William (Bill) Ramsay 1932-2022
Obituary by Ross Jackson
Bill Ramsay died, surrounded by family, on Monday 31st January, 2022, aged 90 years. Bill served New Zealand chess at a critical time in it's history and left a major contribution in collating the chess games, tournament cross tables, and photographs of New Zealand Championships from the first Congress in 1879 until 1993. Bill's work is the source for Peter Stuart's data files of Congress games for that period.
Bill emigrated from Scotland in 1954. The New Zealand Chess magazine first mentions him in December 1975 as offering a discount on new chess books to Wellington players from the business premises of NZ Pastimes Ltd. in Lower Hutt. This writer does not know his work history but he has been reported as retiring from employment at The Dominion and The Evening Post newspapers. Bill served as Secretary of the Wellington Chess League, an organisation that coordinated local interclub tournaments and Champion of Champions competitions.
A description of some major chess events is required to understand the environment of Bill's work as a national administrator. In 1985 the headquarters of the New Zealand Chess Association moved from Auckland to Wellington. The new Wellington team was a powerhouse of talent. The President was a former Prime Minister the Rt. Hon. Sir John (Jack) Marshall, Vice President Abe Borren (also Wellington Chess League President), Secretary Bob Mitchell, Treasurer Bill Poole, and Councillors Lev Aptekar, Zyg Frankel (who took over as editor of the New Zealand chess magazine), Rowan Wood, and with Auckland Councilors Peter Stuart, M.G. Whaley, and Canterbury councilor Vernon Small. Bill Poole had initially declined a request to be Treasurer due to work commitments but the organiser left him on the list and suffered a mild heart attack so Bill Poole served out a year. In 1987 after New Zealand won the first Rugby World Cup, Jack Marshall ambitiously thought of building on the recognition and having New Zealand bid to host the 1990 World Chess Championship. In 1988 Bill Poole, having more time to spare, returned to serve on NZCA as Vice President. Bill Ramsay came onto Council as Secretary at the same time. In September 1988, Jack Marshall died unexpectedly which propelled Bill Poole to President to represent New Zealand on the world stage bidding for the World Chess Championship. The story of these events is described in Chess Magazines, July 2021, October 2021 and April 2013. Bill Ramsay was therefore Secretary during one of the most dramatic times in New Zealand's chess history.
In August 1989 Bill also took on the editorship of the New Zealand chess magazine. He served as Secretary until the 1992-93 AGM when he was deposed by Ted Frost. Bill described to me that as editor he was a cut and paste production man, with scissors his greatest tool, rather than a journalist. Even so, he could write a perceptive editorial. Council decided in February 1993 to have a Committee of four appointees including Bill, to be a "board" to produce the magazine, Bill was no longer a member of Council to have inside knowledge of it's activities and in his editorial he was unsure about the structure. Commenting on the "brainstorming sessions" in vogue during the 1970's and 1980's he observed that "committees can range from the pandemonium of the round table sort to the symphony of an orchestra with a conductor." He resigned before the April 1993 edition. Later that year Bill required a triple-heart bypass surgery.
Bill gave up competitive chess in the latter 1990's and put his energy into lawn bowls. In his 80th year he travelled the country playing 80 games in 80 days to raise money for the heart foundation. But his interest in chess history never waned. I could telephone him years apart and ask him about a historical event. Within seconds he could provide the information. In 2021 he visited Wellington Chess Club to give me his folder entitled "The Games of 100 New Zealand Chess Championships 1879-1993. Collected and edited by Bill Ramsay". Also were his handwritten cross tables, some Congress photographs and other historical miscellany. He had provided a copy and many photographs of Championship photographs to the Alexander Turnbull Library collection of the National Library. It represented many years of painstaking work. Nobody is dead until forgotten. Bill has ensured that our early champions are remembered and we should remember him with gratitude too.
