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Fathers, Chess and Christmas

Originally written Dec 26th 2014 with some minor edits made now, 2018.

I learned to play chess at 13 and my first opponent was my dad. He beat me at first but eventually got to where I could win half the games or so. Mainly they seemed to end in back rank rook mates.

At age 17 I started playing one year in high school and went to an inter school tournament and learned about USCF and also bought the Fidelity Excellence sensory chess board computer and now I had a full time opponent. When I bought it for my 17th birthday me and my brother drove around the San Francisco bay area looking for which one of two to buy(Excellence or Super Excellence) and returned late and missed going to a movie with my dad and he was a bit upset. I was upset too you see Fidelity Excellence kept beating me on it's default level, level 6. Went to bed depressed.

Next morning I set it to level one and managed to beat it with a back rank rook mate. This was Christmas 1987. Summer of 1988 I played uscf in the Bay Area about 20 games total at 4 or 5 events and won only 2 games I think. To me it seemed I was lousy at chess therefor my father must not be very good either.

I stopped playing mainly except for some coffee shop chess at college where I could often beat people. In the early 1990s upon graduating from college I used some counting ideas I developed to conquer some openings by simply counting the number of pieces that attacked a piece and got a bit better and started to beat my chess board computer at higher levels. Well then I challenged my dad to chess who wasn't as strong and after some play I could maybe win 2/3 or 3/4

Since then I joined chessclub.com in 1998 and developed the Pulsar chess engine. I let my dad try it in Winboard and the first problem was there was no takeback. I added retract move but it might have been to late. He wasn't much interested.

This Christmas(2014) I got my dad to download my OpeningTree app for iPhone/iPad that I wrote in 2014. It has an opening book and you can toggle on Crafty engine analysis and load games into it. I was surprised when he told me he was 'playing games'. I quickly found out he was turning Crafty on and making crafty moves then 'trying a few moves of his own'. He was quite pleased when he got a draw by repetition. So seeing he was spending quite a bit of time with it I wanted to demonstrate it would play through pgn games and got his iPhone and went to TWIC and loaded a PGN from the European Rapid Chess Championship onto it. He was initially reluctant to let me do this not sure what he would do with these games so I sent him a mail and explained at at any point in a game, he could try his own moves, known as a variation, then back up and return to what's called the 'main line'. So he mails me later that day:

"I ran a game and helped player 1 and lost. Fun."

My dad had not been much interested in chess or any of my apps in most of my adult life. This Christmas(2014) thanks to Openingtree he see's it as something fun again. It's amazing to see him latch onto Crafty running and the idea of a score ( he has never seen computer analysis in his life) and so quickly turn it into a form of play. He just learned to read chess notation this week and I pointed to the coordinates on the board and had him trace them out.

My Dad continues to use OpeningTree when I update it and i'm hoping when I show him the new move now button for the engine added in 1.6 that might make play even more fun.

Merry Christmas