Delaware chess, Delaware Valley chess, and the world at large suffered a substantial loss on July 6 with the death of Dr. Ira Lee Riddle. He suffered a fatal heart attack at age 62 while on a European cruise with his beloved wife Polly.
Though a Pennsylvania resident, Ira made great contributions to chess in the First State. One of fewer than 30 Americans to hold the International Arbiter title, he directed our state championship tournament several times, most recently in 2007. He also edited our state’s chess newsletter for many years. Until now, I was unaware of an earlier Delaware connection in his life, but I just learned that he was a graduate of Christiana High School (class of 1964).
I first met Ira in the mid-to-late 1970s, as he helped to direct some tournaments I played in. He had become involved in organized chess while teaching high school math in Glassboro, NJ. One of his students, Ken Potts, was a promising junior chessplayer, and Ira agreed to supervise a chess club at the school. This support was one factor that helped Ken (a close friend of mine in the ’70s and ’80s) tie for first at the National High School Championship in 1975.
Directing chess tournaments was much more than a part-time job for Ira; he involved himself deeply in giving chess players opportunities to play and improve. I once played in an internationally rated invitational tournament that he held in the basement of his Bucks County home.
As he grew older, Ira gained considerable weight, and his health suffered. However, in the middle part of this decade he shed many of those pounds and was looking more vibrant again the last couple of times I saw him. A good-natured and erudite man, he was always a pleasure to chat with when he wasn’t engrossed in pairings or other tournament duties.
The chess world, and society in general, would be better off with more people like Ira Lee Riddle. It’s a shame that there is now one less. Thanks for all that you did and all that you were, Ira.