Arnold Sheldon Denker

Arnold Sheldon Denker

(1914-2005)
United States – Inducted 1992

Arnold Denker commanded notice from the chess world when, at 15, he won the brilliancy prize for a Manhattan Chess Club tournament game. During the 1930s, he would establish himself as a leading American chess player alongside Samuel Reshevsky, Reuben Fine, and Isaac Kashdan. In 1940 he won his first of six Manhattan Chess Club championships, followed by the U.S. Championship in 1944. In the latter, he recorded the impressive score of 14-0-3, the best record in a U.S. Championship until Bobby Fischer’s perfect 11-0 during 1963 and 1964. During WWII, he played exhibitions at army bases and on aircraft carriers; in the immediate postwar years, he participated in two U.S.-USSR radio matches, played at the strong Groningen tournament, and defended his U.S. Championship title in 1946.

Denker was named an honorary grandmaster by FIDE in 1981 and served with several national chess organizations, including the board of the American Chess Foundation, the U.S. Chess Federation, and the U.S. Chess Trust. The prestigious Denker Tournament of High School Champions, which he helped to organize, carries his name. He authored several articles and two books, If You Must Play Chess and The Bobby Fischer I Knew and Other Stories. Only the third person to be named “Dean of American Chess” by the USCF, Denker’s accomplishments went beyond the chessboard to achievements in business, leadership, journalism, and promotion.