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Tuesday, August 7, 2018

William S. Viner

     While looking through the 1899 American Chess Magazine, in addition to the article on the first Russian championship I also came across and article titled “An Australian Morphy” that was reprinted from the Sydney Daily Telegraph that read:

If a genuine Australian counterpart of the great Paul Morphy is to be discovered locally he may not improbably turn out to be that brilliant young player, Mr. W.S. Viner, who recently defeated Mr. C.E. Turner by winning two games straight out in a ladder match. Mr. Viner first attracted attention two years ago as a strong juvenile player at the Sydney School of Arts. A few months later we find him at Broken Hill, playing in a telegraphic match, and winning his game against Bathurst. Subequently he went to West Australia and acquired the championship of Boulder City. Back again in Sydney he is now, although barely seventeen years of age, already more than holding his own with the leading metropolitan players, and appears to improve daily. 

     In Nicholls in Greater Canberra there is even a short street named Viner Place which is named for William Samuel Viner. Curious, I wondered just who was this replacement for Morphy and whatever happened top him. 
Viner Place in Canberra

     First, his son Phillip Viner was also a chessplayer who played for Australia in the 1964, 1968, and 1978 chess Olympiads and for many years was the chess columnist for The Australian
     William S. Viner was born on December 5, 1881 in New South Wales and learned to play chess from his father when he was 14. By 1897 had joined the Sydney School of Arts Chess Club. Having visited Broken Hill, in 1898 father and son went to Boulder City on the Western Australian goldfields where they helped to form a chess club. After returning from the goldfields in 1900, Viner played in Sydney Suburban Chess Association matches and was runner-up in the School of Arts club championship. Viner worked as a plumber and won a local handicap tournament and annexed the West Australian championship. Early in 1901 he became a clerk with the Perth Gas Co. Ltd. 
     In response to a challenge issued to re-establish the vacant Australian championship, in 1906 he soundly beat the Victorian champion C. G. M. Watson by a score of +7 -1 =3. Because it was not an official tournament win, the New South Wales Chess Association refused to recognize his claim to the title although everyone else did. In 1906 he won the New Zealand championship. 
     In 1911 he moved to Bellingen, New South Wales, to help on his father's dairy farm. In 1912 he defeated Dr. L. B. Lancaster in a match and in 1913 he defeated the New South Wales champion Spencer Crakanthorp in a match. 
     In 1906-07 he was the New Zealand champion and it was hoped he would be able to play in the great Ostend tournament of 1907, but circumstances did not permit it. He won the Australian title again in 1912 (defeating Dr. L. B. Lancaster) and in 1913 (defeating Spencer Crakanthorp).  
     1914 saw him playing in the British championship (won by F.D. Yates) at Chester where he finished seventh with a creditable score of +4 -3 =3. After returning to Australia, in January of 1915 he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force and embarked for Egypt in April. Evacuated due to illness, twice he was hospitalized and served in England from August 1916 before being demobilized in Perth in June 1918. The following month he married Alice Lily May Hutt. He later took over his father's farm, but sold it in December 1923 and went to work as an attendant at the Goulburn Mechanics' Institute until 1927 when he went to work as a clerk in Sydney. 
     The Institute was the first and oldest institute to be established in NSW, outside of Sydney. Initially, the institute and library was set up in 1853 and grew to 1088 members by 1925. It was originally established for mechanics or “working men” to gain further knowledge of their specific trade. At first it was concerned with conducting lectures and the formation of a library. Later, classes of instruction were added and the library became the focal point of its existence. Recreational activities were also added. It operated for 91 years. 
     Although he continued to remain active in chess, he never again reached the heights he had before the War.  Viner lost the Australian title to Charles G. M. Watson at the new Australian Chess Federation's 1922 championship congress. Next year Viner challenged Watson to a match, but Watson was unable to play and resigned the title to Viner. 
     Viner retained his title at the second official tournament in 1924, but lost in 1926. He was inactive until 1931 when he played in interclub matches; in 1932 he became an adjudicator for the State chess association. At the 1932-33 congress, despite failing health, he shared second place. 
     He died of cancer in Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, on March 27, 1933 and was survived by his wife, a two-month-old daughter and four young sons.
     Viner's opponent in this game was Robert H. Barnes (October 2, 1849 – 1916), a British–New Zealand player. In 1880, he was crushed in a match by Eugene Delmar, scoring only one draw in eight games. In 1884 – 1894 he played with some success in some of the German Hauptturnier tournaments. He participated in New Zealand championships in the 1911 (7th place), 1913 (4th place) 1914 (2nd place) and 1915 (2nd place). 

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