Down Under


In Nicholls which lies in Greater Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory, there is a short street named Viner Place. On Sept 13, 2000, citing the Public Place Names Act of 1989, this street was named for "William Samuel Viner, Chess master; State champion of W. Australia 1900,01,03 & 05."

I came across this little tidbit by accident, but was fortunate to find a bit of information on Viner, one of Australia's early great chess masters, thanks to the efforts of John van Manen.

Phillip Viner, William's son, also a chessplayer, played for Australia in the 1964, 1968, and 1978 chess Olympiads with a credible 52.8% win rate.

William Samuel Viner was born on Dec. 5, 1881 in New South Wales. He learned to play chess from his father when he was 14. He was a workingman like his tinsmith/farmer father and was employed as a clerk for the Perth Gas Co. Ltd. (later as a farmer and as a mechanic).

Julius Jacobsen, who won the first NSW Championship in 1901, had tutored Viner in chess. In 1900 Viner won a local handicap tournament as well as the West Australian Championship, which state title he also won in 1901, 1903 and 1905.   He beat the Victorian champion C. G. M. Watson in a match in 1906 (+7-1=3) giving him claim to the title of Australian Champion.  In 1906-07 he won the New Zealand title. He won the Australian title again in 1912 (against Dr. L. B. Lancaster), 1913 (against Spencer Crakanthorp) and 1924 (C. G. M. Watson had won the title from Viner in 1922, but when re-challenged and unable to play, resigned the title to back Viner). 
     Viner had served in WWI with the 11th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force in Egypt and upon his return home married Alice Lily May Hutt. After 1924, while he remained active in chess, he never reached his previous heights. He died of cancer on March 27, 1933 survived by his wife, his 2 month old daughter and his four young sons.  Phillip, one of those sons, we know followed in his large footsteps.