The fictive alterating to Black having the move, in a chess problem (where traditionally White moves first), is called "set play". I assume that's not because you are now allowed to play with the set (of figures) but because the play is set. In some sense. I got no answer on that on a problem chess board; maybe someone here knows definitely what the phrase means?

Addendum: Also, on a related note, if in the set play all Black moves can be answered to fulfil the stipulation, but White really has to search for a useful move, it's called, as a genre, "White to play" (as said, it's always White to play, so its tautological ;-)). Comments on the genesis of that phrase also are welcome.

Nitpick Note: In a helpmate Black begins. Usually.

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    fictive? alterate: do you mean alternate? [Don't you get a red line for alterate when you type it?] Sorry, in any case, I don't play chess so I can't answer the question.
    – Lambie
    Feb 6, 2022 at 16:48
  • @Lambie Yes, fictive means imaginary or made up. Maybe the OP means Chess problems [studies / compositions] where black moves first (traditionally White moves first) are called "set play" I must admit that in 70 odd years pf playing chess, I've never heard this name and googling it turns up nothing. Feb 6, 2022 at 17:52
  • @PeterJennings I don't think fictive is the right word here.
    – Lambie
    Feb 6, 2022 at 17:54
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    @Lambie Agreed. Hauke, where did you find the phrase "fictive alterating". ? Feb 6, 2022 at 21:26
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    In the handbook "Things that non-native speaker speak" :-) Sorry, I speak English since 50 years but I still don't do it right... Feb 7, 2022 at 8:14

1 Answer 1


This is a technical term, and its definition can be found in technical glossaries

set play

Play that is possible from the initial position of a problem if the other player moves first. For example, in a directmate, set play consists of lines of play starting with a black move (rather than a white move). When set play exists, the key move may be something that does not change the set play lines, in which case the problem is a complete block, or the lines in the set play may change, in which case the problem is a mutate. Set play is one phase of play.

I think the phrase comes from the idea of black "setting up" for white. So in a directmate problem (one in which white has to checkmate black while black attempts to avoid mate) the set play is the move that black makes first. And white has to find the checkmate move whatever black does in their move.

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