Essex Teams dominant

In a widely varied weekend's chess at inter-County and Club level, Essex teams ran out worthy winners in four different events and narrowly lost in a fifth. Probably the most spectacular of these, and possibly the least expected, was in the SCCU under 18 Team Championships. Although Essex have an overwhelming advantage over most Counties in terms of the highly-graded players available, many of our top juniors were missing, in some cases as a result of playing for the (adult) First team the previous day. In addition, some transport problems were not sorted out until the morning of the event: at least half the team travelled by rail and were a few minutes late for the start.

However, the players performed magnificently, and within minutes were returning with points. Some of these were against the run of play and there was no doubt that Essex had the rub of the green as Ezra Lutton, board 1 for Essex, succeeded in swindling Hertfordshire's board 2, Hamza Syed, reversing a losing position as both players approached time trouble. At the other end, Andrew Lillie played Joseph Bloomfield, an Essex player "on loan" to Herts. Joseph, living in Saffron Walden, attends the Royston club when he can and he was invited to play for Hertfordshire long before Essex began picking a team. An agreement was reached between the team managers as it was not anticipated that the Essex team would dip below 120 in grade (Joseph's grade is 100). Andrew was also in some difficulties as the game developed, but he too found a swindle to add to the team's growing points tally so that at the end of the first round, Essex had amassed no fewer than 9 points and only the one loss. This placed our team jointly in first place with Richmond.

It should be mentioned at this point that the SCCU u18 Championships are no longer an inter-County event as the SCCU Committee saw fit a couple of years ago to admit "non-County members" to Junior events. Richmond Junior Chess Club, one of the outstanding chess organisations for Juniors and a real Centre of Excellence, is therefore entitled to enter in its own right, as is any chess organisation who can obtain "NCM" status. While Richmond excelled, Surrey collapsed to a mere 3½/12, only just ahead Berkshire, the backmarkers. It is quite easy to imagine a scenario in which Surrey do not bother to enter this event in future, deprived as they are of many of their strongest, playing for an organisation unfettered by such trivialities as County boundaries. Furthermore, the BCF Inter-County u18 Championship does not include NCMs so Richmond will not be allowed to play. Will Richmond members decamp to their respective Counties? One wonders why it is that the SCCU Committee does not admit NCMs to the "adult" County Championships - Barbican, Guildford, King's Head etc. would be able to give a very good account of themselves. In addition, part of the purpose of picking a proper County team is that it gives the selectors who do their job properly the opportunity to foster and encourage chess in all parts of their County, thereby improving the game's standing and allowing it to reach areas where it has hitherto failed to flourish. This purpose is entirely lost if a ready-made off-the-peg Club team can enter, especially one so dominant as Richmond. It is not comparing like with like and a well-established Junior Club, especially one with the massive resources that Richmond has enjoyed over the years, will nearly always beat a County team, as Richmond have proved over the years in the EPSCA events.

This makes Essex's victory all the more remarkable and noteworthy: proper County teams were left well behind, Sussex offering the greatest challenge and Essex, even when not at full strength, pipped the mighty Richmond by just half a point, a superb performance by the players and a tribute to the magnificent fighting spirit displayed.

In the second round, Richmond failed to keep pace with Essex and a real Captain's performance by Ezra Lutton was effectively the difference between the sides. This time, having struggled against a relatively low grade, Ezra now played Thirumurugan Thirucelvam, graded 206 and one of the strongest players in attendance. Ezra is one of those remarkable players who seems to get better results against strong players than he does against weak, and 'Murugan was dispatched clinically. Essex lost 4 games this round, but drew none, so the final score of 17/24 was very good indeed. Richmond managed 16½, the mini-match between Essex and Richmond being 2½ - 1½ in Essex's favour. Amazingly for such a good team performance, only three Essex players managed 100% (Ezra, Matthew Jellett and Daniel Hedges, although Daniel's first game was a win by default). Everyone contributed something to the team effort.

Elsewhere, there was a welcome victory by the score of 9½-6½ by Essex over Buckinghamshire in the Open Championship, largely due to excellent results on the lower boards. There was a full round of matches in this section and the most significant result from the point of view of the destination of the Championship was Surrey's 11½-4½ victory over Cambridgeshire. While Cambs. were still in the hunt, Essex still had some hopes of the title on a tie-break as long as the top three kept winning but Cambs beat Kent in the last match of the season, but Kent brushed Herts aside with ease (12 - 4). The Championship has now reached a situation with one match to go that Kent will be Champions, Essex runner-up and Cambridgshire in 3rd place (all qualifying for the National stages) no matter what the results on March 15th when Essex play Herts. Cambridgeshire play at home to Kent on March 1st and, although home advantage could count for a lot given that the students don't seem to travel too well, one would expect an away win.

In the under 150s Essex salvaged another win to finish on 50% but with other sides still to play there is now no permutation of results which can see Essex through to the national stages in a competition in which they have achieved three consecutive SCCU titles and been National Champions once and runners up once during the past three years. John Philpott has done an excellent job taking this team on at short notice after the unfortunate mid-season withdrawal of the former highly successful Captain Ian MacLachlan but this is a team which will need a new Captain next season.

In the National Club Championships, a highly-graded Wanstead side beat Tunbridge Wells 4½-½ whereas Writtle lost 3 - 2 to a highly graded team from Basingstoke Juniors.

