Dan Spracklen

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Dan Spracklen, ACM 1978 [1]

Dan Spracklen,
an American computer scientist and microcomputer chess pioneer. Along with his wife Kathe, Dan started chess programming in 1977 on a Z-80 based Wavemate Jupiter III [2] in assembly language. Their first program, Sargon [3] had a one or two ply search without quiescence but exchange evaluation [4]. After the success at The Second West Coast Computer Faire MCCT in March 1978, and the shared third place at ACM 1978, the Spracklens became professional computer chess programmers. Sargon II was ported to various early home computers, for instance TRS-80 and 6502 based Apple II [5], as well as dedicated units as Chafitz ARB Sargon 2.5 [6].



Kathe and Dan Spracklen, ACM 1978 [7]


David Kittinger and Dan Spracklen at WMCCC 1983 [8]


After civil proceedings between manufacturer Applied Concepts and their sales company Chafitz, who first marketed their Sargon 2.5 program, the Spracklens began their long term collaboration with Sidney Samole and Fidelity Electronics in the 80s. Beside other successes, their computers won the first four World Microcomputer Chess Championships, Chess Challenger the WMCCC 1980, Fidelity X the WMCCC 1981, Elite Auto Sensory the WMCCC 1983 and Fidelity Elite X the WMCCC 1984 (shared).


In 1989 or 1990, soon after Samole sold Fidelity to Hegener & Glaser, Kathe and Dan Spracklen started to work for Eric Winkler and Saitek, and developed a program for Sparc processors. The loss of Kasparov Sparc against Ed Schröder's ChessMachine [9] in Madrid 1992, almost ended their involvement in computer chess when they didn't win that world title [10].

Oral History

Excerpt from their Oral History [11]:

How it started

Danny Spracklen:

Yes, the first time I saw Kathleen, she was hunched over a chess program, or a  chessboard, in the cafeteria, studying a chess position. And I go, wow, that’s interesting. The young lady  likes chess.

Kathleen Spracklen:

And it should be noted that Dan and I have played- as opponents in chess, we’ve  played two games of chess. I won one and he won one, and we said, okay, good enough.

Danny Spracklen:

Well, I majored in math. And then when I got out of college, I looked for a job. And  McDonald-Douglas in Santa Monica, offered me a position there, as a beginning computer programmer.  So I moved up there and started learning how to program in Fortran. And I worked for them for three  years. 

The Last WCCC


Well, what bet you? What was it? What program ended up beating you and not making it?

Danny Spracklen:

I think it was... the Schroeder program, Rebel, or - I believe it was.
And he's still selling his program today, I think.
That was the end of it, yeah. That was our last big effort. We didn't make it and Sci Tech lost interest in us and - so we figured, well, it's been a good run, you know, let's do something else <laughter> 

See also

Selected Publications

External Links


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