Numerous Essex teams travelled to different parts of the country to play in semi-finals of national competitions but for the most part were unsuccessful in their attempts to progress further. The first team met Lancashire in the Leicestershire village of Syston where a close match appeared to be on the cards. Essex marginally outgraded their opponents, but grades count for little at this stage of a competition: in any case, as any chess player from a northern county will tell you, a northerner's grade is worth more than a southerner's - indeed, it would appear from numerous results over the years that this statement may be true.
Lancashire were indeed bristling with talented players, the highest-graded of whom played on board 3. Jeff Horner, a master from Bolton School and a former student of Poulton-le-Fylde College, was continually neglected by England selectors in the 1970s when his grade was over 230 and only a handful of players nationally reached that level. Jeff beat Richard Webb. On the next board, Nick Ivell lost to David Sands in Essex's only top-half win. Nick was an outstanding young player who never quite fulfilled his potential. He used to play on top board for his club when only 8 or 9 years old and it was remarkable that such a small child could play chess like that - his feet still didn't touch the floor while he was sitting in a chair. He went on to win the British under 16 title in 1977, but he was rather overshadowed by a somewhat younger Lancastrian prodigy by the name of Nigel Short with whom he used to share transport to important events in the South.
Gary Kenworthy put in a rare appeareance for Essex but was unable to secure the point, and Jon Manley came unstuck against the former London under 21 Champion Howard Hughes. Howard is probably undergraded at 184 and has certainly been over 200 in years gone by but until recently business interests have curtailed his chess activity. A graduate in pharmacy from Liverpool University, Howard now has more time to concentrate on his chess, having dispensed with some of his business. Indeed, this season he has been appearing for NW Eagles in the 4NCL and has played a key part in their promotion from division 3 with his personal contribution of 6½ / 9.
Li Wu secured a fine win against Mike Conroy, but George Ellison, formerly a British Champion at table tennis, a lecturer at Poulton-le-Fylde College and currently British Senior Champion, gained revenge for the defeat inflicted on him in Scarborough in 1999 when Ivor Smith won the British Senior title. Ezra Lutton won for Essex but it is Lancashire who move forward to the Final. Their opponents will be Kent, who scraped past Greater Manchester in the other northwest-southeast encounter. The match was tied at 8 - 8 but Kent won on a tie-break.
The following day, in the under 175 Championship, Essex met Warwickshire at the Bedford Modern School. Once again, Essex outgraded their opponents marginally on almost every board, but, once again, that counted for little. The match remained tight until the end and, with Essex standing 8 - 7 ahead, but with a poorer board count, Julian Winkworth decided that his best bet lay in trying to invoke the 2-minute rule. This is the rule that states that, in a rapidplay finish where one side has less than 2 minutes left for the remaining moves, that player is entitled to offer a draw and, if his opponent declines, claim a draw. The justification for this has to be that either (a) the player with more time cannot win by normal means (by which the rule means "without the help of the clock") or (b) that he has been making no effort to win. The position, in which Julian had R & h-pawn v R & f- & g-pawns, is one in which there would be no major surprise if the player with the extra pawn might win. Therefore it must be concluded that the only reasonable claim in this case would be on the basis of the opponent's play leading up to the claim.
There are two aspects to this rule. Firstly, in a tournament where an arbiter is present, the appeal goes straight to the arbiter, whose normal response is that he would like to see more moves being played. Where no arbiter is present, the fact that the claim is made immediately brings proceedings to a halt and no further moves are played. The position is sent to the tournament controller for a decision.
It must be borne in mind that the tournament controller, or indeed the arbiter, may not be a strong player and the decision made will not necessarily be based upon an assessment whether one side or another has a win with best play, although that may come into it. The decision should be based upon an assessment of whether the player was attempting to make progress (win the game by normal means) or was just attempting to make the claimant run out of time. Geurt Gijssen, who writes "An Arbiter's Notebook" at Chesscafe, advises "Do not ask any advice about the position on the board and do not analyse the position yourself. I repeat what I have said many times before: the position is not essential, but the way the players are playing the game is. Is the non-claimant making efforts to win the game by normal means?" It is therefore essential to provide evidence of the claim but here is a problem: many players stop writing the moves when they have less than 5 minutes' thinking time remaining, but if a claim is made under the two-minute rule such evidence is essential. The moral might be that the Team Captain of the player who is liable to make such a claim (and this, of course, could be either player!) should ensure that the moves are recorded so that evidence can be presented with the claim, but the Laws of Chess do not make it entirely plain whether third parties are allowed to assist. The wording of Appendix D, which applies in situations where no arbiter is present, implies that it is the player's responsibility to provide the evidence of the claim: "In (b) the player must write down the final position and submit an up-to-date scoresheet, which must be completed before play has ceased. The opponent shall verify both the scoresheet and the final position."
