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Robert Durkin
Number of games in database: 26
Years covered: 1940 to 1972
Overall record: +12 -9 =5 (55.8%)*
   * Overall winning percentage = (wins+draws/2) / total games.

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(born May-09-1923, died Feb-27-2014, 90 years old) United States of America

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Robert T. Durkin was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sometime between 1922 and 1924, where he was taught chess by Arpad Elo and soon became one of Milwaukee's strongest players.<(1)> He was invited to play in the Ventnor City (1941) tournament, and eventually settled in New Jersey.<(2)>

Durkin is best known for advocating the opening move <1.Na3>, now known as the "Durkin Attack", about which he wrote a small self-published pamphlet in 1959.<(3)> He also wrote the books "The Greater New York Open Chess Championship, 1959" and "New Jersey Open Chess Championship 1959."<(4)>

<(1)> Chess Review, 1941, p. 124, gives his age as 18; New York Times, June 15, 1941, states he was born in 1924. Jeremy Gaige in Chess Personalia (1987) states that he was born on May 9, 1923 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Gaige's date may reflect a confusion between Robert T. Durkin and Robert E. Durkin, another chess player from Milwaukee who was born on that date.

(2) New York Times, November 8, 1946 gives his home as Ventnor City; USCF rating supplements from 1950-1975 give his state as New Jersey.



Wikipedia article: Durkin Opening

Last updated: 2021-10-11 04:07:39

 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 26  PGN Download
Game  ResultMoves YearEvent/LocaleOpening
1. Koltanowski vs R Durkin 1-0241940MilwaukeeC30 King's Gambit Declined
2. R Durkin vs A Mengarini  ½-½421941Ventnor CityA53 Old Indian
3. R Durkin vs F Reinfeld  0-1161941Ventnor CityE20 Nimzo-Indian
4. A Pinkus vs R Durkin 1-0251941Ventnor CityC10 French
5. W Adams vs R Durkin 0-1481941Ventnor CityC24 Bishop's Opening
6. R Durkin vs S Bernstein ½-½401941Ventnor CityE28 Nimzo-Indian, Samisch Variation
7. J F Donovan vs R Durkin  ½-½251941Ventnor CityD87 Grunfeld, Exchange
8. Santasiere vs R Durkin  1-0361941Ventnor CityA08 King's Indian Attack
9. R Durkin vs M L Hanauer  ½-½321941Ventnor CityD22 Queen's Gambit Accepted
10. J Levin vs R Durkin  1-0281941Ventnor CityD56 Queen's Gambit Declined
11. R Durkin vs E McCormick 1-0351948New Jersey OpenA00 Uncommon Opening
12. R Durkin vs Graf-Stevenson 1-0261955corrA00 Uncommon Opening
13. R Durkin vs Curtis 1-0411955?A00 Uncommon Opening
14. R Durkin vs M Turiansky  1-0551957USAA00 Uncommon Opening
15. R Durkin vs Spielman 1-0181957??A00 Uncommon Opening
16. R Durkin vs Steiner 1-0311957?A00 Uncommon Opening
17. R Durkin vs J W Collins 1-034195758th US OpenA00 Uncommon Opening
18. R Durkin vs J Glenn Waltz 0-135195758th US OpenA00 Uncommon Opening
19. R Durkin vs G Fuster 1-044195758th US OpenA00 Uncommon Opening
20. G K Fielding vs R Durkin  1-043195758th US OpenA50 Queen's Pawn Game
21. R Durkin vs Bross 1-0551958??, USAA00 Uncommon Opening
22. W Long vs R Durkin 0-1551959TournamentB00 Uncommon King's Pawn Opening
23. R Durkin vs Fredericks 1-0911960New YorkA00 Uncommon Opening
24. R Durkin vs Myers  0-1511960New YorkA00 Uncommon Opening
25. R Durkin vs N Hurttlen  ½-½601965New York ch-USA amatC41 Philidor Defense
 page 1 of 2; games 1-25 of 26  PGN Download
  REFINE SEARCH:   White wins (1-0) | Black wins (0-1) | Draws (1/2-1/2) | Durkin wins | Durkin loses  

Kibitzer's Corner
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Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Sadly, he passed away recently:

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Are we sure that the Robert Durkin who recently died in Wisconsin is the same man? Our Durkin was supposed to be from New Jersey, but it sounds like the other Durkin spent his life in Wisconsin.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Believe it or not, if you go to the USCF's Player/Rating Lookup, , and put in <Durkin, Robert>, you find <four> people with that name: in NY, NJ, IN, and WI - the latter probably being the Robert E. Durkin who recently died in Wisconsin. Very confusing.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <FSR> Given that birthplace and birth date were identical (see second obit), it certainly seemed the same person. And this link should clinch it; see the second paragraph under "Bio Info":

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Phony Benoni> Hmm, OK, looks pretty convincing. Dunno why there are all these references to him being a New Jerseyan.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <FSR> Yes, it is pretty convincing. And it turns out to be all wrong. Incredible as it seems, there appear to have been two chess-playing Robert Durkins born in Milwaukee in the early 1920s.

