Volume 3, Number 3, March 1935

Who's Who In Problemdom
By Maxwell Bukofzer


The problem master I am introducing today to our family is in one respect the most remarkable chess personality in the United States. He is not only, like his predecessors in this series, one of the greatest problem composers, internationally reputed, but he carries the rare and unusual distinction of being the only American problemist who has achieved an acknowledged ranking position as a master of the game. From the beginning of his chess career he has maintained leadership on both fields of chess with an ease and thoroughness that astonish the chess world. This dual competence is all the more amazing, because he is not a chess professional, but an amateur whose vocation in life does not permit him ample time for the study of chess.

A. J. Fink was born on July 19, 1890 in the City of San Francisco, California, where he still resides today. He received the fair schooling provided by Uncle Sam for all of his children. Qualifying for the Postal Service he later abandoned it in favor of a business occupation and became Traffic Manager for a large wholesale concern. In 1928, however, he returned to his first vocational choice, the Postal Service, in which he is employed at the present date. Long hours and hard work granted him but little time to devote to the game he loves so well, yet by dint of perseverance and his great talents he conquered the enviable position as an undisputed leader in both sections of chess which he now holds so securely.

He turned to chess in 1906 during the memorable time when the earthquake nearly demolished the city of his birth. On the field of board chess it took him only 7 years to climb to the position of a champion. In 1913 and again in 1916 and once more in 1919 he was Champion of the well known Mechanics' Institute of San Francisco. This was, however, a mere start. In 1922 he rose to the dignity of a State Champion of California. Like all thoroughbreds Fink came back to win the State Championship again for two consecutive years, 1928 and 1929.

He participated in numerous tournaments, always finishing with scores that proved him to be a master of the first rank. Among the great masters against whom he was successful are such experts as Torre, Kupchik, Kashdan, Mlotkowski, Dake and Steiner. Truly an enviable record that speaks its own language.

One wonders what Fink would have been able to accomplish had he not been compelled to treat chess as a mere hobby.

Such is A. J. Fink, the valiant board master.

Great as he is as a chess player, he is even greater to us of the composing craft as one of the outstanding adepts of the problem art. His work in the problem field is of a caliber and style peculiarly his own. It would be hard to decide what problem school he preferred. Fink is one of those fortunate problemists, at home in every school, with a natural master's touch that is the envy of those who have to labor hard for their measure of glory.

While competent and brilliant in all of his problem work Fink paid special attention to the difficult type of problems known as taskers. On this field he won some of his highest honors and the task problems he gave to problemdom, some of them realizations of themes declared impossible of accomplishment before he entered the ring, have procured for him what his acumen and genius richly deserves, the rank of one of the chess realm's most respected and esteemed master composers.

Let me call your attention to one of the republished problems, the one that appeared in the "Grand Rapids Herald" two years ago. You note, of course, that the problem is a miniature. You also are aware of the echo play. You admire the quiet continuations. But are you mindful of the peculiar feature that in this charming problem the Black King is posted and remains throughout the entire variation play in a mirror position?

To fully appreciate Fink's problems, lightning solving will be of no assistance. You have got to study his work diligently and attentively to find some of the hidden feature incorporated in them.

Fink is, like all great masters, honest and modest. That is why, though I requested a list of his honors, he failed to supply it. I can merely assure you that I know, as I glance back into the past, that he has won a great many prizes and encomiums.

There is one more remarkable achievement to the credit of this gifted, versatile composer. Turning to Fairy Chess, he invented a clever new piece which he named the "Billiard Knight". I am at present studying this new piece. As soon as I feel that I understand its moves properly, I am going to present the innovation in "Fairyland". The "Billiard Knight" has all the earmarks of deserving and attaining the popularity of the Grasshopper.

Such is A. J. Fink, the problem adept.

He is still a young man of 44 years. If the past is indeed a proper criterion of the future, great deeds on both fields of chess may be expected from this splendid representative of American Chess. Let me express my sincerest wish that good health and prosperity shall be his lot and that he will continue on the path of glory for many, many years to come.

Three cheers for the "Pride of San Francisco"!

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