Apologies if I come across a bit strongly in this post; it's not been a good morning at work xD

I'm just wondering at what point this turns from puzzling.SE into chesspuzzling.SE, as right now, 8 of the 10 most recent questions are chess puzzles.

I'm not saying that I think they're pointless, but it feels like the ones being asked are very low quality. They're all slight variations on a theme:

  • How many queens can you fit without threating themselves?
  • How many amazons (queen+knight) can you fit without threating themselves?
  • How many queens can you fit to threat themselves once each?
  • How many queens can you fit to threat themselves twice each? (yes, someone went there)
  • How many knights can you fit without threating themselves?
  • How many super-knights (!?) can you fit without threating themselves?

It feels like it's just a matter of time until someone gets so lazy they just ask "How many pawns can you fit without threating themselves?" and we just work through the same questions with all the different pieces, maybe adding in some fantasy made-up rubbish like bishops that can move diagonally then slide onto an adjacent square, thus changing colour and my god, what happened to actual puzzles?

We also have completely lazy, no-effort questions like how to force mate with two knights, which can't be done. So someone decided to create yet another me-too chess question without bothering to check that it is known to be impossible.

I don't think I mind things like fitting all pieces on to the board without threating themselves because it's at least using a mix of things, but on the flip side it's the same problem because it's just "do this without threating themselves".

Something like partitioning a chessboard isn't related IMO, because it's asking a puzzling kind of question with a checkerboard pattern, not something specifically chess-related (although it also happens to be impossible).

TLDR: I personally feel like we have too many variations on the same chess question, and not any actual questions coming in that are puzzles.

Are these kind of questions (a) actually stuff we want on the site (b) off-topic [go to chess.SE] or (c) too close to being duplicates of each other?

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    $\begingroup$ Short answer: voting is the right tool for this issue. Longer answer incoming. $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Oct 14, 2014 at 14:10
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    $\begingroup$ As someone who is part of the "problem", I would say this phenomenon is the result of activity being so slow lately on the site. There are a number of skulkers and not many question-askers. Most "puzzle" questions are marked as duplicates because there is a relatively small group on classic little logic puzzles which seem to have been pretty much exhausted. Otherwise, someone just answers the question 10 seconds after it's been asked and other people have little to do. In short, the chess flood is because people are bored $\endgroup$
    – d'alar'cop
    Oct 14, 2014 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ Actually this reminds me of the issue of REGEX questions on SO. There are an infinite number of variations on what REGEX says X, just as there on pieces and conditions to a chess problem. $\endgroup$
    – d'alar'cop
    Oct 14, 2014 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop As a side note, it's okay if there are periods of less activity, really. The activity you joined during is actually a relatively recent thing, and site traffic has a tendency to wax and wane. $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Oct 14, 2014 at 22:58
  • $\begingroup$ @Emrakul is voting the right tool for this problem? I was under the impression that voting is supposed to be the quality of the question and nothing else. That is, shouldn't we be voting as if that question is the only question around? I suspect many of these questions would be higher if they weren't around other, similar questions. Of course, downvote chess puzzles that have needlessly confusing pieces (or whatever), but don't do it because you're sick of chess puzzles. Also, should our comments be turned into answers? Sometimes meta confuses me. $\endgroup$ Oct 17, 2014 at 14:27
  • $\begingroup$ @Envision Yeah, this is true. For low-quality ones (which, honestly, at least as far as I've seen, is most of them). It's still something I'm thinking about, though... feel free to post an answer of your own if you have one! $\endgroup$
    – user20
    Oct 17, 2014 at 16:10
  • $\begingroup$ Side-question: which site/software do you use to set up an arbitrary chessboard and create an image of it? You might like to anchor that somewhere. $\endgroup$
    – smci
    Oct 18, 2014 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ @smci XBoard for Linux and WinBoard for Windows - then use a snipping tool (windows)/shutter (linux) $\endgroup$
    – d'alar'cop
    Oct 19, 2014 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ It wasn't a super knight I suggested! It was a speedy knight, and it was actually an interesting puzzle. $\endgroup$
    – warspyking
    Oct 20, 2014 at 17:46
  • $\begingroup$ "How many pawns can you fit without threating themselves?" searches brb! ;-) $\endgroup$
    – Michael
    Nov 18, 2014 at 3:34

2 Answers 2


I noticed this trend and it bothered me as well. However, that's a product of what I was hoping to get out of my browsing this SE: a list of intellectually interesting puzzles, and conversation about such puzzles. Part of what bothered me was that I don't care enough about chess to be intellectually interested in more than one or two such puzzles. However this isn't a forum. Instead of holding questions to our expectations of browsing and socializing, we should try to maintain a question-and-answer format.

