I learned the chess rules as a young boy in the mid sixties, and played once in a while at home against my father and grandfather, but nothing even remotely serious. In the late seventies, my father (a strong chess player) bought one of the first chess computers (Challenger), and that piqued my interest in the game for the first time. I was allowed to have a go against the machine at a regular basis, analysed games with my father, and gradually beat the higher levels. I started to look a bit at opening theory, combination, tactics, and end games - mainly over the board with my father.
In 1980 I moved to Delft to start working on a Ph.D. in chemistry. Opportunities to play with my father had of course decreased to the occasional weekends, and I was looking to play chess more regularly. I joined the strongest local chess club (DSC), started to play in the internal competition, and saw my strength increase. At my peak (around 1985) I played in the first team, in the second Dutch national division, with reasonable scores, and an Elo rating of around 1900. I also played a number of games in simultaneous exhibitions against masters and grandmasters, and defeated three of them.
And then I quit playing chess to pursue other interests. In the nineties I tried correspondence chess for a while (encouraged by my father who had taken it up and later became Dutch national champion in it), but I did not like it.
The pandemic of 2020/2021 meant more time at home, and I searched for a site to play on-line chess. I found it in chess.com. I registered November 20th 2020, and first played lots of games against the various free computer programmes on the site. It confronted me quickly how much I had forgotten about the game, making rookie mistakes all the time, but slowly I picked up. It also became clear that these programmes at the levels I tried (1600-2000 Elo) were very good in tactics, but not in strategies, let alone end games. I decided that I could not further improve (aiming for my old level) this way, and that I needed actual human opponents.
I picked the “rapid” (30 minutes per person per game, around 14 million active players) mode as a good compromise to play chess on-line - long enough to think about the moves, short enough to be able to set aside an hour purely for a game. The site had to assign me an Elo rating to pair me with players of similar strength - based on my own assessment of intermediate strength (given my background but also the frequent howlers against the chess programmes), I started at a 1200 rating. The rest of the year I played 52 games against human opposition in this format, some nice wins, some awful losses (including a defeat in 7 moves by blundering a piece in the opening). I did get the feeling that gradually some of my skills of the eighties were coming back. My rating increased and is around 1750 now. This month I started to focus on 5 minutes games, so far so good.