That’s Robert T. Knight to Queen Rook Three Durkin to those of you that don’t know Descriptive Notation. That’s how his name was often written in magazines of the day. Durkin was an obscure US Master who plied his trade mostly in New Jersey back in the day when masters were few and far between.
He was born in Milwaukee, Wisconcin in either 1923 or 1924 and nobody seems to know when he died but it was evidently sometime during the 1990’s.
Durkin made his start at one of Milwaukee’s playgrounds and at the age of 12 attended a class conducted by Arpad Elo who at the time was state champion. At the time, under leadership of Prof. Elo, Milwaukee had an outstanding chess program for city schools.
Natural advancement naturally lead to playground supremacy for Durkin. Eventually he won a game from another teacher who took him down to the Lapham Park chess club for more exposure. At about that time he met another teacher of chess on the playgrounds, a fellow named Bruno Esbjorn and it was under his guidance that Durkin felt he made his biggest advancement.
At 13 Durkin took part in his first tournament and scored 9-3 with 3 draws. Then in 1939 he tied for first in a local master’s tournament and finished second in the county championship and third in the city championship.
Durkin was also well know for his ability in speed chess and once drew with Arthur Dake and three times against George Koltanowski in exhibitions. He also took pride in his ability to play blindfold chess and at one time gave an exhibition of 8 games, scoring 6-1 with one draw.
At some point he moved to New Jersey but it’s unknown exactly when. For most of his adult life he was a long-time member of the Ventnor Chess Club where he was one of the best players.
Durkin is probably best remembered for his opening 1.Na3; the Durkin Attack. As near as I can tell most of the games he played with it were against lesser known players and it often transposed into something resembling a Stonewall Attack of the Bird Opening. In any case the move itself looks rather pointless in these openings. In many of his games I noticed that when his opponent was a pretty decent player he opened 1.d4. Makes sense. You wouldn't want to risk 1.Na3 against a really good player.
Here’s an interesting game he played against an obscure opponent in an unknown event, but the game is fun to play over.