Here is a cycle of very short (h=1) help-stalemate problems - {1}, {2}, {3}, {4}. When you're done, perhaps you can find a simpler representation of one of the four cases (i.e. with a smaller number of units)? If so, please email me.


So, are these problems "orthodox"?

These problems are based on the somewhat controversial notion of Dead Reckoning (which became legal in 1997).

One issue is that DR is incompatible with all self-stalemates and also with a few help-stalemates. On the other hand, some new help-stalemate problems like the ones above rely on DR. So what to do? Here's my take...

(1) The Laws of Chess do change (slightly) over time.

(2) So should the Conventions - actually even more so since they have had less time to evolve and are still converging towards some best expression.

(3) There is currently no clear statement in the Codex as to how changes to the rules & conventions should affect the status of existing problems. The Codex does give the hint: It is not intended to be a body of established law which problemists must observe on pain of being condemned of heresy or worse; problemists are independent spirits.

I take this to be a clear pointer to a live-and-let-live approach. And by that I mean more than "Anyone is free to compose fairy problems." - that's like saying "Anyone is free to be condemned of heresy." If the Codex statement means anything at all, it means that the concept of orthodoxy must an open one.

So what does this live-and-let-live approach suggest? I want to protect a number of constituencies: the old and the new, the composers and the solvers...

(4) It would be unacceptable for an old composition to be rendered obsolete by a rules change.

(5) However, it would be equally unacceptable to prohibit new rules purely to "protect" a historical view of the game.

(6) No-one wants problems groaning with excessive text.

(7) Yet solvers have a reasonable expectation not to be confused.

Now, let's focus on DR. We can look to the case of the 50 move rule (50M) for an analogy and a remedy.

With the 50 move rule (50M), different problems & studies assume different rules & conventions. Generally, people look to the quality of the chess in a 50M problem, rather than how the problem matches up against the rather unsatisfactory Article 17 of the Codex. The area is one where only experienced solvers tread, so the risk of confusion to solvers is lessened. How are these issues resolved? Well, in the spirit of the Codex, we agree to differ. We don't burden the stipulation with tedious explanatory text. Solvers figure out from the context what must be assumed.

We can apply a similar inclusive approach to DR (and, where feasible, to other future rule and convention changes):

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