CALIFORNIA CHESS JOURNAL (Vol. 2 No. 2) February/March 1988
OUT OF THE PAST IN CALIFORNIA CHESS
By Guthrie McClain
(Editor, The California Chess Reporter, 1951 - 1976)
A.J. Fink 1890-1956
Adolph J. Fink of San Francisco was an
internationally-known problem composer. During his lifetime he had more
than one thousand chess problems published and won approximately one hundred
prizes. He was also one of the top over-the-board chessplayers at the
Mechanics' Institute for many years. He won the California State Chess
Championship in 1922, 1928, and 1929, tied for first in 1945, and finished
in second place in 1923, 1925, 1926 and 1948 (tied).
In 1923 the Western Chess Association tournament was held
in San Francisco; it was agreed that the top player from California would
be declared the State Champion, and Stasch Mlotkowski of Los Angeles tied
for first place with Norman T. Whitaker of Washington, D.C. Fink was fourth,
behind Samuel Factor of Chicago, with a score of 7-4. * In 1932, when
Pasadena held an international chess tournament, the same rule was in
effect. Fink scored 3-8, a creditable score against players like Alekhine,
Kasdan, Dake, Reshevsky, Fine, Factor and so forth, but he finished in
On December 19, 1918, the Good Companion Chess Problem
Club, International, meeting in Philadelphia, published a greeting to the
British Chess Problem Society on the occasion of its founding. A.J. Fink,
just returning from France as a Captain U.S. Army, signed this proclamation
as Vice-President of the club. When the Good Companions met officially in
Chicago on October 25-26, 1986, almost sixty-eight years later, they decided
to publish the proceedings in a Commemorative dedicated to the memory of A.J.
Fink. Accordingly, sixteen members of The Good Companions provided an
assortment of problems, and they were published, together with an account
of the proceedings of the "First Congress of the Good Companions Society"
by the Mechanics' Institute.
A.J. Fink was an end-game expert, as most problemists are.
He served as adjudication expert for all tournaments and team matches for
many years. "Send it to Fink" was the way to settle the
argument - whether in Sacramento or Eureka or San Francisco. He never
required payment and, as far as we know, never made a mistake in his
He was a loyal team player who would go wherever his
team had scheduled a match. He was a little spoiled, however, as were most
of the players in the Mechanics' Institute Chess Club, by the use of the
clubrooms at 57 Post Street for most of their games. One day my secretary
announced, "There's a chessplayer who wants to see you." I told
her to send the chessplayer in. It was Fink. "You live in Oakland,
don't you?" he asked. "The team has a match in Oakland next
Saturday and I want to know how to get there." I suppressed my
laughter while I explained that every day about twenty thousand people cross
the Bay to and from work, either by train or ferryboat, bus, or automobile,
and that I didn't see any problem. "I don't mean that kind of trip,"
he explained. "I want to go over there early, get settled in a
hotel, and see something of the town. I'll have a lady with me, and we
will stay over the day after the match and have a good dinner somewhere.
Tell me, McClain - are there any hotels in Oakland?" I was able to
reassure Fink on these scores, and he went ahead and played in the team
match. I never learned however, how Fink's Safari to Oakland came out.
The following game was published in the column The Chess Player, by Dr. H.
J. Ralston, in The Argonaut for February 8, 1952. It was played in a team
match between Mechanics' Institute and the Oakland Chess Club on December
White: A.J. Fink
Black: Roger Smook