As Emrakul mentions, low-quality questions should be downvoted. Duplicate, too-broad, off-topic, and unclear questions should be flagged and closed. As a few meta questions attest it's unclear when some of these cases are occurring. However, SE is a user-moderated site, and ideally we should be able to come to a consensus about these sorts of things through close voting, etc., or else in individual meta threads or chat. If enough people seem to disagree with you, so be it!

With that in mind, it seems like there are a few different problems:

  • similar to another question
    • if the change fails to add any interesting twists, mark it as a duplicate
    • see this meta thread for more discussion
    • don't downvote* unless there's something else wrong with it; judge puzzles on their own merit
  • especially complex mechanics
    • mark as unclear if they're too complex
    • downvote if the Dancing Bishop isn't interesting enough to justify the complexity
  • too easy, too "busywork" or "brute force", many other problems
    • downvote, downvote, downvote. If a puzzle/question isn't interesting on its own (but not because you've seen it before, etc.), it's low quality. Voting is your opportunity to say "this isn't interesting or thoughtful".

*Of course, voting is your own business. I just mean to emphasize that being asked second doesn't really reduce the quality of the question, just our willingness to accept it.

And for what it's worth, I don't think many of these belong on Chess, because they don't involve the actual game. They may belong on Puzzling, so long as they're okay by the above guidelines. Maybe someone more interested in the weirdness of chess pieces would enjoy them.

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    $\begingroup$ You might create a new tag 'synthetic-chess-puzzles' to distinguish from real chess puzzles that can occur? $\endgroup$
    – smci
    Oct 19, 2014 at 18:46
  • $\begingroup$ @smci yes, then people who don't like it can filter them out. I think, personally, that they are legitimate logic/constraint puzzles. That being said, some are certainly "better" than others. $\endgroup$
    – d'alar'cop
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:34
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    $\begingroup$ @d'alar'cop do you think it would be appropriate to post a bunch of sudoku puzzles? I don't think many would appreciate that. To me, this seems pretty similar. They all may be valid puzzles with some practical differences, but the idea is really the same. $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2014 at 16:38
  • $\begingroup$ @EnvisionAndDevelop Yeah, I guess you're right. What about knights/knaves? And also there's the issue of what will be left for this site then? We already downvote and mark duplicate every other post because there just aren't that many things that fit this thing $\endgroup$
    – d'alar'cop
    Oct 20, 2014 at 16:41
  • $\begingroup$ Knight/Knave puzzles have the potential to change a decent amount, as sometimes they contain things like a third, probabilistic answer-er or an unknown answer language. Still, I'd say most are just repeats with a slightly different answer. As far as running out of content, I'm hopeful that there are a good number of brain-teasers that are sufficiently different. There are also real world puzzles to talk about, and I've been impressed by how novel I've found some of the recent puzzles. $\endgroup$ Oct 20, 2014 at 16:59

I completely agree and wish I had seen this post earlier. I too have been burnt out on the same puzzle style with different text. Sure, they all have their own solutions and some of them are actually pretty interesting, but plenty feel dry. Almost to the point where it feels like a 'comment' question. Something that doesn't have in-depth thought and may even feel like a point farm.

It'd be the same as someone posted well-known individual visual ('Say what you see') puzzles on and off throughout the day for weeks at a time. Again, valid puzzles, but sometimes it feels like just because a post isn't a duplicate, it doesn't mean it's a good idea to post.

I feel a bit scattered in reasoning, but I don't find voting down preventing people from putting answers in or others jumping on board with a similar concept. Sadly, I enjoy the activity as of recent, but something just doesn't feel right. I'd love some insight on options, but for me it almost feels like a low-quality/duplicate mix.


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