The last time that Essex Senior Schools participated in a County Championships was 1992, when the event was regionalised and played as a series of leagues followed by a knock-out stage. An attempt was made to resurrect this format for the current season, but insufficient entries made this impossible: one can hardly blame teachers for not wishing to travel the length and breadth of the County after school finishes to play a chess match which, in some cases, would not last much more than a few minutes.
It was subsequently decided to hold the Championships as a Team Swiss, and this involved a total of 12 teams for whom three trophies were available: an under-18, an under-15 and an under-12. The event was held in Southend at Tempe Sutton Primary School, who also supplied two of the teams.
The last team to arrive was from Abbs Cross School, Hornchurch, and they sat down, fresh from the traffic jams and one-way system, opposite the Temple Sutton under-9s. It came as a severe shock to the Senior School to find themselves on the wrong end of a 4 - 0 thrashing. The only other 4 - 0 in the first round was by St. Benedict's (Colchester), who played the under-18 B team from Davenant Foundation School, Chigwell. Southend High, who were pre-tournament favourites, unexpectedly dropped a point as a result of their board 3 failing to arrive in time for round 1.
St. Benedict's played Temple Sutton under-9s in round 2, and the 3 - 1 margin of victory was noteable as Nicholas Jellett defeated Peter Kemp. Peter was the County's top board when he was Nicholas' age, but the past 4 years have not seen the improvement which had been hoped for. Southend High u-18 completed a 4 - 0 thrashing of St. Benedict's B, and Temple Sutton u-11 occupied 3rd place on 6½. The under-11s were not having it all their own way as Graham Walker had made a hash of his opening, losing a rook on a8. He trapped the knight there and thereafter played very carefully, and although the exchange down for a long period, it was not until late into the ending that Chris Jarmain blundered a rook and Graham forced the win.
The Temple Sutton u-11 team was not at full strength as Luke Tomkinson was absent, but his place was taken by 8-year-old Tom Swift, who displayed a marvellous temperament for one representing his school for the first time. Tom won his first two games in great style.
In round 3, the deciding pairing took place as Southend High u-18 beat St. Benedict's A 3 - 1. Simon Armour admitted after the game that Liam Hylands was probably winning their board 1 encounter from the opening, but there are probably only two other under-18 players in Essex with the combination of skill, temperament and experience that Simon has to offer and they are Karl Mah and Eddie Dearing. Liam's first error cost him his advantage; his second cost him the game. St. Benedict's point came from Peter Kemp's win over John Lacey.
Meanwhile, Temple Sutton under-9 were enjoying another 4 - 0 win, this time over Davenant under-15 A. The under-11s played William de Ferrers, and the Gunn brothers were beaten comprehensively by Graham Walker and Daniel Wornham.
The final round paired Southend High against Temple Sutton u-11, and this time the High School gained their revenge for their defeat last term in the Times Championships. St. Benedict's had an easier pairing against Abbs Cross to finish in second place and taking the under-15 title, whereas Temple Sutton under-9 drew 2 - 2 with William de Ferrers to finish third on 11. This under-9 side must surely have a great chance of lifting the National Schools' under-9 Championship later in the year.
1 Southend High u-18 14/16 Under-18 Champions
2 St. Benedict's u-15 A 12 Under-15 Champions
3 Temple Sutton u-9 11 Under-12 Champions
4 Temple Sutton u-11 10
Davenant u-18 A
6 William de Ferrers 8½
7 Abbs Cross 7
8 Davenant u-15 A 6½
9 Southend High u-13 5
10 Davenant u-15 B 4
Davenant u-18 B
St. Benedict's B
Edge, F. - Rogers, J.
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