It is with extreme sadness that I inform The Chess Drum readership of the death of FM Ronald Simpson. He succumbed to Stage Four cancer on Thursday, September 19th. Simpson was an active member of the North Carolina community after being a legendary figure in New York’s “Black Bear School of Chess” for many years. Ron’s last USCF rating was 2338 and last tournament was the Asheboro Open in July…which he won. He was 53 years old and survived by wife Beverly Simpson and two sons.
Chess careers typically start innocently enough. Ron’s story was learning chess from a neighbor and then challenging anyone within sight. This hardscrabble way of learning provided him with a toughness that would leave a mark in New York chess. He later joined the highly-touted “Black Bear School of Chess” an organization of African-American players who staged 30-game blitz matches and serious study sessions.
Ron was very proud of his “Black Bear” affiliation and his fellow masters Maurice Ashley, William Morrison and Ernest Colding. This was revealed at the historic Wilbert Paige Memorial in 2001. He also left a rather extensive autobiography which can be read in the comment section below.
~GM Maurice Ashley
For Ron, he enjoyed the tactical morass of positions (despite playing the positional English) and became known for his swashbuckling style of play. He played for the Carolina Cobras in the U.S. Chess League and was well-respected by players there. He won a number of tournaments and was a former North Carolina State champion. His passion for the game was noted and Chris Mabe even reflected on a recent visit with Ron about all matters pertaining to chess.
“I saw him over Labor Day at Duke medical center. Man, we talked for at least 2 hours about various chess positions and how we should educate people about the game. The point is that he was still full of life and excited about chess and the community.”
There will be a viewing at Mitchell Funeral Home (7209 Glenwood Ave., Raleigh, NC) on Sunday, September 22nd from 2-4pm. The body will then be shipped to New York (where his mother lives) for a formal service. After the funeral, players in North Carolina are having a chess memorial service for at Caribou Coffee, 3300 Duraleigh Road Raleigh, NC 27612 (919) 787-9611. It will start at around 4:30pm. Players are encouraged to bring chess sets and memories of Ron to share. If there are any questions, call Gary Newsom at 704-618-1259. (Link: https://www.ncchess.org/)
Willie “Pops” Johnson vs. FM Ron Simpson (front) & Jeffrey Mitchell vs. FM Maurice Ashley (back); 2nd African-American Unity tournament, 7 March 1992. Photo by Jerry Bibuld.
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Thanks to GM Hikaru Nakamura for notifying The Chess Drum!