Reflections on a fallen chess organizer, player, coach, arbiter, manager, teacher, and friend Wayne Muller by Dr. Lyndon Bouah
I started playing competitive chess in January 1987. One of the first people I met was Wayne Muller. We played against one another at the Eastern Province Trials that was held at St Thomas High school in the art classroom of Michael Barry. I scored 0.5/ 7 in that event. I however made the Eastern Province B team and traveled to East London as a member of the Eastern Province Senior “B” team.
I shared a room with Wayne in Buffalo Flats, and he introduced me to the players from other provinces that he knew. I recall laughing with Wayne about the two liquor stores we had passed called If Not and At Last Liquor store. You can’t say they, not memorable names because even now 34 years later I still chuckle a bit at those names. Wayne was my senior by about 6 years, and he was at Dower Teacher Training College at the time.
After we returned from East London I was a frequent visitor to Wayne’s home in Salsoneville. It was there that Wayne gave me chess and other literature. I recall vividly a book he gave me to read. It had on the cover Martin Luther King and it was called when “The trumpets sound”. These books became part of my makeup because the most important thing I took away from that book was that one should not judge a man by the color of his skin but by the content of his character.
One of the interesting things about chess is that even though we became friends off the board, on the board we were fierce rivals. During my school years, I found it difficult to defeat Wayne because he was such a solid player. He didn’t make obvious blunders and you needed to play hard to defeat him. Wayne played for Gelvan Sicilian Chess Club and I played for Empire Chess Club. I was still playing in the Empire “C” team back then but frequently met Wayne in the Swiss events.
Wayne was a solid d4 player and had the patience to quietly build up his position. In 1987 we played in the Eastern Province Prestige event and reached the following position.
Wayne now proceeded to play 14. Bxc6 and after 14 Bxc6 he captured the pawn on a5. Wayne’s technique carried the day as he proceeded to use his understanding of chess technique to bring home the point.
Muller,W – Bouah,L [D94]
Prestige (2), 03.10.1987
Wayne was a classical player in the true sense and responded to 1.e4 with 1.c5. Wayne becoming from the older school notated in the descriptive notation so it would be more correct to say he responded with pawn to queen bishop four.
In the next few years up to 1989, we fought many battles on the board with the pendulum swinging both ways. They were exciting games and one needed to prepare well for these games because they were important benchmarks in my and other scholars’ development.
In 1989 Gelvan Sicilian Chess Club was struggling as a chess club and it was decided to form a superclub in the northern areas of Port Elizabeth. The club was to become known as Alekhine Chess Club. Wayne was an excellent administrator and immediately after forming the new club, we traveled to Durban to participate in the Chess Association for the People of South Africa (CAPSA) National event.
Wayne was then instrumental in organizing the first Alekhine Open which was won by Shane Bassett.
In 1990 the CAPSA National Championship was held in Port Elizabeth. Wayne was one of the organizers and because of his involvement, a successful event was held at the West End Community Centre.
Malcolm Frederick’s receiving the Capsa trophy in 1990 from Wayne Muller and Andre Van Reenen
During my university years, I often spent part of my vacation visiting Wayne at the various schools he taught at. I would normally bring literature with me from Cape Town and then share this with Wayne. We would also look at exciting games I had played in Cape Town and we would analyze together.
I only in later years in my life realized that Wayne was actually one of my first mentors. In our communities, we don’t often talk about mentors. I was fortunate that because of my chess club and interaction with adults, I was given valuable advice early on by many of them including Wayne.
Wayne was always a principled administrator and organizer. I learned from him that if the policy said something specific then we must stick to the policy and not change it to suit us or our given circumstances. In this way, he was giving effect to the doctrine that the constitution of an organization represents the living will of the members of an organization. This was an important lesson because in many instances we wanted to change policy because we wanted to strengthen our team but Wayne was quite adamant, if you didn’t follow the policy or the constitution, then you cannot select someone. The respect Wayne had for the rule of law cannot be over-emphasized and this is something I will always remember about Wayne.
I often saw Wayne at many junior events and school events throughout South Africa. Invariably he would be dressed in his Eastern Province attire when he would be either a coach or manager. Wayne gave his expertise freely and assisted Eastern Province to always be a force in youth chess. In order to create top players, your base must be broad. Wayne’s contribution to the success of Eastern Province chess was to ensure that the broad base always remained intact. In the last two decades more and more players reached SA Colours and if one trace back their pathway, then you will find strong scholastic and club chess and events happening in the Nelson Mandela area in the Eastern Cape generally.
In 2020 I spent part of the lockdown writing about chess in the Eastern Cape. Wayne assisted my understanding by telling me about chess in the early 1980s. On 2 June 2020 Wayne sent me the following message, “Yes, so much time and effort we put into organizing our tournaments during that time (1980’s.) I remember Michael Barry fetching me every week almost every week to play for Gelvan Sicilian… I still have the club stamp. I really salute the gentleman who shaped my future and so many of our youth. Lyndon, I have made so many friends through chess… My passion was always schooling chess and I was fortunate enough to be part of the organizing committee for a SAJCA tournament which was a huge success. I am glad I had the opportunity to work along with Betty and Winston as I learned so much. Somehow we need to perhaps publish a reflection of past clubs and a few games.”
On 30 November 2020 Wayne sent me a message about how he met Ewan Kromhout. “I met Ewan for the first time in CNA Greenacres while waiting for the British Chess Magazine… He asked..” So you want to read the chess magazine? Yep… I am Ewan, President of EP Chess. And I replied I am Wayne, President of EP Chess. Ewan wanted to arrange some matches but I said no because we cannot play a normal sport in an abnormal society.”
Wayne and I continued to share stories and he left me some rare pictures. I share some of them here. In the first picture, he gives the EP Team Schools team that played an Interprovincial against Border in East London.
In the picture is L-r is Machilles, Hiran Peterson, Milroy Rodgers, Selwyn Petrus, Wayne Muller and Jonas
In the next picture is Wayne being the arbiter at the Winter Open in 1989.
Wayne has left his mark on Eastern Province and South African chess. Without dedicated teachers such as Wayne Muller, the game of chess would be poorer and we would not have made the strides we have made in chess. Wayne nurtured many young players and today I salute you, Wayne.
Wayne sharpened me as a friend. Wayne mentored me. Wayne taught me about chess organization and taught me to respect the rule of law. Wayne Muller will not be forgotten. May we continue to learn from Wayne.
Dr. Advocate Lyndon Bouah
30 May 2021