Team

P

W

D

L

Def

Pts

Wanstead & Woodford I

11 8 2 1 0 18

Eastbrook

10 7 2 1 2 16

Ilford I

9 7 1 1 0 15

Southend

11 5 3 3 4 13

Writtle

10 6 1 3 5 13

Powdermill

9 6 0 3 3 12

Brentwood

11 4 1 5 2 9

Edmonton

10 4 1 5 1 9

Basildon

10 3 1 6 10 5

Upminster

8 2 0 6 4 4

Ilford II

11 1 1 9 3 3

Wanstead & Woodford II

10 0 1 9 5 1

The First Division of the Essex League is poised for one of the most exciting finishes in recent years as three teams vie for first place with only a handful of matches left to be played. Wanstead I, who have completed their fixtures, are currently occupying first place. Eastbrook hoped to draw level with Wanstead last week but lost their match against Writtle by the score of 6 - 4. Eastbrook now must make certain of victory in their match against Upminster in order to equal Wanstead's total.

The past two weeks have been disappointing for both Wanstead and Eastbrook. Firstly, the match between the two, which was 4 - 4 at the end of the first session, finished 5 - 5 as none of the players involved dare risk losing and draws were eventually agreed. The Writtle result came next, and Wanstead's hopes of taking the title were dashed when the Powdermill claim of a win in an outstanding adjudication was upheld, giving Powdermill a win by 5½ - 4½ over Wanstead. Had the draw been given, then Wanstead would already be Champions: their points tally would be beyond all clubs bar Ilford, and in the event of Ilford drawing level, the title would be decided on tie break. This tie-break is the result of the match between the sides, won by Wanstead by the odd point.

As has come to be expected, however, the Ilford Club will have a good deal to say about the destination of the Silver Rook. They have two remaining matches, and what matches they promise to be! I am certain that Powdermill will be doing their utmost to take points off Ilford in tonight's fixture to be played at Barnardo House. There has been little love lost between the two clubs in recent seasons and although Ilford would normally be expected to beat Powdermill in a home encounter, an away win is not out of the question. Of course, even if Ilford do score the points against Powdermill, they have a still more daunting task against Writtle on 1st May. This too is a match which they have to win: 3 points out of the last 4 will not be enough for Ilford as any tie-break will still be in Wanstead's favour.

So the top two must sit it out. It could be that the Season's final match, between Eastbrook and Upminster, will by that time have no relevance. However, I have a suspicion that the Eastbrook Club may have to ensure they win a match which would normally be treated as a social occasion and then come back for a play-off against Wanstead & Woodford I.

Jack Handscomb, the Elder Statesman of the Ilford Chess Club, organises regular chess consultancy sessions in the Redbridge Library on Saturdays. These events, which are free to all, take place on the first floor of the library between 1.30 and 3 p.m. Further details can be obtained from Jack on 0181 554 9548.

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