FM Ronald Simpson’s Chess Autobiography
FM Ronald Simpson
grew up in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn in New York City.
I learned to move the pieces at about the age of six from a
neighbor. My cousin Clive Tulloch and I played almost every weekend.
Clive was self-taught, and he introduced me to the Sicilian defense. He
was my mentor, and I learned to think freely with his guidance. I
learned my first opening from another cousin, Leopold Hall. It was a
basic King pawn opening, filled with fundamentals.
I was competitive and
very hungry to play chess but there weren’t many kids playing chess in
the late sixties. I was about ten years old when my mother took me to
Melvin Brady’s barbershop for a haircut, and to my surprise this was
where the men in the community played chess.
It was like a local chess club.
Many of men in the neighborhood would stop in just to play a
quick game before going home. I remember many times they would keep one
eye on their watches and the other eye on the board, while constantly
glancing out of the barbershop window (hoping their wives wouldn’t
catch them playing chess). Melvin and Herman Hacksaw (aka: Rock) had a great effect on
me through my teenage years. Rock
had a flashy style of playing. He
played the Orangutan, or Polish
opening, and Melvin had a solid conservative style, 1.e4 or 1.d4.
These two men were my chess mentors and friends.
I learned so much from them.
The chess boom hit in
1972 when Robert
James "Bobby" Fischer
won the World Chess Championship and suddenly everyone was aware
of chess. Chess went from a fun game to play to serious competition. I
was no longer the kid who played chess well. I
was a chess player who happened to be a kid. The
transition matured me and prepared me for the tournament world of chess. I won many local tournaments in Brooklyn, but I will always
relish the memory of winning the Malcolm X memorial tournament in the
mid seventies. I beat Master Paul Robey, John Evans, and Steve Colding
to win the tournament. Growing up in New York City allowed me the
opportunity to play Chess in New York City’s famous Marshall Chess
Club, Manhattan Chess Club, Washington Square Park, and in Brooklyn’s
Prospect Park. I won some
very nice games against Grandmasters like Joel Benjamin, Alexander
Ivanov, Patrick Wolf, etc…
the Black Bear School of Chess:
The Black Bear School
of Chess was the most significant influence in my development in chess.
It was led by George Golden, “the Fire Breather.”
I met George in 1973, and he introduced me to a group of older
men who took chess seriously! There
were tournaments, chess study sessions, passionate chess discussions,
etc…these were my best years of chess. Looking
back provokes extremely deep feelings for me. All
of those men were like an extended family.
Many of them are no longer with us, but in my heart they all live
with every chess thought I have. Our
motto : “The will to win is greater than material advantage” has
helped me to this day, and its meaning extends beyond the chess board. By the early 1980s the Black Bear School was filled with
masters and experts! William
Morrison, Steve Colding, Chris Welcome, Mark Meeres, Willy Johnson
(Pop), Leon Monroe, and the first African-American Grandmaster, Maurice
I first achieved Master
level in 1984, and I was awarded the USCF Life Master honor soon after.
I achieved Senior Master level in 1991, and I reached my highest
USCF rating of 2427 in 1999. The World Chess Federation, known as FIDE (Federation
International Des Echecs) awarded me the title of Master in the late
1980s, and I earned a FIDE rating of about 2300.
I am now living and
playing chess in North Carolina. The North Carolina Chess Association is
a wonderful chess organization and I expect big chess things to happen
here in the years to come. I
am also teaching chess at the Southern Wake Montessori School. I
am amazed at how well their system of teaching fits chess development.
The kids are absolutely wonderful and a joy to teach.
It would be extremely
difficult to play chess seriously without the support of my wife and
kids. I am very blessed to
by Mark D. Stout & Tom Hales