Mark Birkin has been kind enough to send us this reflection on his friend, team mate and club colleague Simon Deighton who passed away recently.
Simon was born in the North East of England but also spent time in Africa and Canada before arriving as a student at Leeds in the early 1970s.
He began playing chess at the University, alongside his housemate Iain Bourne. Their flat on St John’s Terrace became an informal hub for many of those with an enthusiasm for chess and sometimes cards, but by no means excluding more conventional student interests such as alcohol, politics and an appreciation of the fairer sex. They may have needed companionship for physical warmth – in one of Simon’s favourite anecdotes he would recall the means they had discovered to liberate the contents of the gas and electricity meters for more appropriate causes. Beer was mentioned, rather than food!
Despite his late start, Simon quickly became a strong player, a member of the University’s Yorkshire League (Woodhouse Cup) winning sides of 1978 and 1981, and the British University (BUCA) champions in the same years. Another of his fondest memories was drawing with Tony Miles in the Harrogate Open tournament of the late ‘70s through the ingenious device of ‘overprotecting e5 seven times’!
After marrying Gill, the couple moved to Scott Hall Road but their home remained a focal point for friends and team-mates for some time. He found it increasingly difficult to balance chess with other interests – as a youth he had been a representative cricketer and now played both squash and badminton to a high league standard. Simon continued to be a regular skier, racketball player and a member of the Leeds 8-15 handicap golf league until the time of his death. His powers of persuasion, genial charm and agile mind led him to a successful career in account management with Olivetti and later Oracle. He was able to relocate his wife and three children, Sarah, Oliver and Luke, to leafy and desirable surroundings in Shadwell, where their home remains to this day.
After a hiatus of more than 20 years, Simon returned to chess in 2010. He quickly re-established himself as a strong player, and as a reliable, amenable and convivial team member in the Leeds, Yorkshire and National Leagues. With a refined positional understanding, he was rarely embarrassed by highly ranked opponents – although his insistence on looking deeply into the game did sometimes leave him vulnerable to both superficial tactical shots and the pressure of the clock. It was his love of many pursuits perhaps that helped to provide a great sense of sportsmanship – one regular adversary captured his spirit well in remarking that “it’s hard to think of any other opponent who was so unfailingly kind and friendly over the board and after the game, win, lose or draw”.
Simon died suddenly at the end of February of causes as yet unknown. He leaves family, friends and team-mates with the scant consolation of a life well-lived, having made his way through a successful career, accomplished not only in chess but in many other sports and pastimes. More important, he leaves us with memories of a loyal team member, a good companion and a fine person. He will be sadly and deeply missed.
– Mark Birkin
The notes to the game below are from a series of annotations which Simon produced relatively recently for the Leeds University Old Boys online magazine. Aside from being an entertaining and interesting game in its own right, it illustrates the wry and self-deprecating humour which made him such a popular member of the side.
If any of our readers would like to share their memories of Simon please do leave a comment below. If you would like to send us a game or a position from a game you played against Simon then please email a PGN or FEN file to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add then to this database.