The Talking Drum
featuring  FM William Morrison


FM William Morrison recently tied for 1st at the St. John's International tournament and earned his 2nd IM norm in the process.  The native New Yorker now lives outside of Baltimore with Marjorie, his wife of ten years, and their two children, Destiny, 10, and Jonathon, 5. William honed his chess skills at the famous "Black Bear School of Chess," but it was in Maryland that he became known as the "Exterminator." Since then William has become a Baltimore legend and hopes to win the IM title this summer at either the World Open, or the Wilbert Paige Memorial. The Chess Drum spent two hours chatting with the personable family man and what follows are some of his reflections on his chess beginnings, his subsequent development, and finally the winning of his 2nd IM norm.

FM William Morrison

FM William Morrison

A Family Affair

William Morrison's rise to chess prominence was an event that was meant to happen.  The Morrison family was involved in the royal game. William's father, a practicing physician at the time, taught his seven children (four girls, three boys) chess  at an early age. William was six when he learned the moves, and has fond memories of playing within the family. A few years after learning the moves, young William did the inevitable… beat his father.  At that moment, Mr. Morrison would refuse to play William. However, William found competition with his siblings and his mother. "I remember playing my mother with the entire family looking on… I was losing this particular game. She had a Rook and King versus a King and could not checkmate me." Having won household "bragging rights" a couple of years later, the 12-year old ventured out and began playing at the Brooklyn Public Library where small tournaments were held.

"I remember playing my mother
and the entire family looking on."

The Black Bears

At this library, William would get his first taste of chess competition and his first rating was 1695. He excelled in scholastic play and won a large tournament which included a free membership to the famous Marshall Chess Club. It was there he met local Masters
Jay Bonin and Leslie Braun.  A few years later, William got caught up in the "Black Bear" mystique and joined its School of Chess after playing NM Christopher Welcome in a tournament at the same public library where William had been playing.

Apparently, Mr. Welcome was impressed with young William and introduced him to
Duncan Cox and Willie "Pop" Johnson, the oldest member of this club which consisted of strong Black chess players. "These guys were good models for me. I forgot to mention FIRE BREATHER. The 'Fire Breather' was the spark behind the school." William also mentions Herminio Baez, Ernest "Steve" Colding and FM Ron Simpson as some of his closest chess friends and proudly says, "We're a family. That is what the Black Bears mean."

After honing his skills within the Black Bear tradition, William ventured off to Morgan State University. It was upon his arrival that he got the name "Exterminator." A mentor named
Harry "The Chess Player" Shaw had taken William around to play the locals and after seeing the young Master demolish the local competition, he called him "Exterminator" for the first time.  Years later,  William would become a Maryland legend after winning many tournaments and gaining a reputation as a fierce blitz player. He has also played for University of Maryland-Baltimore County had helped the school win four collegiate titles. Currently he is completing a Master's degree in Education while doubling as a teacher and chess coach at  a local Catholic middle school.

"We're a family.
That is what the Black Bears mean."

The Road to the IM title

Now a FIDE Master with two IM norms, William prepares for tournament by studying the Fischer's
60 Most Memorable Games and the endgames of the Cuban genius, Raul Capablanca. Asked about his recent IM norm performance at St. John's International, William reflects, "I enjoyed the tournament very much. Everybody there treated us well. Dr. Brady and Mr. Haft were the best." William also mentioned the friendship he developed with fellow FM,  Stephen Muhammad.

The Exterminator had a minor setback in the first round after being swindled while a rook up! That game was drawn as were the next two.  His best game was naturally his last. He HAD to win this game to earn the IM norm and IM Jay Bonin is certainly a tough player. The game was exciting, and reached a critical when IM Bonin uncorked an interesting rook sacrifice (beginning with 26. . . Rxg2+!?) and an ensuing attack on William's king. "Yes that was a wild move," William reflected. "I thought it was a joke until I saw the entire idea. I had to be very careful." In the end, the rook sacrifice would not be enough and before resigning, IM Bonin joked, "I thought it was an interesting idea. Congratulations." What a game!!

William has his sights set on his third and final IM norm, and then perhaps the GM title. His humble beginnings have resulted in tremendous accomplishments as the aspiring IM hopes to pass the chess legacy on to his children. In the past, William's wife Marjorie competed in USCF tournaments and accompanied him to tournaments. It was at this time that William reached his highest rating of over 2500. His son Jonathon loves the game and can already go over an entire game by reading algebraic notation!! Certainly a sign of great things to come from the Morrison family.

Interview conducted: 1 July 2001

William Morrison on the cover of Baltimore’s City Paper, July 28-August 4, 1999.

William Morrison on the cover of Baltimore's City Paper, July 28-August 4, 1999.

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