Howard Goldowsky


Chess Bio

     I learned the moves from my grandfather and uncle when I was six. When I was in 8th grade, my English teacher, in our free time, taught the class a paper and pencil game called Coconuts (also known, more popularly, as Nim). This is a game where you draw four lines of circles on a page. The first line has one circle, the second line has three circles, the third line five circles, and the fourth line seven circles. Players take turns crossing out any number of circles on a particular line. The player left with the last circle is the loser. (The game can also be played on a tabletop with matchsticks, M&Ms, etc.) In fifteen years, only one student ever beat my English teacher, and she went on to become valedictorian of the High School. This was a great omen. Thus, a friend and I were determined to beat the teacher. We played hundreds and hundreds of games, at recess, at lunch, even during class when we were not supposed to be playing. We had a blast going through all the possibilities. Finally, we beat the teacher. We realized that if you play enough games of Coconuts, similar to Tic Tac Toe, you could solve the game and win every time.
A few months later it occurred to me that chess is just one giant game of Coconuts. This is how I got hooked. Couldn't I study chess and, like Coconuts, win this game every time, too? Half way through my freshman year in High School I saw a copy of Chess Life at a local independent bookstore (something that would never happen anymore), and by the end of the school year I was playing in my first tournament. This was 1985. By the time I graduated High School, I was immersed in chess up to my eyeballs. Chess, however, has turned out to be a bit more difficult to master than those coconuts. But it 's been a blast trying.
PS: Neither my friend nor I ever got anywhere close to becoming valedictorian.

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