William Arthur Winser

W. A. Winser

Club Champion a record 25 times in 1933, 37, 41, 42, 48, 49, 50, 53, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 67, 69, 71, 73, 75 and 1978.

Club President 1983-1991

Arthur Winser

By Brian Denman

I came down to Hastings in the autumn of 1990 to have a chat with Arthur about an article I wanted to write about him for the next edition of Sussex Chess News. He approved the article, but unfortunately did not live long enough to see it published. He was a quiet modest person, who was particularly well regarded by his chess colleagues. I first played him as a schoolboy at Bognor. There are some who do not like youngsters, but Arthur was always friendly to me and a sporting player at the board.

He was born William Arthur Winser on 9.12.1906 in Hastings. His first name seems, however, to have been discarded at a relatively young age and his friends called him Arthur. He joined the Hastings CC in 1922 and in the same year entered the Hastings Boys’ Championship for the first time. As early as 1923 he won his first county competition. The President’s Cup was run on a handicap basis and strong county players found that giving Arthur a knight start was too much. For his win he received a gold wrist watch as a prize. By 1925 he was on board one for Hastings in the McArthur Cup, although it has to be said that in those days the club was not permitted to field its ‘first-class’ players in this competition. Arthur himself was listed as a ‘first-class’ player by the 1926-27 season.

Having served his apprenticeship Arthur now took a break in his chess activities. For the next few years he concentrated on building up his dairy and poultry business and played little ‘over-the-board’ chess, though he played in correspondence matches for the county.

When he returned to the scene, he won the Hastings CC Championship in 1933 and the Sussex Championship in 1935, both for the first time. By the time that the war had started he had won the Hastings title again in 1937 and the county championship in 1939. The war almost certainly deprived him of winning more titles, and, when in 1942 he had won the Hastings title with a score of 9/9, he was called up for military service. Towards the end of 1942 he played for the British Forces against the Allies in a match. The war, however, took him to Sierra Leone where his task was to fit bombs to aircraft. Arthur had the book ‘Basic Chess Endings’ by Reuben Fine in his possession which he read from cover to cover. He thus augmented his considerable endgame knowledge which had once caused Vera Menchik to comment that Arthur won more games with his kng than anyone else!

When hostilities ceased, he was able to play some games whilst on leave and he was demobbed in 1946. In that year he won the county title again and he dominated county chess by winning the championship in 1947.1948.and 1949 (N.B. a Brighton chess player even wrote a poem about Winser as his successes grew) . This gave him five consecutive wins in the competition and he might indeed have made it six but for the fact that he fell ill in 1950 and had to withdraw from the competition and spend some time in hospital. Meanwhile in the Hastings CC he was still winning championships, but his best period was still to come. From 1955 to 1965 he won 11 consecutive titles (and also won the Anslow Cup on many occasions). There seems to have been a joke at the club that some of the members had never seen him lose! His play was very solid and he was likened to Capablanca who lost very few games. In the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 19.5.1956 (N.B. this was the year when Arthur’s name was added to the list of vice-presidents) the columnist Frank Rhoden wrote: ‘I take him to be the ideal champion: modest in victory and unruffled in defeat. Come to think of it, his defeats are so few that he seldom has a chance to show his unruffledness!’ Later that year in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 3.11.1956, after Arthur had gained a quick win against Rev E G Wood, Rhoden stated that it was not often that Winser indulged in ‘smash-and-grab’ chess. He added: “He always appears to be ‘a rural Capablanca’, who grinds down opponents in such a quiet, gentlemanly manner, that they are never quite certain how he has done it.”

Arthur won two more county titles in 1959 and 1960 making eight in all. The 1960 final against the formidable Dave Springgay lasted for three games and took a marathon 16 hours in all. Arthur was in two more county finals in 1963 and 1967, but he lost these.

On the international scene he played four times in the prestigious Hastings Premier Tournament in 1939-40, 1948-49, 1949-50 and 1959-60. Probably his best result in this occurred in the last event where he used his considerable endgame abilities to obtain a problematic draw in a king and pawn ending against the Yugoslavian grandmaster Svetozar Gligoric (see games below).

After doing very well to win the Major Open event at the British Chess Federation Congress at Bath in 1963, Arthur competed in next year’s British Championship at Whitby and also in the 1966 event at Sunderland. In both of these competitions he scored 5.5/11, but on the first occasion was actually unbeaten until the last round when he was defeated by P H Clarke.

The Hastings and St Leonards Observer of 31.10.1964 reported that Arthur was flying off for a holiday of a lifetime to watch the Olympiad at Tel Aviv. He was kind enough to take 60 sheets of stamps with him from Leopold Winter’s collection of chess on postage stamps and the Brighton philatelist received a silver medal and certificate.

In 1968 Arthur won the Sussex Veterans’ Championship and he still continued to play at a high standard as a pensioner. In 1975 when Hastings played Cologne, he came up against the German grandmaster Robert Hubner. In 1976 Arthur started an adult education class in chess and he continued to be an active player as he became older

His final illness came upon him suddenly. He died on 12.6.1991 at the age of 84.

Est. 1882