Last week's get-well message for John van Manen came too late - Australia's greatest chess historian had died before the column was published. John van Manen was born in the Netherlands and learned to play chess in 1935, the year that Max Euwe became Holland's first and only World Champion.
Van Manen emigrated to Australia in 1961, taking with him an extensive chess book collection which he donated to the NSW State Library in 1970. By now Van Manen was building up an unrivalled library of Australian chess literature, culminating in his publication of an Australian chess bibliography in 1978.
Already Van Manen was, according to one reviewer, "the greatest expert on Australiana that ever lived" and he reinforced that reputation with an authoratative column on Australiana in the national chess magazine. Van Manen moved to Adelaide in 1979 and over the next decade and a half produced six volumes of Australian chess history and three volumes of the 'Records of Australian Chess'. His books were painstakingly compiled from multiple sources but his published data was almost invariably accurate. Although Van Manen's books were ridiculed by one Australian chess retailer as being "impossible to sell", without these works, later opuses such as Chua's "Australian Chess at the Top" would have been impossible to write. Van Manen was noted for his encouragement of aspiring Australian chess historians and provided a forum for the research of others in his 'Australian Chess Lore'.
Van Manen also collected and transcribed more than 10,000 Australian games
from the past century, later depositing them with the State Library of
Victoria. (The MV Anderson collection at the SLV is one of the world's great chess libraries.)
These scoresheets, which provide an action replay of Australian games through the years, may within a few years be accessible to players around the world. They are slowly being converted into computer format and will be added to the game archive on the Australian Chess Federation web page. In 1996 Van Manen moved with his wife Inge to Port Macquarie, giving up most of his chess books and concentrating on other pursuits, including mathematical problems and ordering the genealogical tables of the ruling familes of Europe.
Van Manen died on May 20, at age 78, his only public recognition being as recipient of the Purdy medal for chess journalism in 1988. The Australian chess community remains deeply in his debt.
Surfers Paradise, Queensland
Leading scores after three rounds:
1.eq Johansen(Aus), Ftacnik(Svk), Galdunts(Arm), Wohl(Aus) 2.5;
5eq. Nikolic(Bos), Rogers(Aus), Zhao(Aus), Wallace(Aus), Allen(Aus) 2.