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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Two Obituaries: Walter Shipman and James L. Harkins, Jr.

     For some time I have been meaning to post on two players who recently left us: IM Walter Shipman (February 18) and former Ohio Champion James L. Harkins, Jr. (July 27).

Walter Shipman
    Shipman who, like Harkins, was an attorney in real life passed away at the age of 87 on February 28th this year after a long illness.  Shipman was born in New York on April 18, 1929 and first came to national attention in the 1946 U.S. Open when he tied for fifth with nine other players. He scored +3 -0 =5.

     Always an amateur, Shipman's job prevented him from reaching the very top and limited his tournament opportunities, but he was good enough to defeat such luminaries as Samuel Reshevsky and Larry Evans.
     Shipman's “headquarters” was the Manhattan Chess club and he was its champion or co-champion six times and was the 1960 New Jersey state champion. He was awarded the IM title in 1982, the oldest player ever to be awarded the title. He was awarded the title based on his strength during his best years and because he had never had the opportunity to play abroad. He was most active during the late 1940s and 1950s. He scored 4-6 in the 1955-56 Rosenwald, a six-player double round robin that was considered the U.S. Championship. He scored 4-5 in the 1959 Log Cabin Invitational which included several of the same players that were to play in the U.S. championship later that year. Shipman moved to San Francisco in the mid-1990s and became very active in the local tournaments and league matches and won his club's championship six times.
     During the 1950s Shipman was active in the USCF administration and it was he who persuaded the other Manhattan Chess Club directors to make an exception and waive the age requirement to allow Bobby Fischer, then 12-years old, to join the club in 1955. 
     One curiosity is that in an invitational blitz tournament at the Manhattan Chess Club in 1971, Bobby Fischer scored +21 -0 =1; his sole draw was with Shipman. He was also known for his knowledge of chess history and on several occasions was consulted by authors wanting information for their books. Shipman was a positional player who could engineer a violent attack if the position called for it, but mostly he preferred to grind out wins in the ending. 

James L. Harkins, Jr. 
    Harkins of Shaker Heights, Ohio passed away on July 27th at the age of 87. Harkins tied for first in the 1954 Ohio Championship, but finished second on tiebreaks. In 1964 he finished in a 5-way tie for first and in 1968 he won it outright. Then in 1973 he was champion on tiebreaks after finishing in a 4-way tie. The USCF published a nice tribute to him HERE.
     I had selected an enterprising win by Shipman, but for this post will give a nice Harkins win from the 1957 US Open that was played in Cleveland and won by Arthur Bisguier. Harkins finished tied for places 36-53 (out of 176 players) with a score of +6 -4 =2.


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