With only twenty-one entrants, the Essex Junior Championships, held recently in Southend, were contested by fewer players than normal.The pre-tournament favourite was Liam Hylands, who was closely followed by his St. Benedict's School team-mate Neil Hopgood. However, Neil's chances were delivered a severe blow when he was beaten in Round 1 by Josiah Lutton, an 8-year-old (!) from Basildon. Other games in the first round went with form, and in round 2 it looked as though Matthew Jellett should beat Ezra Lutton but, despite winning three pieces for a rook, Matthew left his king undefended and allowed Ezra to mate him. Liam Hylands drew with Iain Gunn and another member of the stronger group, Robert Giddens, was held to a draw by Neil Hopgood. Ony three players won their first two rounds: Steven Pretty and Peter Titmas, both from Kent, and Ellen Walker (Southend).

In the third round Ellen Walker conducted a fine attack to beat Steven Pretty's Caro-Kann defence, and Peter Titmas joined her on three points after a long endgame against Liam Hylands. Peter won a pawn to reach a rook and pawn ending, and then Liam lost another as his pawns were too awkwardly placed for his rook to defend them all. Peter returned a pawn in order to exchange the rooks but then found himself with a position in which he had the extra pawn, but with all of them on the same side of the board and Liam's king now well placed. The Kent youngster showed a superior understanding of the Rule of the Opposition as he again sacrificed a pawn but now his king could invade and win both of white's remaining pawns.

Peter Titmas became the sole leader when he beat Ellen in round 4, but Iain Gunn had kept in touch with wins against Graham Walker and Robert Giddens. Iain and Peter played in round five and fortunes fluctuated, but Iain conducted an energetic rearguard action and eventually earned a draw. Robert Giddens beat Ellen Walker to reach 3½ and Steven Pretty beat Bobby Payne to reach 4. This ensured that the Kent pair played one another on board 1 in the final round. Josiah Lutton had won his fourth and fifth rounds to reach three ponts, and it was necessary for him to float up to play Iain Gunn while Ellen Walker played Liam Hylands and Neil Hopgood bet Bobby Payne.

Josiah thought that he saw a chance to win a pawn, but overlooked that th combination lost a piece. He played on for a long time, but was never likely to recover. Robert Giddens and Graham Walker, who started the final round on 3½, agreed a draw which ensured that they shared the under-14 title with any other players who finished on 4. Ellen Walker took the under-16 when sh beat Liam Hylands. Liam decided that it was time to invade with his king but merely walked into a series of knight checks which cost him a rook. Neil Hopgood finally ground out a win against Bobby Payne to reach four points.

During the second day of the two-day Championships, a rapidplay tournament was held for under-9s and under-11s, attracting a total of 92 competitors. The under-11 was won by James Berlin (Ilford) with 5½/6 whilst Kate Bates (Colchester), Jonathan Deeth (Danbury), Matthew Miller (Colchester) and David Ho all scored 5 points. In the under-9, twins Nicholas and Matthew Jellett (Southend) transferred from the under-18 to share first place with 5½/6 ahead of Stewart Trent (Ilford), Tye Byram (Southend) and Maximilian John (Barking) all on 5.

Essex Junior Championships

Under-18 Champion Iain Gunn 5/6

Under-16 Champion & Girls' Champion Ellen Walker 4/6

Under-14 Champions Graham Walker, Robert Giddens, Neil Hopgood 4/6

Under-9 Shield Josiah Lutton, Bobby Payne 3/6

Southend Rapidplay

Under-11 James Berlin 5½

Under-9 Nicholas Jellett, Matthew Jellett 5½

Walker, Ellen - Pretty, Steven

Essex Junior Championships, 1996

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Nd7 5.c4 Ngf6 6.Nc3 Nb6 7.Nf3 Bg4 8.Be3 e6 9.h3 Bh5 10.Bd3 Qc7 11.0-0 0-0-0 12.a3 h6 13.b4 g5 14.c5 Nbd5 15.Nxd5 Nxd5 16.b5 cxb5 17.Bxb5 Nc3 18.Qd3 Nxb5 19.Qxb5 Bxf3 20.gxf3 h5 21.Rfc1 g4 22.Bg5 Rd7 23.c6 Qb6 24.cxd7+ Kb8 25.Rc8# 1-0