There was one particularly noticeable absentee and that was the Tournament Organiser, Bob Jones. Bob had contracted meningitis early in the New Year and, although well on the way to recovery, had suffered a secondary infection which prevented his being released from the West Suffolk Hospital in time for the event. He was champing the bit to get involved, but was allowed out of hospital only for preparatory clerical tasks, having to return for more medication. I would imagine that he does not make the ideal patient.
The most prestigious section of the whole tournament was the Open 'A', in which first place was shared between Steve Orton (Norwich) and Karl Bowden (Sudbury). Karl, who also plays chess in Essex as a member of the Writtle and Ilford clubs, took the trophy on a tie break, both players scoring 5/6. William Davies (Bury St. Edmunds) won the Open 'B', for players rated below 1700. Suffolk players also outscored all comers in the under-15 and under-14 events as David Kraushaar and Darren Hudson-Wood took the relevant trophies.
Iain Gunn (Maldon) scored 5/6 to take the under-13 title, and Alastair Atkinson (Ipswich) shared the under-12 with Adam Wieder (London). The under-11 was shared between Graham Walker (Southend) and Adam Eckersley-Waites (Cambs) with 5/6, but Graham was especially fortunate. Bobby Payne (Ilford), still only 9 years old, was held to a draw by Lorin d'Costa (Herts) but was dangerously close to losing on time. The rapidplay rules allow a player to claim a draw when down to his last two minutes if he thinks that his opponent has no winning chances other than running him out of time, but the claim must come before the fall of the flag. Bobby's flag was about to drop when he claimed in a position which had been clearly drawn for some time. Lorin then lost on the black side of a Benko Gambit against Graham which set up the final round in which Graham played Bobby. Adam Eckersley-Waite won quite quickly on board 2 to reach 5 points, so neither Graham nor Bobby could afford to settle for a draw, even though this seemed the most likely result as the ending approached. Graham tried to force the issue, but his pawn sacrifice was unsound and Bobby then played accurately to pick up a second pawn. The queen & pawns ending suited Bobby's style, but Graham succeeded in avoiding the exchange of queens. Even so, white's plan of marching his passed pawn was not hard to find, as his king was completely safe from checks. Again, Bobby failed to claim a draw when his time began to run out, and this time his flag did fall and a relieved Graham shared first place.
The under-10 was also shared, by Nicholas Mulrenan (Saffron Walden) and John Duong (London). Michael Bridger (Southend) was third, suffering the frustration in the final round of having the notorious rook's pawn and wrong coloured bishop, and a whole host of Essex competitors (James Berlin, Lawrence Trent, Ezra Lutton, Jonathan Livesley) shared the remaining prize money. The under-9 was shared by Matthew and Nicholas Jellett (Southend) on 5/6, and another multiple tie for 3rd place a point behind. David Ridout, another excellent product of the Barming Primary School, Maidstone, was the only player all day to score 6/6. Josiah Lutton (Basildon) and Stewart Trent (Ilford) shared 2nd place, 2 points behind.
The manner in which the younger sections were dominated by visitors must cause the Suffolk Association to worry about where their next generation of players is to come from. Some years ago, Suffolk introduced a coaching scheme which produced a significant number of remarkably strong players very quickly and made the County a real force to be reckoned with. However, those youngsters have now grown up: Richard and Nicholas Pert and Edmund Player are now well into their teens. The first two are graded over 200 and Edmund is rapidly approaching that figure, but there seems to be nobody following on. To some extent, a rural and sparsely populated county like Suffolk ought to find it more difficult to develop chess than counties like Essex with large areas of urban sprawl, not to mention the odd London Borough, but the manner in which Outsiders (mostly from Essex) dominated the younger players' events will surely be a worry to the Suffolk organisers.
One interesting oddity about the Championships was that there were three pairs of identical twins playing in various sections, and the computerised pairing system managed to pair them all by round 5: Nicholas & Matthew Jellett played one another in round 4, an unforced pairing as Matthew had a double down-float, and Adam & Tom Eckersley Waite also played unnecessarily early. Jack & Laurie Waller met in round 5 and were not happy, but the computer was unsympathetic.