Both my kids beat me at Connect 4
I’ve liked Connect 4 for a long time. The first TCP/IP socket programming I ever did was in 1987 and it was code to let two people on the net play Connect 4 against each other, with graphics done using curses code written with Andrew Hensel. Later I wrote a machine opponent that used some form of Alpha-beta pruning and which was popular among a few CS grad students at the University of Waterloo. Amazingly, you can still find traces of my youthful code (and function names!) online. I like/d to think I am/was a pretty good player.
So you can imagine my confidence as I walked into the kid’s room and asked them who wanted to be beaten at Connect 4 by the champion of the world. My friend Russell has a take-no-prisoners attitude towards playing games with his kids. He wouldn’t dream of deliberately letting them win at anything. I let mine win very often, and find it hard to imagine how you could teach a small kid to play (say) chess if you don’t give them a chance. Anyway, tonight I decided I was going to show no mercy and whip them repeatedly at Connect 4.
I was so wrong.
At xmas just a couple of weeks ago I remember explaining the game to Sofia (8), and thinking what a vast gap existed between her understanding of the game and mine. Of course she quickly got the idea, but she had no idea at all of strategy. Lucas (6) came up during the explanation and of course had to be included, which meant an even more painstaking explanation from the champion of the world to his tabula rasa midgets.
Yesterday Ana told me that the kids, Sofia especially, were getting quite good. I smiled a knowing smile, and inside I scoffed.
Tonight I played Sofia in the first game and won fairly quickly. I told them we were going to play winner stays on, and so I then faced Lucas.
And the little bugger beat me. Fair and square he got me good, knew exactly what he was doing, and celebrated like a wild animal as he dropped the winning piece, while I sat there in shock with a huge smile on my face.
When I finally got back into the game I was up against Sofia. She proceeded to beat me too.
Amazing. Great. Funny. Alarming. How is this possible?
It reminds me of when I was about 12. My father was trying to figure out how to connect something with some cables. I took a look and told him what to do. I’ll never forget it. He knew I was right and he looked straight at me and said “how come you’re smarter than I am?” I guess I shrugged, but inside I was thinking “yep”.
Pride before a fall. Multiple falls. And you wouldn’t want it any other way, of course.
Still, they might have waited a few more years before mowing me down.