Arthur Dake - the oldest chess grandmaster
ChessFlash Commentary by Jude Acers
Chess News July 30, 1999 World Championship
- April 28, 2000. Portland Oregon. Arthur Dake, the oldest competitive chess grandmaster in history, has died in his sleep in peace at the age of 90. Born in 1910, Arthur Dake was the world's oldest living grandmaster until May 2, 2000. He was one of the major figures of the 1930s -- one of the most special periods in American chess history. Most people do not realize that the Depression years saw unparalleled U.S. dominance of world chess competition. When US teams won three consecutive chess Olympiads in 1931,1933,and 1935 , Dake was one of their major members, winning a gold medal and a silver medal. He was one of the top international competitors, with an impressive set of tournament finishes. He held his own with fellow Americans Reshevsky, Fine, Kashdan, with whom he vied for U.S. dominance.
Economic pressures finally forced Dake out of the then non-profitable world of professional chess;but he has resumed play in recent years and was one of the strongest players of his age around. Arthur says "the best chess prize ever" was his wife Helen whom he met on his 1935 Olympiad voyage.Jude Acers remembers: "I flew into Portland April 8 ( Henry Ford Restaurant) and gave a 5 minute address at Dake's 90-th birthday celebration. Later (in the past 3 weeks) I received three letters from grandmaster Dake thanking me.. He was absolutely fabulous at the dinner -tremendous ovation for my remarks to Mr. Dake at April banquet..I worked on those short remarks for months and uncorked them with enormous pride...Thank god I had the sense to drop into Portland for his jam-packed honorary 90th birthday celebration and meet his daughter Marjorie who phoned me today...I asked his daughter on the phone to place my red beret in his casket rather than return it. ...I had presented him with one of my six berets at the banquet and he placed it atop his head as he spoke. He was in fabulous shape until the second he died..had dinner, drinks and a great time at a Reno Casino before dying in his sleep in peace."
Grandmaster Arnold Denker remembers: During the Great Depression Arthur Dake was a phenomenal speed player, winning 66 percent of the cash pots NO MATTER WHO PLAYED. Alekhine, all the masters, they came, they played they lost...I remember Dake had to carry a tiny change purse with him at all times to collect his winnings on the spot....You heard that jingle, jingle and you just knew your coins were about to sprout wings of their own -headed toward a predestined journey to Dake's coin purse. One other thing I remember- that he could not only make his moves with remarkable speed but could also remove the pilfered goods from the table with astonishing speed indeed. It was like a Hoover vacuum cleaner, quite remarkable. You sit there pondering the matter. You would ask 'Where did all those hundreds of little coins go?'...
- July 1, 1999. San Francisco, California. The oldest competitive chess grandmaster in history, 89 year old Arthur Dake (Portland, Oregon- beat A. Alekhine at Pasadena 1932!) today confirmed that he will definitely appear with his daughter at the Dake Honorary International Chess tournament, another great triumph for the 150 year old Mechanics Institute Chess Club(57 Post Street-4th floor)
The event (July 11-20, 1999- with three international masters Grefe,Vucic,Rey) will feature the legendary speed player who once made a living at Coney Island chess stand where film giant Humphrey Bogart played chess for dimes. Dake, a member of three U.S. world Olympiad championship teams, had the most memorable 300 days of his life when a youngster..he defeated Alekhine and added a "won" game versus Capablanca, New York 1931 (a game so fiery, it produced five (!) electrifying diagrams in Khalifman's "Chess Stars" Capa volume).. then refused the great Cuban's kind offer to adjourn the game in a still dead won ending for Dake! I was just a foolish kid and wanted to polish off the great maestro right now for the newspapers, to brag..to my eternal regret. I hurried to get him to resign...first went the win and (two) forced draws and I lost in a flash. I learned my lesson but the opportunity to even play Capa again was gone forever.. and believe me, Jude I greatly regret it."
Many years later when traveling through Portland, I showed Dake what he had always dreaded... a third draw for the asking, found by Botvinnik, in addition to three forced wins -- all vanished, gone... "When the win is in sight-sit on your hands!"- S. Tarrasch, 1891.......
So, the Dake Honorary International Chess tournament July 11- 20, 1999 will be a fabulous opportunity to meet the man who played one of the great thrillers of all time. He knew em all, played the greats......... All information on the GRANDMASTER ARTHUR W. DAKE TOURNEY is open to the public: John Donaldson, Mechanics Institute Chess Director, 57 Post Street San Francisco, California Phone (415) 393-0110 (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)..or the neat history packed web page of the 150 year old Mechanics Chess rooms http://milibrary.org/chess Also check out information with the simply charming Joan Arbil - Arbil@chessclub.org
Jude Acers. New Orleans.