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Investigating the Role of Composition Conventions in Three-Move Mate Problems

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Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNISA,volume 8215)


In improving the quality of their chess problems or compositions for tournaments and possibly publication in magazines, composers usually rely on ‘good practice’ rules which are known as ‘conventions’. These might include, contain no unnecessary moves to illustrate a theme and avoid castling moves because it cannot be proved legal. Often, conventions are thought to increase the perceived beauty or aesthetics of a problem. We used a computer program that incorporated a previously validated computational aesthetics model to analyze three sets of compositions and one set of comparable three-move sequences taken from actual games. Each of these varied in terms of their typical adherence to conventions. We found evidence that adherence to conventions, in principle, contributes to aesthetics in chess problems – as perceived by the majority of players and composers with sufficient domain knowledge – but only to a limited degree. Furthermore, it is likely that not all conventions contribute equally to beauty and some might even have an inverse effect. These findings suggest two main things. First, composers need not concern themselves too much with conventions if their intention is simply to make their compositions appear more beautiful to most solvers and observers. Second, should they decide to adhere to conventions, they should be highly selective of the ones that appeal to their target audience, i.e. those with esoteric knowledge of the domain or ‘outsiders’ who likely understand beauty in chess as something quite different.


  • Chess
  • problem
  • convention
  • beauty
  • composer


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Iqbal, A. (2013). Investigating the Role of Composition Conventions in Three-Move Mate Problems. In: Anacleto, J.C., Clua, E.W.G., da Silva, F.S.C., Fels, S., Yang, H.S. (eds) Entertainment Computing – ICEC 2013. ICEC 2013. Lecture Notes in Computer Science, vol 8215. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-642-41105-2

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-642-41106-9

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