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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Frank K. Perkins

     The other day while browsing the 1955 rating list in Chess Life I noticed the name of one of the players listed as a Master Emeritus, Frank K. Perkins. 
     Because I had never heard of him I decided to do some research, but not a lot turned up. That was probably because in the mid-1930s he gave up chess for bridge. He wrote at least one book on it titled Vital Tricks at Contract Bridge which was published in 1953. He also published numerous articles on the game and was the founder of New England Bridge League. 
     Frank Kendall Perkins was born on October 6, 1891 in Brooklyn, but was educated in Mount Vernon, New York. Perkins first came to the notice of the chess playing public as a member of the Cornell University Chess Club when he became its champion. 
     After obtaining his degree in civil engineering in 1912, he became a junior engineer in the New York subway construction. At various times he was a member of the Brooklyn and Manhattan Chess Clubs. On at least one occasion he gave a simultaneous exhibition at the Brooklyn club where he scored +19 -2 =3. At one time he was also a member of the Marshall Chess Club. Perkins was a participant in the Rice Memorial tournament in New York, 1916. 
     Before the outbreak of World War I Perkins applied for a US Army commission in March of 1917 and received it the following month. He received his training at Madison Barracks and was assigned to the 303rd Engineers at Camp Dix, New Jersey in September. 
     He sailed for France in May of 1918 and arrived in June. By early July he was engaged in combat near Ypres where he helped prepare the defense for an anticipated attack. He also fought at Chateau Thierry. In September of 1918 Perkins was gassed, but had recovered by October and again found himself working by night under shell fire, hiding in the woods and sleeping by day. In October he was also made commanding officer of his company with the recommendation that he be promoted to Captain. 
     Perkins faced some pretty tough conditions and wrote that this time seemed like a nightmare. He was so weak he could hardly sit on his horse and they worked under shell fire day and night with no chance to get proper rations, just hard tack and bully-beef when they were lucky. Soldiers were often given tins of beef along with hard tack, a rigid biscuit that looks like a large cracker that is made from flour, water, and sometimes a pinch of salt. It is known not only for its portability and shelf life but also its ability to chip teeth. Bully beef (corned beef) was often spread on the hard tack or eaten straight from the can. 
     He was gassed a second time, but this time it was not serious enough to require hospital admission, but it was bad enough that it affected his stomach. When his outfit was ordered to march to the rear he was sent to the hospital where he was admitted; he was in the hospital when the armistice was signed. 
     A September, 1937 issue of Games Digest magazine article says: Frank Perkins, another of our contributors on chess, directs his article to the attention of the average player. But Perkins is far above the average class. While he has retired from active competition, Frank was not so many years ago considered this country’s leading amateur chessplayer. His retirement, by the way, was not caused by old age, but by the fact that he now devotes most of his attention to contract bridge, at which he is an equally famous star. A native New Yorker, Frank is now settled in Boston. 
     Perkins passed away in February, 1971. His surviving games are few. Aside from his games in the Rice Memorial, I found one long, boring game in which he held I.A. Horowitz to a draw in a Marshall vs. Manhattan league match in 1929 and this one from his college days. 
     This game was played in the championship of the Triangular College League in 1910. The games were played in the Rice Chess Club in New York City and each team consisted of two players. There was a lot of excitement because the outcome depended upon the last game played. Perkins of Mount Vernon, New York and Arthur Ehrlich of Brooklyn played for Cornell and both won their games thereby regaining the lead that Pennsylvania had taken the day before. Pennsylvania's second place finish was for the most part due to the excellent play of Norman T. Whitaker who won all four of his match games. His partner was M. Teitelbaum could only score 1.5 points. Brown University was last. 

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