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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Arnold Denker

Arnold S. Denker (February 20, 1914 – January 2, 2005) was born in the Bronx of New York City and was a promising boxer in his early years. Denker first gained attention in chess by winning the New York City individual interscholastic championship in 1929 at age 15. Over the next 10 years he established himself as a rival to Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, and Isaac Kashdan as one of the U.S’s strongest players.

Denker’s career spanned nearly three quarters of a century from 1929 to 2002. Denker was renowned for a tempestuous attacking style filled with risky sacrifices and slashing assaults on the opponent’s king.  Al Horowitz Denker’s play, "The attack is both his strength and his weakness. He can handle an attack with a fertility of ideas and a richness of imagination that are rare. Yet frequently he tries to attack where defense is necessary or where the position does not warrant aggressive tactics." In commenting on one of his games in which he defeated Denker, Samuel Reshevsky asked Denker after the game why he had played an unsound sacrifice.  Denker replied, “It looked good.”


 In 1940 Denker won the first of his six Manhattan Chess Club championships. He became US Champion in 1944 winning fourteen games (including one against Fine), drawing three and losing none. Reshevsky did not play that year.  Denker successfully defended his US title in a 1946 match against Herman Steiner, winning 6-4.  In 1945 he played on board one in a USA vs USSR radio match and lost both games to Botvinnik and in the return match held in1946 in Moscow he lost both games against Vasily Smyslov.   In 1946, he played at Groningen where he scored 9½ out of 19 and securing draws against Botvinnik and Smyslov.  He only tied for 10th – 12th at Groningen but as this was the first great tournament following WW II, the result placed him in the top two dozen of world chess. In tournament and exhibition play, he drew with at least five world champions, including Bobby Fischer.

      Denker became an International Master in 1950 (the year the title was first awarded by FIDE), and in 1981 FIDE made him an honorary Grandmaster. In later years, he was an important chess organiser, serving on the Board of the American Chess Foundation, the United States Chess Federation, and the U.S. Chess Trust.  The Denker Tournament of High School Champions was named in his honor.
      Denker was inducted into the U.S. Chess Hall of Fame in 1992 and continued to play chess until his last days.  His last ELO rating was 2293.  In 2004 Denker received the honor of being named "Dean of American Chess" by the United States Chess Federation.  Denker was out of chess for many years while he ran a successful mail order business, returning to chess after retirement by playing in the series of Lone Pine tournaments held in California in the 1970's.  Denker died of brain cancer at age 90 in his home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  

Some of Denker’s most brilliant combinations can be seen HERE…see if you can guess his moves.

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