Wanstead & Woodford I and Eastbrook I took a step towards the Essex League Championship last week without actually moving any pieces. The situation is that Wanstead are top on 18 points, but have completed their fixtures. Eastbrook have 16 points but must beat Upminster tonight in order to draw level with Wanstead. Ilford had two matches remaining and, provided they won them both, a possible total of 19 points.

Ilford, who played Powdermill two weeks ago, have yet to complete all the games in that match. However, I have it on the authority of Gary Kenworthy, one of the leading Powdermill players, that Ilford will win that match by a score of 6 - 4 or 5½ - 4½. Ilford's task was therefore to pull off an away win at Writtle, after which the League Title would be theirs.

The away match at Writtle was always going to be a daunting task for Ilford. Writtle have the ability to field a team containing 6 players with grades in excess of 180, and with Karl Bowden and Eddie Dearing both currently well over 200. At the end of the first session Writtle lead

5 - 3 with two games incomplete. In one of these both players opted for adjudication, but apparently all the winning chances are with the Ilford player. In the other, Jeff Goldberg (Ilford) has adjourned with a slight material deficit against Steven Deeth. Steven has won a rook for a knight and a pawn. As such, Jeff would be very unlikely to achieve anything better than a draw in an adjudication, and Steven believes he has winning chances. Clearly, the very best Ilford can hope for from the match is a draw, which would leave them level on points with Wanstead. The match played between the leading teams would then be used as a tie break, and this was won by Wanstead.

But what of Eastbrook? On current form they must be expected to beat Upminster, and that would allow them to draw level with Wanstead. The match between Eastbrook and Wanstead was drawn, so provided Ilford lose their match to Writtle, Eastbrook would play off against Wanstead for the title. However, if Ilford can pull off a marvellous Houdini trick against Writtle, then the three teams Ilford, Wanstead and Eastbrook will be level on 18 points. An analysis of the matches involving these three sides reveals that Wanstead beat Ilford and drew with Eastbrook; but Eastbrook drew with Ilford. It therefore follows that, if Ilford draw with Writtle, Eastbrook will be eliminated from the play-off because they only drew with Ilford and Wanstead will be declared Champions; but if Writtle beat Ilford, which seems the most likely, the drawn match between Eastbrook and Ilford will no longer be considered and a play-off will be organised between Eastbrook and Wanstead. Simple, isn't it?

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Ezra Lutton (Basildon) and Alexander O'Neill (Ilford) both participated in the recent England under-11 Team Trial in Solhull, each scoring a creditable 3/6. Although this total is unlikely to give either player a place in the team, it will have been valuable experience for both. However, both of them are Year 5, and will therefore have another opportunity next year. The other Essex representative expected to play in Solihull was Graham Walker (Southend). Sadly, Graham was too ill to participate, but on current form would have been expected to score the necessary four points in order to be selected for the team. The England selectors are currently examining Graham's record to see if a place will be available for him this year.

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The Essex "Megafinal" of the schools' tournament, formerly sponsored by Intel, took place in Basildon at the weekend. Lawrence and Stewart Trent, of Thorpe Hall School, Walthamstow, and the Ilford Chess Club, each scored 100% in their respective sections (under-10 and under-8), thereby qualifying for the national finals in July. Two other players scored 6/6: Jonathan Deeth (Danbury Park) won the under-11 ahead of Graham Walker (Temple Sutton, 5/6)) and Heather Walker (Temple Sutton) scored 6/6 ahead of Tye Byram (Temple Sutton, 5). In the under-14s, Rebecca Savin (Basildon) scored 5/6. All of the above qualified for their respective final, to be held in Nottingham in July.

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The Essex Chess Association Congress is due to take place at the Woodlands School, Basildon, during the weekend of 25th - 27th May. There will be three sections: an Open Championship, an under-150 Major and an under-110 Minor. For further information about the tournaments, please contact John Sargent on 0181 270 9196.

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