Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

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Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by lkaufman » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:21 am

Don Dailey, my partner in chess programs from RexChess to Komodo spanning a quarter of a century, died tonite in Roanoke Virginia at age 57 from Leukemia, just about the same time that Komodo pulled ahead of Stockfish by winning game 2 in the TCEC final. He no longer even recognized his own family on the final day, so he could not know about this, but was still somewhat lucid the day before so he did understand that Komodo had made it to the final. He is survived by his wife Mary, one brother, and both of his parents. He was raised as a Jehovah's Witness and served in recent years as an "elder" in the church.
Don's life story is rather amazing. He grew up in relative poverty in Michigan, and never even graduated from high school (though he later got a General Education Diploma via a test). He taught himself how to program computers as well as how to play chess (his best rating was in Class A, somewhere around 1900 I believe). Despite the lack of formal education, by the mid 1990s he was the head of the computing department at M.I.T. (!!!!). Probably they never imagined he had so little formal education. It is a curious coincidence that Don had this job, that I was an M.I.T. graduate, and that Vasik Rajlich whom I worked with on Rybka 3 was also an M.I.T. graduate. It is likely that Vasik and Don interacted at the computer dept. there, although neither remembered knowing the other back then.
I first met Don in the late 1980s. He had written his own chess program and competed with it, although it was not yet very strong. His chess advisor was the notorious Sam Sloan who happened to be living in the Roanoke are where Don had settled. That didn't last too long, not surprising considering Don's strong ethics and Sloan's reputation. When Sam had to flee the country to avoid prosecution he introduced Don to me, and I took over as the chess advisor. Soon I persuaded Don to move to Florida where I then lived to devote himself full time to computer chess, and we developed Rexchess, Socrates, and (with Julio Kaplan) Kasparov's Gambit. Then Don took the M.I.T. job and moved to Boston, later moving on to a position with a tech startup. He told me that the stock they gave him was on paper worth five million dollars at one time, but he couldn't yet sell it and the 2001 tech crash nearly wiped out his equity. About that time he married Mary and they moved back to his favorite Roanoke, a major center for Jehovah's Witnesses. He made a living doing a variety of programming jobs for most of that decade. Then we got in touch again, Don expressed an interest in writing a new chess program, and I agreed to help him although at the time I was still working on Rybka, Vasik having no objection. Neither of us imagined that it would become a threat to Rybka's primacy, but events showed otherwise. After my Rybka work concluded we decided to aim for a commercial product. After a while I agreed to subsidize Don so he could devote full time to Komodo until it went on sale. But about the same time he learned that he had a terminal illness which would become a fatal Leukemia after a few years. He never really made a living from Komodo until the final months of his life, but was able to get by due to very low cost of living in Roanoke, some savings from the tech days, and his wife having a job. He certainly could have made far more money doing business programming, but he wanted to do what he loved more than he wanted material possessions.
At least Don lived to see Komodo surpass Houdini in every stage of TCEC, although whether Komodo or Stockfish is the new number one is yet to be determined. During the last weeks of his life, following TCEC was a prime interest for him.
I'll post more information as it becomes available.
Good Bye Don, Mark and I will do our best to see that your brainchild Komodo continues to improve and give chessplayers around the world much joy.

Larry Kaufman

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by JuLieN » Sat Nov 23, 2013 6:36 am

The CCC moderation team would like to express its deepest condolences to Don’s family and friends.

We have been very lucky to have Don in the moderation team, first as an active member during our first term, then as the alternate during the following ones. In the beginning, none of us knew Don very well, but while collaborating and exchanging with him on a daily basis for more than two years now we soon became close friends. We rapidly discovered that Don was a very gentle, charming and humorous man with a great moral rectitude and honesty. You will probably remember that at times this would make Don spit fire whenever he thought something unethical was being done to our hobby. But what stroke us the most was Don’s imagination and enthusiasm! Despite being the oldest of our group, Don was like the most turbulent and youngest of us by his endless curiosity and fertile imagination. Always coming with new ideas Don was immediately enthusiastic and eager to try and test new things. Just a few weeks before he passed away he started learning a new programming language. This is how Don was! But this came with the depth only a man who stood up and thought for all his life could achieve. Often, we found ourselves surprised by the wise insight Don displayed in the thoughts he shared with us. And Don was also full of wit and humor!

Don had been informing us for a while that he was fighting a life and death battle with cancer and we can testify how much courage and tenacity he put in this battle. Despite all this, Don was nearly always joyful and optimistic. He would even talk lightly to us about his possible death and adding not to worry. Thankfully, Don lived long enough to see his ultimate creation, Komodo, become the strongest program in the world. His only regret was that the Computer Chess Author Association (CCAA) wasn’t becoming as active as he wished for when he created it (so, any programmer willing to contribute can register here : )

You know someone was special when you feel he leaves a gap nobody else can possibly fill. Don was such a person and we miss him dearly already.

Adam, Julien, Miguel.
"The only good bug is a dead bug." (Don Dailey)
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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by Milos » Sat Nov 23, 2013 7:23 am

R.I.P. Don

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by Mithu » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:09 am

R.I.P Don... You will be sorely missed. Though I had never known you in real life I could feel the golden character that you radiated in your words.

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by mar » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:11 am

Goodbye Don...

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by Darkmoon » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:14 am

My condolences to Don's family and my heartfelt sympathies go out to you , Larry, for Don's passing must truly weigh heavy upon your heart. Make sure you take good care of yourself. God Bless.

Don, has done more in his life time then most could dream of accomplishing.

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by ZirconiumX » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:34 am

Goodbye Don, you will certainly be missed.

Some believe in the almighty dollar.

I believe in the almighty printf statement.

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by Graham Banks » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:39 am

Condolences to Don's family and close friends.
He will not be forgotten in our community.
gbanksnz at

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by E.G.R. » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:40 am

Goodbye Don, we will miss you at all.
condolences to the family and to loved ones.

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Re: Don Dailey, 1956 -2013

Post by velmarin » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:47 am

Adios Don, descanse en paz , que tu Dios te tenga en la gloria.


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