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Fairy Chess. Short introduction to the world of fairy chess problems.[All Comments] [Add Comment or Rating]
🕸Fergus Duniho wrote on 2011-01-27 UTC

On another page, a discussion on problemists vs. variants came up, i.e. the composers of fairy chess problems vs. the creators of chess variants. I thought it would be best to continue it here.

Charles Gilman wrote:

From what little I've seen of problematists on these pages I get the impression that we don't even feature on their radar.

Jörg Knappen wrote:

As I say: With their (peer reviewed!) journals problemists have a far better infrastructure than chess variantists can even dream of. We have this web site and wikipedia. Neither of the two media is peer-reviewed.

They say other things too, but it is these quotations that focus on the status of the problemist community. This page mentions some of the so-called fairy chess journals, but it was last updated 13 years ago. Looking them up, I notice that The Problemist is a chess problem journal. It once contained a fairy chess supplement edited by T. R. Dawson, who died in 1951. It later had a fairy chess column by A. S. M. Dickens in 1968. Dickens was born in 1914 and is around 97 if he's still alive. Die Schwalbe is another chess problem journal. It's in German, and I'm not sure whether it covers fairy chess. Probleemblad is in Dutch, but it appears to be about chess problems, as indicated by the word 'SCHAAKPROBLEMATIEK' used as one of its section names. Feenschach is in German, but even its English page is uninformative about what it is about. Phenix may be a French chess magazine, but I have no link to it. All in all, I do not get the picture of a thriving fairy chess community here. It seems that fairy chess problems were mainly relegated to supplements in Chess magazines, and the people most associated with the field of fairy chess, such as Dawson and Dickens, are either dead or very old. If there is any living, thriving fairy chess community, I would be interested in learning about it. I'm just saying that I don't see the evidence for it right now.

During the early and mid 20th century, print media was dominant, and it was more amenable to fairy chess problems than it was to chess variants. Print media was not as suitable for playing games as mail was, but it was good for printing fairy chess problems. With the 21st century's online media, it has become easier to accommodate an interest in chess variants themselves. Game Courier, which I began working on in 2001, the first year of the new century, has allowed people to play numerous variants online with each other. Other sites have also allowed people to play Chess variants online. Even prior to that, the web was allowing people to publish the rules to variants online, something the print magazines, which depended on paid subscribers and had limited space, might have simply been less inclined to publish. Fairy chess problems would have been favored in chess magazines, because they don't compete with chess as much as new games do, and the readers could do something with them even if they could not find any opponents to play against.

So, I don't think the fairy chess problemists are simply ignoring us. I think they are dead or very old. Game Courier, Zillions-of-Games, and this website have all contributed to the popularity of chess variants in the 21st century. Less has been done to support fairy chess problems. But I don't think fairy chess should die out. It would be great if this site could support fairy chess as well as it supports chess variants. To that end, I have been working on providing Game Courier with the ability to help you compose and share fairy chess problems. I hope people will start using it. If need be, I can hold contests for composing problems and maybe let people vote on the ones they like using Facebook.