Appendix by Bill Forster, with contributions from Rowan Wood and Nigel Metge
Bill Ramsay, a hardworking administrator behind the scenes for many years in Wellington chess has died, aged 90. Among his many contributions has been voluminous and meticulous research on chess in New Zealand, including locating early congress records that are now included with the Peter Stuart database and on Wikipedia. Much material he sourced from early newspapers and club records has been donated to the National Library.
Rowan Wood has dug up some interesting information about Bill. For his 80th birthday he undertook an interesting adventure that gained some national press coverage. He toured the country looking to play eighty games of bowls in eighty days to raise funds for the Heart Foundation. This and this are but two of several contemporary reports. From this we find that Bill was originally from Scotland and immigrated to New Zealand in 1954. Bill was a regular at the Civic Chess Club in the 80s and 90s. But he started playing lawn bowls in 1996 and stopped playing tournament chess in 1997. Bill explains that "I played chess for years and years, but you get little teenagers coming along and whip (sic) your pants off."
Rowan also has dug into the magazine archives on this site and found Bill was the NZ Chess Magazine Editor from August 1989 to February 1993. He wasn't afraid to express his opinion in his editorial column which may have ruffled a few feathers in its time. Rowan believes that an attempt to reign in his opinion by NZCA, resulted in his resignation. Prior to becoming Editor, Bill was NZCA Secretary from October 1988.
Bill could be a dangerous competitor too, as shown by these two games from the Peter Stuart database.
Ramsay, William R - Watson, Michael J
New Zealand Premier Reserve 1979
Notes by Nigel Metge 1.e4 c5 2.f4 Nc6 3.Nf3 d6 4.Bb5 Bd7 5.Bxc6 Bxc6 6.d3 g6 7.Nc3 Bg7 8.O-O Nf6 The most common move here is 9.Qe1with equal chances. Bill's move is much more ambitious 9.f5?! O-O (9...gxf5 10.exf5 Qd7 -/+ ) 10.Nh4 Nh5 11.g4 Nf6 12.Be3 Nd7 (12...d5! 13.g5 Nxe4 14.dxe4 d4 -/+ ) 13.Qe2 b6 14.Rf2 e6 15.g5 exf5 16.exf5 Be5 17.f6 Re8 18.Re1 Bd4
Moves are clickable
19.Nf5!? A great idea in a difficult postion! 19...gxf5 20.Qh5 Bxe3 21.Qh6 Bxf2+ 22.Kxf2 Rxe1 Essential is: (22...Re2+! 23.Nxe2 Qf8 ) 23.Qg7# 1-0
Ramsay, William R - Green, Peter R
Wellington QB Weekend Open 1978
Notes by Bill Forster 1.e4 c6 2.f4!? d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.d4 e6 5.Nc3 ( Instead 5.Nf3 transposes back into known paths ) 5...Bb4 6.Bd3 Ne7 7.Nf3 c5 8.O-O Nbc6 9.Nb5 cxd4 10.a3!?
Moves are clickable
White is more interested in landing an annoying check on d6 than recovering his pawn 10...Qa5? (10...Bc5 11.b4 a6! spares Black's blushes ) 11.axb4! Qxa1 12.Nc7+ This retains the advantage but for the record... (12.Nd6+! is actually a winning brilliant positional exchange sac courtesy of the silicon monster ) 12...Kd7 13.Nxa8 Nxb4 14.Bb5+ Nbc6 15.Nxd4 Rxa8 16.g4 An uncompromising approach. Inhumanly good defence is required from Black to avoid catastrophe against just simple aggression from White 16...Be4 17.f5 a6 18.fxe6+ fxe6 19.Nb3 Qa2 20.Nc5+ Ke8 21.Bxc6+ Nxc6 22.Nxe4 dxe4
White to play and win 23.Qd6!! Boom! There's no coming back from that, it's actually forced mate 23...Ne7 24.Bg5! Ng6 (24...Nf5 holds out longer ) 25.Rf8+! The prettiest and most direct way 1-0