The English Primary Schools' Chess Association's annual Schools' Championships are reaching their conclusion, with two semifinals involving some 98 teams taking place recently at Pontins, Prestatyn and Pontins, Camber Sands. Six schools from Essex supplied 10 teams to the Camber Sands event, five participating in the under-9s and 5 in the under-11s. The top two teams at each age group from each venue are to play in the finals in Birmingham this coming weekend.

At under-11 level, the Chingford primary school qualified for the first time and found points hard to come by. Whenever a set of individuals moves up a level, the first attempt is definitely a learning experience for all concerned and, provided that the players are not demoralised by not scoring many points, then the experience will be most valuable to them. Danbury Park were also a low-scoring team, but the difference between the success of the two sides was undoubtedly the board 1. Jonathan Deeth is one of the strongest players in the County at this age group, and his unbeaten 5/6, including a win over an England player, was a very impressive performance.

Three schools whose teams appeared to be fairly well matched were Temple Sutton (Southend), Thorpe Hall (Walthamstow) and St. Teresa's (Colchester). After the first day, Temple Sutton were on 9½, Thorpe Hall on 9 and St. Teresa's on 8½. In the fourth round, the first two of these sides played one another and Temple Sutton won 3 - 2, although Lawrence Trent was delighted with his top board win over Graham Walker. For the last two rounds, both of these teams were disappointing, gleaning a total of only 6½ points from the second day to finish on 16 and 15½ points respectively. St. Teresa's, on the other hand, played very solidly throughout the tournament and in the final round were obliged to play Colet Court (London) who are coached by our own Gary Kenworthy and were leading the tournament. St. Teresa's played splendidly, scoring 2½ on the top 3 boards, including Katie Bates' fine win against England player Adam Swersky. Katie finished the tournament on 4½/6, a very impressive tally indeed. St. Teresa's finished in fourth place on 18½, behind Colet Court and Danes Hill (Surrey) who qualified for the finals, and Wellesley Park (Somerset) who didn't.

In the under-9 section, another five Essex schools participated, but in this Danbury Park were replaced by Home Farm (Colchester). Again, both Chingford and Home Farm were low scorers, finishing on 6½ and 10½ points respectively. St. Teresa's managed 14½ points to leave them just below half way, but Thorpe Hall and Temple Sutton were undoubtedly the strongest, having each won their respective zone during the qualifying events in January.

Thorpe Hall began with a drawn match but then followed it up with a 5 - 0 win. Temple Sutton won their first two matches 5 - 0 and then played Aldro (Surrey). Temple Sutton should have lost this heavily, but for reasons best known to themselves, the Aldro players agreed four draws in positions in which they had extra pawns. Perhaps they were simply terrified of the two 5 - 0 scores! Temple Sutton succeeded in limiting the damage to a 3 - 2 loss, which meant that they were leading the tournament by half-a-point at the end of the first day.

In round 4, Thorpe Hall won 3 - 2 against Aldro, which took them to 14 points, but Temple Sutton completely demolished Wellesley Park to take a 5 - 0 win at a stage in the competition when the teams were supposed to be evenly matched. This opened a significant gap as Temple Sutton were now on 17 points and Thorpe Hall were in second place on 14. These two teams now met, and the best game of the tournament took place on board 1 where Stewart Trent met Heather Walker. Stewart took the initiative when his Sicilian Defence won white's bishop on c4. However, Heather returned the complement with a pawn push, neither side noticing that white should have been mated on capturing the piece. This left a double rook and pawns ending in which Stewart had the extra pawn, but his play seemed to lack direction and he allowed Heather's rooks to take control. Eventually, she invaded with her king as well and crushed the life out of Stewart's position, finishing with a very neat zugzwang to promote her pawn. Once again Temple Sutton had won 5 - 0, and this victory had enabled them to win the tournament with a round to spare. Their final round win over Sheen Mount (Surrey) was notable in that most of the Temple Sutton players appeared to be trying to lose, but still managed to win 4 - 1. The most outrageous piece of good fortune again occurred on board 1, where Heather had blundered her queen in the opening, but kept on nagging at White's king until he finally slipped up and allowed Heather's rooks to deliver a fatal check on the f-file. It is not common for white to be mated on f5!

This left Temple Sutton with a final total of 26 / 30, with Aldro second on 19½ and with Thorpe Hall back in the pack on 16. Temple Sutton and Aldro will meet Cockington(Torquay) and Northstead House (London) in the finals this weekend.