Simon Deighton (1954-2017)

Simon Deighton (1954-2017)

Simon Deighton (1954-2017)

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 and we’ll add then to this database.


12 Responses to “Simon Deighton (1954-2017)”

  1. Martin Carpenter

    Mar 03. 2017

    Terribly sad. He seemed in good health at the match against us on the Saturday.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Ihor Lewyk

    Mar 07. 2017

    Thank you Mark for sharing with us about Simon’s life and interests outside chess.

    Simon was the opposing captain of the Leeds University Woodhouse cup team when I took charge of my first Woodhouse cup game for Bradford in the early 1980s. His grade then was 190+ and he could play on board 5 or 6 in what was then a 10 board championship winning team. I remember he was very welcoming and helpful to me as a new captain and he continued to offer sound advice every time we met after.

    It was so nice to see him return to chess after a long absence and he soon got back to a very decent strength. I was very proud of ever getting a result against him and he would always give an honest assessment of the game afterwards. I got the impression that he enjoyed the social side as well as the challenge of playing.

    I will remember him fondly.
    Always a gentle man and always a gentleman!

    Reply to this comment
  3. Gill Deighton

    Mar 07. 2017

    It is lovely to read the tributes to Simon on your website. His 3 children and I (his wife, Gill) will miss him greatly.

    Reply to this comment
  4. dave hirst

    Mar 08. 2017

    As Leeds CCCC organiser, I can tell you that Simon was an integral part of our club. He was the mainstay of our A team and a key contributor to the side winning a hat trick of Leeds league titles. More than this, he was a friend. An easy-going character who always had time for the social side of chess. As I am sure the Leeds Uni Old Boys will similarly confirm, it will feel very strange without his presence in our upcoming Leeds and Yorkshire games. Of course, all of this pales compared to what his wife and family must be feeling. Simon has left us with a great many fond memories at Leeds CCCC and this is what we will reflect on.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Matthew Webb

    Mar 08. 2017

    I remember facing Simon back in 2011, it was the first time I had played in the Leeds Rapidplay Chess League.

    The one distinct thing I remember was not the chess but the insightful discussion we had about our games afterwards …

    There are only a handful of players I have faced in my 18 years playing chess, those that just *understand* and posses that magical ability to explain ideas, concepts and phases of the game in a way I and many many others can only dream of. I can name these, former World Number 10, Evgeniy Najer, the incredibly talented Yorkshire Player, Peter Rooney and of course Simon.

    I will always be grateful for the brief but eye opening conversations I had with Simon.

    I will miss him.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Kevin winter

    Mar 08. 2017

    Nice tribute. I did not know him, perhaps I wish I had.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Hubert Mossong

    Mar 10. 2017

    I was one of the fortunate ones to know Simon personally.
    I got to know him while playing at a BUCA in Edinburgh and later got in contact with him when I settled in Leeds. We stayed very close friends for decades never waning one little bit. It culminated in him accepting to be my best man when I got married 26 years ago.
    We recently got very close again in the years when we restarted the famous Leeds University Chess Club to play in the 4NCL.
    It came as terrible shock to hear about these sad news. To me he was very special, always has been. I will miss him very much.

    Reply to this comment
  8. Warren Dennison

    Mar 10. 2017

    I see from the Leeds chess website that an event or tournament is being considered in a Simon’s memory. I’d suggest a 10 minute tournament. Simon was a prolific blitz player on under the username ‘dates’. From joining in October 2010 he played 8,993 blitz games, winning 4,727 of them. That really is a staggering number of games – averaging about 4 games a day over 6 years! It certainly sharpened up his OTB play as I for one can attest.

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  9. Rupert

    Mar 11. 2017

    Like everyone else I am still finding it difficult to understand. Even more so that I was one of the other seven who played in his last match, Feb 25. I first heard of Simon when I was a youngster in my mid teens at Leeds Chess Club. The University Club was a huge presence then & Simon was or certainly seemed to be the Leader. I remember on one occasion been told that Wednesday night chess club activities were at the Student Union in a mass 20 board plus match between the University & the rest of the League. I even remember winning maybe Mike B has memories of this…Going to the University was very exciting as it offered glimpses into a possible exciting uture etc. I was also playing at Harrogate when Simon held the mighty Tony Miles in the 1st round. Miles went on to score 5 1/2 /6! Which now brings me back to the York Leeds match of 25th Feb. I had drawn several pawns up against Gavyn Cooper (flags were hanging on an old bhb clock is the excuse) Simon saw my final position & was heard to mutter ”how did Rupert manage to draw that?” A true gentleman RIP Simon.

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  10. Andy Bak

    Mar 12. 2017

    Simon will be sorely missed.

    You could tell when talking about chess with him that his understanding was a lot higher than his recent grades would suggest.

    However I will remember him most for his nature away from the board – he was so friendly and had a wide variety of interests that provided for many interesting conversations.

    Reply to this comment
  11. Rupert

    Mar 13. 2017

    Further to Andy’s comment Simon played squash @the Chapel Allerton Club and once told me that he had played representative cricket for Durham. He also spent quite s few of his childhood years in Zambia. He was indeed a very rounded person.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Chris Thomson

    Apr 13. 2017

    Simon was a dear friend – 22 of us skied together every year. Such a fun bloke to be with and a great companion and a terrific, dry sense of humour. I have a few videos of his masterful recital at Burns night where he brought the house down.
    Devastated that he’s left us so young but Ill cherish fond memories of a really great man.

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