A tribute to Willem Jan Muhring

Willem Jan Muhring was the great initiator and stimulator of the National Computer Centre. His pioneering work gave the impulse to centralised, mechanised data processing for central government use in Holland. In the fourties and fifties, Muhring was also one of the most prominent Dutch chess players. He has written countless articles about chess, a series of books with former World Champion Max Euwe, presented a Teleac TV series on the game and gave many simultaneous displays and lectures. The Max Euwe Centre in Amsterdam possesses a collection of 25 scrapbooks about Muhring.

Biography and career
Willem Jan Muhring was born on August 17th, 1913, in IJmuiden. He grew up in Rotterdam. In the early thirties, when studying at the Rotterdam Commercial School, Muhring was noted for his ability to handle complicated problems and plucked out of the school desk by Unilever. In 1947, Unilever lent Muhring to the Department of Economy to build up the administration of distribution. In 1949, Muhring headed the new Central Distribution Office at the Huygenspark in The Hague. He employed a staff of forty, running the salary records for four departments, following the Hollerith method. In 1950, the National Centre for Mechanic Administration was accommodated at the Huygenspark.

Muhring introduced the five-day week in his office. In 1957, an experiment was started with an 'electronic administration machine' for the calculation of civil service salaries. Despite lukewarm enthusiasm of the national government, he sent his staff members already in the sixties to Paris and Munich for trial runs with computers, with convincing results. The first IBM 1410 card computer was installed in 1963, in a computer room which was hypermodern for that age.

In the following hectic years, the possibilities of the computer, of which Muhring had always been convinced, were finally noted. Muhring educated his own programmers and system analysts. The centre kept growing and kept up to date with the fast developments. In 1969, an annex in Apeldoorn was opened as a precursor of the accommodation at the Fauststraat 1. This first annex had a punch room and was used for system development and programming. On July 1st, 1970, the center was renamed RCC (National Computer Centre). In 1973, the RCC started to install terminals in the offices of customers. In 1975, the IBM 370/158 was extended into a multi-processing system.
The RCC accommodated many activities and met the needs of hypermodern technique. In 1984, the building already required a new wing. It was opened by Her Majesty the Queen, which set the seal on Muhring's work.
The director himself had already retired in 1978, looking back on 28 years as a forerunner and a reliable and respectable business partner.

Muhring the chess master
Muhring always stated that the computer branche required hard work but had unlimited possibilities. Here is the first parallel with his favorite game: chess.
Muhring in 1975: "The two have many things in common: planning, moving, minutes of deliberation, reacting, analysing, calculating, remembering, looking back, playing blindfolded."
Muhring learnt the game at the age of fifteen. At the Rotterdam High School, he already was an active player. In 1932, he won the Rotterdam championship. From 1936 onwards, Muhring played international tournaments as often as his busy working life allowed, he joined the famous tour of the Dutch top players through the Balkan in 1949. In 1947, he came second in a tournament in Hilversum, before Euwe. At Hastings 1948, he shared second place, in 1949 he came third. In 1951, the new world chess organisation FIDE awarded him the international master title. Muhring again topped Euwe in Johannesburg 1955. They played ten games; the ex-World Champion scored six points, Muhring four.

Euwe said that Muhring was probably the most difficult Dutch player for him to beat, because of his solid style. After presenting a Teleac chess series on TV, Muhring joined Euwe for daily analyses of the games in the famous Spassky-Fischer match of 1972, which was controversial in the chess world. With Euwe, Muhring wrote the series 'Zo leert u goed schaken' (The good way to learn chess'). Euwe maintained in an interview with the Apeldoorn master Frans Henneberke, who wrote a voluminous biography of Muhring in 1978, that their relationship was close and based on mutual respect.

Chess helped Muhring in the financially difficult pioneering days. As an international chess master, he earned money by writing many chess articles, in the Dutch newspapers Algemeen Dagblad, Provinciaals Noord-Brabants Dagblad, Brabant Pers and Trouw, in the magazines Het Binnenhof, Elseviers Weekblad, the periodical of the Dutch Post (PTT) and Het Torentje, the staff magazine at the Dutch Foreign Office. In his columns, Muhring touched on a wide range of chess subjects. Computer chess, of course, was prominent. But he also experimented with a training method where the pupil guesses the moves of a master game and is awarded points for each correct move. This method is still very popular nowadays. Top player and trainer Artur Yusupov recommended it a few months ago in a clinic for Dutch chess trainers in Apeldoorn.

Muhring was a man of many ideas and initiatives. He has made a great mark in the information branche and in Dutch chess life. That is why Connection1, current owner of the Information Room, has decided to grant a longtime wish of many employees at PinkRoccade, Roccade Megaplex and RCC before them, a proposal that his lifelong colleague J. van der Veen made to name the information room after Willem Jan Muhring.
It is a tribute to a pioneer, in computer science as well as in the chess game.

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