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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Albert Pinkus - Guppies, Snakes and Lizards, etc.

     Plantagenet Lechmere Guppy (April 16, 1871 - Date and location of death unknown) was a naturalist from Trinidad-Tabago. His father, R. J. Lechmere Guppy (1836-1916), was the person responsible for the name of the fish and was a naturalist of wide-ranging interests who lived in Trinidad for the majority of his adult life. While his occupation was Chief Inspector of Schools his real love was the natural world. 
     To quote his son: "My father was never particularly interested in fish. Primarily he was a geologist and a conchologist, and he wrote some 30 papers on the shells and fossils of Trinidad and the West Indies. His work as a civil engineer and in the Colonial Secretaries Office and as Chief Inspector of Schools took him all over Trinidad. He used to drive around in a two-wheeler and I suppose business was not as pressing in those days as it is now, because he always had time to stop and chip out fossils or scoop a few fish." -- The Story of the Guppys by the New York Correspondent of the Trinidad Guardian, about 1934. 
     What's that have to do with Albert Pinkus? In 1932 to escape his financial woes, he left for British Guiana to catch butterflies (one of his hobbies) for the New York Museum of Natural History, but when that venture failed he then partnered with Plantagenet Lechmere Guppy to catch tropical fish for Guppy's Empire Tropical Fish Import Company in New York City. He also cut a deal with the Bronx Zoo to catch snakes and lizards.

   Pinkus emerged as a chess star while attending City College and began his tournament career in the mid-1920's as a representative of the Marshall Chess Club in Manhattan. He won the Hallgarten Tournament in 1925 and the Junior Masters' Tournament in 1927 where, in both tournaments, he out-scored Isaac Kashdan. He tied for fourth/fifth at New York 1940 (US Championship), tied for third/fourth at Ventnor City 1941, tied for third at New York 1942 (US championship), shared third at Ventnor City 1942, took fifth place at New York 1944 (US championship), and tied for second/third at Ventnor City 1944...quite a good record. 
     Pinkus won twice in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship (1941 and 1945) and shared second in 1955. He also won New York State Chess Championship in 1947 and played in several radio matches: USA vs. USSR (1945), New York vs. La Plata and USA vs. Yugoslavia (1950). 
     Pinkus remained on the tournament circuit until 1971 and was active in the United States Chess Federation and was a noted collector of chess books and memorabilia. On the first USCF rating list published in 1950 Pinkus was rated 2422 which put him 17th on the list of 22 players rated over 2400. Born 4 February 1984, he lived in Manhattan and died at the age of 80 on Saturday, 4 February 1984 at Wyckoff Heights Hospital in Brooklyn. According the Arnold Denker the cause was Alzheimer's Disease.
    Originally, Pinkus was employed as a stockbroker and disappeared from chess, but when the stock market crashed in 1929 Pinkus was the youngest junior partner in the history of the firm Hoit, Rose and Troster (Al Horowitz and Isaac Kashdan also were employed there) and according to Horowitz, in 1929 Pinkus made $60,000...over $800,000 in today's currency. But when the market crashed, as a partner, he was also responsible for making good the firm's losses which left him broke. He returned to chess because he could win a quarter and that would buy a meal.
    Soon after he embarked on his exploits where he became, as Arnold Denker called him, the Indiana Jones of Chess. In 1932, he departed on a series of ten expeditions to the jungles of British Guiana and Venezuela to collect zoological and botanical specimens in nature and wildlife expeditions. 
    In early 1938 Pinkus took part in the Peberdy-Pinkus expedition. Over six months in 1938 and 1939 they explored the jungle collecting many rare and some never-before-seen bird and plant specimens, a great number of which were later lodged at the Georgetown Museum. Peberdy also collected a rare species of bat. 

    The trip was from Georgetown, British Guyana to the vicinity of Mount Roraima, during which he assembled 290 numbers of herbarium specimens in several sets. His route took him up the Mazaruni River to the Kurupung River, overland to the Kamarung River from where he followed the Pakaraima Mountains on the Venezuelan side. Reaching Arabupu at the base of Roraima, he spent three months in the region, including ten days at the summit. His field notebooks are at New York Botanical Garden. Calling off a further expedition due to the outbreak of war, Pinkus returned to New York in 1939 and resumed his chess career while working as a stockbroker.

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