Everything in my chess life

Nov 8, 2011, 4:06 PM |

This is an essay I wrote a day after I signed up for chess.com last week, because I thought I might use it in my profile, but it's too long and personal.

Everything in my chess life:

My dad taught me to play at the age of eight. He taught that the best opening is, by some order of moves, to reach the result of 1. e4 e5 2. d4 d5 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 Nc6 5. Bc4 Bc5 6. Bf4 Bf5. I felt there were moves that were necessary to avoid losing, when my older sister and I tried to play that way, so I kept breaking from that plan first.

The first time I played outside of my family, I lost by fool's mate to a nerdy boy with black glasses at lunchtime.

My computer club friends played chess with me sometimes in 8th grade.

In high school I hung around the chess club for about a month, at first because it was by the computers. I stayed late after school playing chess one day, completely absorbed and forgetting an important appointment, which was part of how I dropped out of that school.

At 16, I played a game at summercamp.  All the guys in the cabin stood around us at the start, saying things like "the best defense is a good offense." I ended up playing very cautiously while behind in material, and my opponent said, "What a boring game." That hurt my feelings that I would bore someone unintentionally.

I've played occasionally and evenly against my next younger brother, who once beat a former state youth champion. He did it by taking a pawn in the middle of its two square movement using one of his pieces, not using a pawn. You can't do that, his opponent protested. My brother said, it's en passant, haven't you heard of that?

I played against the program Zargon three or four times in the '80s. I gave that up when one time that I thought I had checkmate, it moved the king two squares at once.

The only book of sample professional games I studied was All About Chess by I. A. Horowitz, which is a thin book of New York Times chess columns from the seventies.

I wrote a Commodore-64 program that did chess graphics with the pieces as moving sprites.

After that I read a simple book on tactics including back rank mate, and a book of stories relating to chess.

For a couple of years in the late '90s I got the newspaper and clipped the Sunday chess puzzles and professional game selected by U.S. Women's Chess Champion Elena Donaldson. I've studied those over and over. Of course I also read Kasparov's matches vs Deep Blue and vs Nigel Short.

Then I wrote a chess program in QBASIC that could solve mate in 2 problems in about 15 minutes on the slowest possible IBM-PC compatible old computer.

Then I played against commercial chess programs on CDs, mainly against Extreme Chess. I had to turn its auto chat off because it made me feel very frustrated.  My simulated blitz rating varied between 950 and 1150. I set myself a goal of playing chess with people instead, but wanted to stop blundering so much first.


In the last year I wrote a chess program that makes purely random moves out of all possible legal moves. On the same slow computer, it plays against itself faster than bullet speed, for example, 59 moves ending in checkmate in 16 seconds, including graphically displaying the pieces and notation. I like to consider that an improvement over the previous program I wrote.

Now I've got my first online computer of my own, not having to limit how long I spend on it. So about three days into having it, I decided ready or not it's better to play chess with people than to load chess CDs. So I typed chess.com in, on a guess of what would be the name of a good chess site, and signed up.