I, too, was troubled by the stepson's "New Jersey" comment, and did some more digging. Apparently, <Robert E Durkin> never left Wisconsin. For instance, he worked for A. O Smith, which is a Milwaukee company:

The real chess player is <Robert T Durkin>. I have put some relevant facts, with citations into the bio. We do not know his exact birth date as yet.

The clincher was that, according to the obit, Robert E. Durkin headed up the Wisconsin Division of Health from 1971-1983. Robert T. Durkin regularly appears in USCF rating lists at that time, and is still from New Jersey.

The whole problem apparently started when somebody added the May 9, 1923 birthdate for Robert E Durkin from Milwaukee, and I trusted without verifying.

So now we don't know when Robert T. Durkin was born, but at least he's been resurrected.

Seriously, my apologies. I have always been inclined to jump to conclusions, and it's bitten me again.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <Phony Benoni> No problem. Jeremy Gaige's <Chess Personalia> (1987) just gives this (I've converted his symbols to text, and numbers to words, to avoid confusion, particularly since he, contrary to typical American usage, uses the "day-month-year" convention):

<Durkin, Robert
born May 9, 1923 Milwaukee, WI
died [blank]
American Chess Bulletin, 1941, p. 51
birth certificate>

I assume that Gaige managed to get the right Robert Durkin.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: <FSR> I can't trust Gaige as completely as usual on this one. Robert E. was clearly born May 9, 1923. It's possible that Gaige unknowingly obtained the wrong birth certificate.

Helms, in the <ACB> covering Ventnor City 1941, gives a 1924 birth date for Robert T., and makes a point of associating it with the New York international tournament. On the other hand, <Chess Review> states he was 18, which would indicate 1922 or 1923.

I'm sort of gunshy on this one right now. If another biographer wants to make a decision, that's fine with me.

Premium Chessgames Member

Robert E Durkin born 9 May 1923. Address: 1602 Fordem Ave Apt 305, Madison, WI. Still living?

Robert E Durkin, Birth: Jan. 1, 1923 in Mass., Death: Nov. 17, 1997 in Boston Mass., see For this one, US Public Records vol. 2 also has Robert E Durkin<s>

Robert T Durkin b. 10 Dec 1923. Address: 908 Southerly Rd Apt 4, Towson, MD. Still living?

Robert Walter Durkin b. 18 Oct 1923, Address: 55 Palm Blvd, Madison, OH, died 27 Jul 1996 in Painesville, Ohio. also coughed up this, from Syracuse Herald 21 July 1974:

<The Durkin attack was originated and played extensively by expert R. T. (Robert) Durkin, a one-time master who writes a regular column in ACN on his games using it> followed by a game R. Durkin (1910) vs J. Collins (2311).

Must go, perhaps follow up later.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Who knew there were so many Robert Durkins born circa 1923? And that at least two of them were avid tournament chessplayers?
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: lists a Robert T. Durkin in Hoboken, NJ. No idea whether it's our guy. I actually tried calling the number, but there was no answer and apparently no answering machine. doesn't have any Robert Durkins in Hoboken.
Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Passing strange, for that is hardly a surname seen as often as Jones or Williams, to name two far more commonly spotted Out There.
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <perfidious> Surprisingly, lists about 100 Robert Durkins in the U.S.

I once successfully defended the City of Chicago on an appeal from a judgment by the trial court in its favor in a lawsuit alleging false arrest. The case was brought by one Charles Crawford, who got arrested on a warrant that it turned out was for a different Charles Crawford. The two had addresses within a few blocks of each other, and were very close in age, height, weight, etc. Plaintiff Charles Crawford claimed that the cops should have realized that he wasn't the wanted Charles Crawford because they had different dates of birth. It didn't help his cause that he'd been arrested many times and had told the police different dates of birth on those occasions, and that when at his deposition he professed uncertainty as to his actual date of birth.

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  Tabanus: The Oshkosh Northwestern, 27 April 1937:

<Milwaukee - U.P. - With his eyes blindfolded, Robert Durkin, 14-year-old high school freshman, last night defeated a retired farmer, a bank clerk and a fellow pupil simultaneously at chess in an hour and 15 minutes.>

If that helps, which I doubt :)

Premium Chessgames Member
  Tabanus: New York Sun, 5 July 1941, on a chess tournament in New Jersey:

<Two newcomers are on the list: Ariel Mengarini of Washington, D. C, and Robert Durkin of Milwaukee.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  perfidious: Dayum, Mengarini got around: our only encounter was in Saratoga, New York in 1992.
Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: The biographical sketch cited by Gaige (American Chess Bulletin, 1941, p. 51 ) mentions that he worked up to eight blindfold games.

