Born into a Jewish family in Władysławowo, Poland (then Prussia), he came to New York in 1887. From a start as a street peddler on the Lower East Side, Finn swiftly rose to become one of New York’s strongest masters and one of the country’s best blindfold entertainers.
Finn’s first tournament in the United States was a handicap tournament played in New York’s Café Boulevard in 1895 where he was ranked as a 2nd class player at the beginning of the competition. As it happened, he took home the 1st prize ahead of William E. Napier, Hermann Helms, and many other well-known players.
In July 1897, Finn led a consultation team to victory against the veteran Wilhelm Steinitz at the Metropolitan Chess Club. He won the New York State Championship three times: 1901, 1907, 1908. He won the Rice Gambit tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club in 1903. He also played two interesting cable games. One with a Cuban team led by Capablanca in 1903 and the other was the New York – Berlin Cable Match from 1905 where he played on the third board for New York, drawing his game with Emil Schallopp.
Finn acted as referee at the World Chess Championship 1921 between Lasker and Capablanca in Havana. He was one of the organizers of the New York 1924 tournament and the president of the 1927 New York Tournament. He also served as adjudicator for the college chess league with which Columbia, Harvard, Yale and Princeton were affiliated. He had been a member of the Manhattan Chess Club and Rutgers Club for many years.
His obituary appeared in the Thursday, December 10, 1931 edition of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:
In the death of Julius Finn of the Manhattan Chess Club, for whom funeral services were held Tuesday afternoon at the Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan, chess in the United States has suffered another great loss. As a player, he was of master rank; as an analyst, a recognized authority and as a blindfold artist, excelled by none in this country, excepting only Pillsbury. He occupied a unique position in that he made of himself a most successful business man, despite his fondness for chess and his outstanding proficiency at it.
Although invited to play in the great international tournament at Cambridge Springs, PA in 1904, he wisely declined for business reasons. One of the strongest amateurs of which this country could boast, he was also a liberal patron commensurate with his ample means.
Ever ready to encourage undertakings that were worth while and had the good of the game in view, Finn was one of the chief factors in the successful efforts which resulted in the arrangement of the two New York international tournaments in 1924 and 1927. Of the latter he was president.
Finn first came to notice in chess circles on the East Side where he won a handicap tournament from a large field at the Cafe Boulevard during the nineties. He became prominent as a member of the I.L. Rice Progressive Chess Club, and as an analyst of the Rice Gambit he took high rank.
Twice he won the championship of the New York State Chess Association when its winter meetings were held in New York. The Rice trophy, emblematic of the State championship was finally won by Jacob Bernstein, but it was in the custody of Finn at the time of his death.
Quick thinking and rapid decisions that go with a keen mind, a certain impulsiveness and generous heart were outstanding qualities in the picturesque personality the was Julius Finn. He was 60 years of age and it was a shock to have him go seemingly so prematurely.
Of late he had been content to play the role of onlooker, but his ability as a critic never failed him. He will be sadly missed.
For information on his opponent in this game see my post on Harlow B. Daly.