  Round 1 Round 2
BdThe RestGradeTeamScoreEssexGradeScoreThe RestGradeteam
1Hamza Syed150Herts0 - 1Ezra Lutton1751 - 0Thirumurugan Thiruchelvam206Richmond
2Michael Healey158Richmond0 - 1Josiah Lutton1580 - 1Liam Varnam153Berks
3Andrew Navias131Berks½ - ½Kyle Bennett1530 - 1Matthew King134Surrey
4Alexandra Kelly138Surrey½ - ½Dana Hawrami1391 - 0Peter Poobalasingham137Herts
5Adam Prescott109Sussex0 - 1Alan Hawrami137½ - ½Henry Kingston129Cambs
6James Donald111Cambs½ - ½Antony O'Toole1341 - 0Adam Prescott109Sussex
7Richard Burrows99Cambs0 - 1Nicholas Jellett1280 - 1Joe Fraser106Sussex
8Joe Fraser106Sussex0 - 1Matthew Jellett1261 - 0Stephen Chester95Cambs
9Nicholas Forham113Surrey½ - ½Jason Klimach1171 - 0Selina Kanji Herts
10Steven Dowling (w.o.) Berks0 - 1Daniel Hedges1131 - 0Martin Tamerlane Surrey
11Callum Kilpatick100Richmond1 - 0Subin Sen1061 - 0James de Mayer43Berks
12Joseph Bloomfield100Herts0 - 1Andrew Lillie70½ - ½Chantal Sirusena80Richmond
 Totals3 - 9 8 - 4Totals

Three photographs, all including Essex players, can be viewed at Mark Snowden's website

Essex u150s win, but fail to qualify

John Philpott writes: After narrow defeats in their first two matches, the Essex U150 team's chances of progressing to the National Stages depended upon not just winning the remaining two matches but a favourable combination of results elsewhere. Although a good 10-6 victory away to Middlesex had been achieved in January, Sussex's win against Surrey that same afternoon meant that even if Kent could be defeated in the final fixture, Middlesex would have to win away to Sussex to keep qualification hopes alive.

The suspension of the Central Line coupled with roadworks in the area meant that there were several missing players on both sides when play got underway after an agreed ten minute delay at the new venue of Scout HQ in South Woodford. A full complement was eventually reached, with the latest to arrive being the Hawrami brothers who only had 5 minutes to spare before the 1 hour default deadline, and who both did well to draw as Black given this time handicap.

There were an unusually large number of draws - ten - for a match in this Division. Of the six decisive games, Essex struck first when BCF auditor Geoff Steele misplaced several of his pieces on the queenside in a sharp Sicilian defence and succumbed to David Smith's kingside attack. Kent then took the lead by winning boards 15 and 16 despite big grading disadvantages on those boards. Essex levelled through Tom Allen, in a game with a very nice finish, and went ahead for the second time when Gerald Bayliss ruthlessly exposed the flaws in his opponent's premature attack. The balance of play in the remaining games favoured Essex, and when Ian Woodward salvaged a difficult position it became clear that the home team would ultimately take the match. In the end the margin was only two points, with Roger Sharman being the final winner at the expense of the Kent captain, and boards 1, 4 and 6 all being drawn after protracted struggles.

There was to be no happy ending as Sussex scored a rather predictable 11-5 win against Middlesex to secure the Championship which had been Essex's for the last three years, and the tie-break rules mean that the second qualifying place goes to Surrey. A case of so near and yet so far, as the outcome of the competition could have been very different with ½ point more against Surrey or 1 point more against Sussex. However, there is always next season, and whoever becomes the permanent replacement for Ian MacLachlan as captain will have a good basic squad which if appropriately strengthened by some more of the County's promising juniors is capable of challenging for the highest honours at this level.

Allen,T - Jones,M [D02]
Essex v Kent U150, 08.02.2003

1.d4 d5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Bf4 e6 4.Nbd2 b6 5.e3 Bd6 6.Ne5 Bb7 7.Bb5+ c6 8.Bd3 a5 9.Qe2 Qe7 10.0-0 h6 11.Rfe1 Rg8 12.Bg3 c5 13.Bb5+ Kf8 14.c4 Bxe5 15.Bxe5 Nfd7 16.Bc7 Na6 17.Bxa6 Bxa6 18.Qf3! Rc8 19.Qg3 Ke8 20.cxd5 Nf6 21.d6 Qd7 22.Bxb6 cxd4 23.Bxd4 Kf8 24.Rac1 Ne8 25.Rxc8 Bxc8 26.Rc1 f6 27.Nc4 e5 28.Nb6 Qe6 29.Bc5 Bd7 30.Nxd7+ Qxd7 31.Qg6 Rh8 32.Ba3 h5 33.Rc8 Rh6 34.Rxe8+ Qxe8 35.d7+ 1-0

3b3k/4n3/8/8/7B/8/8/5KR1 1NBk4/p2p4/8/3K4/8/8/8/8
White to play and win. Another position in which White succeeds in netting the full point in spite of a small material advantage and the absence of pawns. Last week's solution (J. Gunst, 1922): 1 Bb7!! Kc7 2 Ba6 Kxb8 3 Kd6 Ka8 4 Kc7 d5 5 Bb7 mate, a mirror image of the previous week's study. Note that 1 Ba6? fails to 1...Kc7 2 Kc5 d6+ 3 Kd5 Kxb8 and White has no way of losing a move. 4 Kxd6 Ka8 draws

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