Chess Review (June 1941) has a picture, looking not unlike Bobby Fischer.

Though I have no real idea, the Towson Durkin might be worth a look. There happens to be an attorney in Baltimore named Robert T. Durkin, Jr., and it's easy to imagine him moving his aged father to a senior apartment in nearby Towson. But that is pure speculation.

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: lists Robert T. Durkin, Jr. as practicing in Towson, MD.
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<To begin with it is widely reproduced that Robert Durkin was born on the 9th of May 1923 in Milwaukee Wisconsin, which is on the west shore of Lake Michigan. A blog I found “Tartajubow On Chess II, reports that Robert Durkin began his foray into chess at one of Milwaukee play grounds and at the age of 12 attending a class conducted by Arpad Elo who was Milwaukee State Chess Champion at the time. Durkin was to move from this to the Lapham Park Chess Club under the guidance of one Bruno Esbjorn where he apparently was to make his biggest advancement. The blog further states that in the following year, 1936, Durkin aged 13 took part in his first tournament where he scored +9 -3 =3 and by 1939, aged 16, he tied for first in a local master‟s tournament, second in the county championship and third in the (presumably Milwaukee) city championship. Of course like everything you find on the internet, you have to take it with the metaphoric grain of salt. However, the one piece of information stemming from this blog which is independently mentioned else where, is that sometime in his adult life time Robert Durkin moved to Ventnor (just south of Atlantic City), New Jersey where he was to become a long time member of the Ventnor Chess Club and apparently, one of their best players. An article by Fide master Alex Dunne for the United States Chess Federation website about Robert Durkin mentions that it „was the New Jersey of the Fifties and Sixties that was to be Durkin‟s stomping grounds which it should be noted was also the domain of such players as Weaver Adams and Tony Santasiere, famous players for the time. Where it can be presumed as Alex Dunne notes that, at one stage Durkin's rating crossed the master threshold of 2200 Elo.

The one last question that remains is, what happen to Robert T Durkin? Alex Dunne's article was written either late 2008 or early 2009 and in it he states that Durkin had died sometime twenty years ago placing the time of his passing around 1986 at which time Alex Dunne notes that Durkin disappeared from the January rating list of that year. However though, Jim West in his blog, „Jim West on Chess‟, in his annotation of a game between Robert Durkin and a Miss Nancy Schaef gives a score of a game he played against Durkin as Black in the Hamilton Quad in December of 1987 at which time Durkin would have been 64 years old but the Alex Dunne article is compelling in one respect that it states that he (Alex Dunne) received a phone call from an acquaintance of Durkin sometime after Durkin‟s apparent death wanting to know if he would be interested in his (Durkin) memorabilia which Alex Dunne notes he duly received.>

Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: Weird. The only two libraries in the world known to have his book <1.N-QR3!> are in Australia and the Netherlands. Durkin also wrote the book <The Greater New York Open Chess Championship, 1959>.
May-11-14  TheFocus: <FSR> You mean that Cleveland doesn't have it?
Premium Chessgames Member
  FSR: <TheFocus> That is hard to believe, but apparently not. It's not in WorldCat, nor does a search of the Cleveland Public Library's catalog for <Robert Durkin> find it:

Incidentally, I was in Cleveland for five days or so in 2004 (I volunteered for Kerry's campaign), but didn't think to visit the John G. White collection. What an idiot.

Premium Chessgames Member
  Phony Benoni: Those two are national libraries in the Netherlands and Australia, and records in WorldCat indicate they have cataloged an incredibly large number of obscure chess books. However, this may not mean they actually own them.

In the the United States, if you look on the reverse of a book's title page you will often see a paragraph labeled "Library of Congress cataloging-in-publication". This is prepared using information supplied by publishers. A library can then use this as the basis of their own catalog record without having to work from scratch.

This may well be the situation in the Netherlands and Australian libraries, that they are cataloging from "surrogates" rather than tha actual "piece-in-hand". However, I don't know for sure.

What I do know is that if Cleveland says they have the book, they have the physical book. Or had it. Theft is a problem in any library, thanks to Abbie Hoffman.

Mar-25-17  SBC: Durkins, Durkins Everywhere!

it gets more confusing. During the 1941 Ventnor City Invitational -

"NY Sun" 7-7-1941
"During the day Tournament Director Richard W. Wayne deems it a fitting think to introduce Durkin to Robert T. Durkin of Ventnor, whose name is one of those on Mayor Harold S. Hodson;s championship trophy hanging in the solaerium on the pier. They are not related -Herman Helms.

Jan-01-22  jerseybob: Durkin lived in the small Middlesex County town of Parlin (N.J.). So I heard anyway, back in the day.
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