John Philpott, who captains the under 175 team, gives the following account: "Over the last 20 moves he [the Warwickshire player] had gone round in circles with his king and rook without making any apparent progress towards queening a pawn." John continued: "A complete game score has been reconstructed and submitted to ... a senior BCF arbiter for decision." John's choice of words implies that the scoresheet was not already up-to-date at the time the claim was made and if that was the case then it seems clear that Appendix D to the FIDE Laws was not complied with and the Essex claim should fail. However, supposing the scoresheet had been completed by a third party before the claim was made? What then?
Lam,P - Fegan,C [B07]
Warwickshire v Essex U175, 15.06.2003
1.e4 d6 2.Nc3 Nf6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 0-0 6.Nf3 c5 7.h3 Nc6 8.Bg5 Rb8 9.Qd2 b5 10.Nd1 b4 11.Bh6 a5 12.Bxg7 Kxg7 13.Ne3 h5 14.0-0-0 a4 15.g4 b3 16.cxb3 Nb4 17.Kb1 Nxa2 18.Kxa2 Be6 19.Nc4 Rb4 20.e5 axb3+ 21.Kb1 Ne4 22.Qe2 Bxc4 23.dxc4 Qa8 24.Nd2 Nc3+ 0-1
Moore,J - Fletcher,M [C18]
Warwickshire v Essex U175, 15.06.2003
1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e5 c5 5.a3 Bxc3+ 6.bxc3 Qc7 7.Nf3 Nc6 8.a4 f6 9.exf6 Nxf6 10.Bd3 0-0 11.0-0 e5 12.dxe5 Nxe5 13.Nxe5 Qxe5 14.Re1 Qc7 15.Be2 Bd7 16.Bf3 Bc6 17.Be3 b6 18.a5 Rae8 19.axb6 axb6 20.h3 Ne4 21.Bxe4 Rxe4 22.Qd3 Qe7 23.Reb1 Qf6 24.Rxb6 c4 25.Qd2 Re6 26.Raa6 Kh8 27.Qd4 Qg6 28.Qg4 Qxg4 29.hxg4 Rc8 30.Bd4 Kg8 31.Ra7 Rg6 32.f3 h6 33.Kf2 Kh7 34.Re7 Re8 35.Rxg7+ Rxg7 36.Bxg7 Ba4 37.Bxh6 Bxc2 38.Be3 Bd3 39.Rb7+ Kg8 40.Bd4 Ra8 41.g3 Ra2+ 42.Ke3 Ra1 43.g5 Ra6 44.Rd7 1-0
Walker,R - Ramage,C [C40]
Warwickshire v Essex U175, 15.06.2003
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 f5 3.d3 Nc6 4.Be2 Nf6 5.Nbd2 Be7 6.0-0 d6 7.c3 0-0 8.Qc2 f4 9.d4 Qe8 10.Rd1 Qg6 11.dxe5 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 dxe5 13.Bf3 Ng4 14.Bxg4 Bxg4 15.f3 Be6 16.b3 Rad8 17.Bb2 Qh5 18.Nf1 Rd6 19.Rxd6 Bxd6 20.Rd1 Rf6 21.c4 b6 22.a3 Rg6 23.Kh1 Bh3 24.Rd2 Bc5 25.Qd1 Qg5 26.g4 fxg3 27.Nxg3 h5 28.Rd8+ Kh7 29.Bc1 Qf6 30.f4 Qh4 31.Qd5 Be6 32.Qa8 Rxg3 33.Rh8+ Kg6 34.f5+ Kf6 35.Rf8+ Bf7 36.Qd8+ Be7 37.Rxf7+ Kxf7 38.Qd5+ Kf8 39.f6 Bxf6 40.Bd2 Rxb3 0-1
Twitchell,N - Price,A [B10]
Warwickshire v Essex U175, 15.06.2003
1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Nf3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Bc4 Nd7 8.d3 e6 9.Qe2 Qc7 10.Bd2 0-0-0 11.0-0-0 Ngf6 12.h5 Bh7 13.Kb1 Bd6 14.Ne4 Nxe4 15.dxe4 Ne5 16.Bb3 Nxf3 17.Qxf3 Rhe8 18.Bc3 f6 19.Qg4 Bg8 20.Rhf1 Kb8 21.g3 Re7 22.f4 Rde8 23.e5 fxe5 24.Rxd6 1-0
While all this arcane shenanigans was going on, other Essex players were involved in the cut-throat business of trying to make it to a National Final. The English Primary Schools' Chess Assocation was holding its second semifinal of the Schools' Championships at the Pontins Holiday Camp in Hemsby, Norfolk. There were two Championship sections, for under 9s and under 11s, and Essex schools Temple Sutton (Southend), Chingford C of E Primary, Thorpe Hall (Walthamstow), St. Teresa's (Colchester), Leigh North Street and Newbury Park were in action in one or other, and in some cases both, competitions, while R. A. Butler School (Saffron Walden) participated in a Plate competition. A total of 48 teams of 6 players, 28 in the under 11s and 20 in the under 9s, participated in the Championship, all seeking a place in the top 3 which would entitle them to a place in the Final to be held at Oakham School on 30th June and 1st July. Temple Sutton and Chingford were undoubtedly the top Essex representatives, each of them having performed outstandingly well at their respective qualifying events.
