1S 5.Sd3 6.Ke4 7.Qeg4 8.Sb2 9.Sa4 10.Kd5 11.Qae2 12.Sb6 13.Qd6 14.Qd7 15.Kc6 16.Qd5 Bxb6=

In the final position white queen paralyzes theoretical maximum of 8 black queens.

ser-h=16 (3+10)

Václav Kotesovec
Special Prize
Pat a Mat 2008

1.Rc2! zz
1...a2 2.Rxa2(Pa7)#
1...b2 2.Rxb2(Pb7)#
1...bxc2(Rh1) 2.Rxh8(Bf8)#
1...Sd2 2.Rxd2(Sb8)#
1...e2 2.Rxe2(Pe7)#
1...f2 2.Rxf2(Pf7)#
1...Sc3 2.Rxc3(Sb8)#

The paralyses of black and white queens are arranged in a way that 6 different rebirths of black units mean automatic check to bK. It is important that reborn black unit cannot move away from the line and thus the check cannot be parried.

#2 (12+12)
Madrasi RI

Frantisek Sabol
3rd Prize P. Gvozdjak 30 JT 1995

1.d7? th. 2.Bde3# A
1...g5 a 2.Kg2# B
1...g6 b 2.Qa1# C

1.Bb7! th. 2.Kg2# B
1...g5 a 2.Qa1# C
1...g6 b 2.Bde3# A
1...Bxf2 2.Kxf2(Bf8)#

Shedey cycle based on impossibilities to parry check by rebirth of White pieces. In the initial position 1.Bde3+? Rxd6(Pd2)!, 1.Kg2+? Rxd5(Bf1)!, therefore keys prepare these mates by hideaway. At the same time both keys close 7th rank, but thus allow defences by Pg7 opening another black line to guard checkmates. Ranks 5 and 6 are thus used equivalently, with additional checkmate 2.Qa1# (that works if black cannot capture any darksquared bishop. Very unified mechanism!

#2 (15+7)

Yves Cheylan
Prize Buletin Problemistic 1984-85

1.Bb3! zz
1...c1Q+ 2.Qxc4#
1...c1R 2.Rxc4#
1...c1B+ 2.Sdxc4#
1...c1S 2.Sexc4#

The key paralyzes Bc4, but upins Pc2 that can promote - with two checks thrown in as a bonus. After the promotion, capture of Bc4 becomes check by Bb3, however White must parry additional effects of promotions: check to wK (by direct paralysis or by opening bishop line), guard on c2 by bK and unguard of e1 by paralysis of Sd3. Good scheme for given thematic goals.

#2 (10+3)

Uri Avner
Kjell Widlert

2nd Prize Andernach 1993

1.Ra4! th. 2.Qc2! (th. 3.Sxa2(bS)+ Sb4#)
1...Qh6 2.Rxf6(bR)! (th. 3.Sxc6(bS)+ Sb4#)
1...Qf1 2.Bxe2(bB)! (th. 3.Sbxd3(bS)+ Sb4#)

Quiet threat includes switchback mate by pinned knight. Black defends by attacking Sf4 (1...Qh6, Qf1 2.Qc2 Qxf4(w) 3.Sxa2+ Kd5!), however the moves are well hidden ambushes allowing switchback doublecheck mates.

s#3 (13+15)
Andernach chess

Hans Peter Rehm
1st Prize StrateGems 1999

1.Sd5! th. 2.Sb6#
1...Qhxd5(Qd8) 2.Bb3+ Qgf1 3.Rb4#, 2...Qdf1 3.Qa3#
1...Qgxd5(Qd8) 2.Qa3+ Qdd1 3.Bb3#, 2...Qhd1 3.Rb4#
1...Qdxd5(Qd8) 2.Rb4+ Qhh1 3.Qa3#, 2...Qgh1 3.Bb3#

Black queens cyclically guard pairs of rebirth squares of three white pieces: Qc1, Ba2, Rb5. The defences remove one queen and then White gives the well guarded checkto exploit overload of remaining two queens. This mechanism is well known from orthodox threemovers, however the Anticirce specificity and airy position make the present fairy threemoves quite memorable.

#3 (8+8)

Comments to Juraj Lörinc.
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