He was born into a Polish farmer family (Edward Winter has quoted a mistaken statement with Dake's name on a list of chess players with Jewish roots), who immigrated to America before World War I. At age 16 he became a merchant seaman, traveling to Japan, China, and the Philippines. In 1927 he returned to high school in Oregon and learned chess from a Russian immigrant living in a local YMCA. He resumed work as a sailor and landed in New York City in 1929. New York was the center of chess in the U.S. at that time, and Dake teamed with leading checkers player Kenneth Grover in a Coney Island chess and checkers stand that accepted any challenger at 25 cents a game. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 made that business unviable.
Dake's first chess tournament was the 1930 New York State Championship, in which he finished third. In 1931 he won the championship of the Marshall Chess Club. The Great Depression years saw unparalleled U.S. dominance of world chess competition. When US teams won four consecutive Chess Olympiads in 1931, 1933, 1935, and 1937, Dake who played in 1931–1935 was one of their major members, along with Isaac Kashdan, Frank Marshall, Reuben Fine, Israel Horowitz, and Abraham Kupchik, winning two individual medals: silver (1933) and gold (1935).
- In 1931, on third board in 4th Chess Olympiad in Prague (+5 –2 =7).
- In 1933, on fourth board in 5th Chess Olympiad in Folkestone (+9 –2 =2).
- In 1935, on fourth board in 6th Chess Olympiad in Warsaw (+13 –0 =5).
In 1931, Dake tied for 1st-3rd with Akiba Rubinstein and Frederick Yates, in Antwerp. In 1932, he tied for 3rd-5th, after Alexander Alekhine and Kashdan, in Pasadena. He defeated World Champion Alekhine in their game at Pasadena, becoming the first American to do so. In 1934, he took 3rd in the U.S. Open Chess Championship. In 1934, he tied for 3rd-4th in Syracuse (Samuel Reshevsky won). In 1934, he tied for 2nd-3rd in the Manhattan Chess Club Championship. In 1934/35, he tied for 1st-3rd with Kashdan and Fine in Mexico City. In 1935, he took 2nd, behind Fine, in the U.S. Open. In 1936, he tied for 6-7th in the first U.S. Championship. In 1936, he tied for 2nd-3rd, behind Horowitz, in the U.S. Open. In 1938, he tied for 6-7th in the second U.S. Championship.
He had met his wife Helen on the return ocean liner trip from Warsaw in 1935. During the world wide depression they moved back to Portland, where Dake had a career with the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles for more than 30 years.
Dake was a member of a U. S. Group which went to Moscow in 1946. He drew two games against Soviet grandmaster Andreas Lilienthal. In 1950, Dake played board 6 for the USA in a radio match against Yugoslavia. He scored one draw and one loss against Stojan Puc. In 1952, he tied for 4th-5th in Hollywood (Svetozar Gligorić won). In 1954, Dake lost one game to David Bronstein in USA - USSR Match.
Except for the USA - Yugoslavia match Hollywood 1952, the USA - USSR Match, and various minor local events in the Pacific Northwest, Dake apparently played little serious competitive chess for 37 years, from the 1938 United States Championship until he unexpectedly showed up to play in Lone Pine 1975. In the 1987 US Open, held at Portland, Oregon, Dake's home town, he scored 8-4 (at the age of 77 !). He donated his personal chess library to the Portland Chess Club where he was an active member.
He was awarded the International Master title in 1954, and received the honorary Grandmaster title in 1986 in recognition of his results in the 1930s. In 1991 he was inducted into the US Chess Hall of Fame. He was the oldest competitive chess grandmaster in history, and died in 2000 at age 90. Dake spent his last night playing blackjack in the Sands Regency Casino in Reno Nevada. He died of natural causes.
Casey Bush wrote the book Grandmaster from Oregon on Dake's chess career and life.
- OlimpBase :: the encyclopaedia of team chess
- The Week in Chess 287
- Bush, Casey (1991), Grandmaster from Oregon: The Life and Games of Arthur Dake, Portland Chess Press, 1991, OCLC 24203479, ASIN: B0006F1J3Q
- Parr, Larry, "Arthur Dake: An American Original", Chess Life, December 1984, p. 28.
- NY Times obituary, May 11, 2000