The event was a 6-round Team Swiss in which the top 5 boards for each team counted towards the total. Twenty points could be regarded as a suitable target, although in years gone by strong teams have looked to notch up 25 or more: Temple Sutton did this in the 1996 under 9 competition in which they swept all comers aside, but the standard is probably higher across the board these days. Temple Sutton's 1996 team was exceptional indeed, but it is arguable that the opposition was not quite so strong. It was the driving force behind a remakable County triple the like of which we may not see again as Essex won both under 11 and under 9 inter-county competitions as well as Temple Sutton romping away with the Schools' event.
However, I digress. This year's competition was full of disappointment for the Essex teams. It is true that Temple Sutton's under 11 side qualified for their Final, but with the exception of the excellent George O'Toole, who scored 6 / 6 on board 1, they were none too impressive, losing their second and sixth rounds to Brooklands (Barnet) and Magdalen College School (Oxford), teams who have never caused difficulty in previous years and who, by all accounts, required some assistance from Temple Sutton players on this occasion. Chingford A needed only two points from their last round but lost 4 - 1 to UCS London, whom they beat comfortably enough in the qualifier.
In the under 9, it was Temple Sutton's turn to miss out. Their weekend had been seriously marred by a footballing accident involving two of their top players: the penalty kick from the board 1 broke two of the fingers of the board 2. Jack Sirkett, the victim of this accident and who normally plays with great gusto and verve, was a shadow of his normal self and scored only 1½ points, handling the pieces and clock in a most gingerly fashion. Even so, a greatly spirited performance in the last round almost saw them home, winning 4 - 1 against Brooklands and missing out, as last year, by only half a point. Brooklands qualified on 18½ points whereas Temple Sutton, on 18, didn't. Again, Chingford were also a little unfortunate, winning their final round 5 - 0 but finishing half a point behind Temple Sutton.
R. A. Butler School had been similarly unfortunate in the qualifying event in Colchester in January, failing to qualify for the Finals, but taking the decision to play in the Plate competition. Eleven teams participated in this event, and R. A. Butler took second place with a very impressive 21/30, The Hall School (Wimbledon) scoring 22. Roly Fischer-Vousden was outstanding here, scoring 5 / 6. Roly also excelled during the Simultaneous Display, taking half a point from IM Colin Crouch, thereby becoming the only player to avoid defeat.
This coming weekend sees yet more chess activity involving Essex Juniors. The County plays host to the BCF Under 18 Inter-County Championships, to be held at Saffron Walden CHS. However, some of our key players will be absent as they are on duty at the Finals of the BCF Schools' Championships (my suggestion to hold the County event the same weekend, I'm afraid, accepted by Peter Turner, BCF Director fo Junior Chess as "The best offer I've had."). Southend High School for Boys have reached the Finals for the first time in their history, belatedly reaping the benefit of having Temple Sutton as a feeder school. Nicholas & Matthew Jellett and Daniel Hedges were in the Great Team of 96, whereas Antony and Alex O'Toole and Daniel Hedges were in the Temple Sutton team which won the under 11 Championships in 1999, a stunning performance in which as underdogs they stole the Championships from hot favourites Garden Suburb school by a mere half-point. Only Michael Bridger, the board 1 for SHSB, did not benefit directly from a Temple Sutton background, although he learned his chess there at the Southend Junior Club. Southend's opponents will be Oakham School, RGS Guldford and Bluecoats (Oldham).
Immediately after the BCF Schools' Final comes the EPSCA Final at Oakham. Given that the Temple Sutton team is taking part at the EPSCA final the following day, of the 12 players representing their Schools exactly 50% will be named either Jellett or O'Toole.
White to play and mate in 2.
The above is the Starter Problem for this year's British Solving Championships, sponsored by Winton Capital Management. White, playing up the board, is to play and force mate in two moves against any black defence. The entry fee is £3.00 and the competition is open to British residents only. Competitors need only send White's first move, known as the key-move. Entries (by post only please) should be sent to:-
14 Newton Park Drive
Entries should be accompanied by a cheque or postal order for £3.00 made payable to British Chess Problem Society. SAEs are no longer required. All entries should be postmarked no later than 31st July 2003. Please mention in you entry that they saw the starter problem at www.chesscolumn.co.uk. After the closing date all competitors will receive the answer to the starter problem and those who get it right will also receive the postal round, which will contain 8 more difficult and varied problems. (In addition to this, all competitors, whether successful or not, who are not members of the BCPS will each receive a recent copy of The Problemist, the magazine of the British Chess Problem Society.) In due course, the best competitors from the postal round will be invited to the final early next year at which the prize fund will be £1,175.