The Essex First team suffered a disappointing loss of form for their semi-final match against Warwickshire in which they were beaten by a score of 9½ - 6½. The team was also sadly depleted: one player was on coaching duty at the National Schools' event in Sussex; another (the scheduled board 5) cried off at 9.00 on the Saturday evening, ensuring that reserve number one, Ivor Smith, was called in to play; and the final straw was when another scheduled team member simply failed to arrive at the agreed rendez-vous, and Richard Manning himself was obliged to play an opponent of much higher grade. When the organisation goes awry, through no fault of an extremely hard-working Captain, it tends to affect the morale of the team, and this was no doubt a contributory factor.
Michael Roberts held the draw with the King's Indian and Jon Manley's Closed Sicilian recorded the same result. Stephen Deeth, who had travelled all the way from the South Coast where his son Jonathan was excelling in the Schools' Championship, was on the receiving end of a Benko Gambit. Graham Moore levelled the scores with a fine attack from the King's Indian.
Keith Escott, formerly of the Romford Club, is still a devotee of the King's Gambit. He achieved a strong attack but David Millward countered well on the queen-side. The drawback was that this allowed white to gain a passed pawn and once this reached the seventh rank, black resigned. Jeff Goldberg had an off day against the King's Indian but Ivor Smith clawed a point back from the Colle.
Jonathan Rogers played another of his exciting unbalanced games, and "won" his opponent's queen for rook, bishop and two pawns. However, Andrew Webster is a strong IM and Jonathan could make no further progress. David Sands equalised from the Queen's Gambit Accepted but Brian Kemish was unable to make any inroads against the French.
Michael Twyble won the exchange from the Bishop's Opening and ground out the win. Neil Carr's Pirc Defence was found wanting. Richard Manning held his opponent up beyond move 40, but unfortunately blundered shortly after turning the clocks back. John Hodgson extricated himself from a difficult position and Andrew Lewis played a splendid Sicilian Defence, agreeing a draw after the match was decided. John Moore's defeat merely extended the margin of victory.
This was a fine result for Warwickshire, who now go on to play Kent in the Finals.
Bautista, Marc (Essex) - Barnes, Keith (Middlesex)
Counties' Quarter-final, 1996
1.e4 d6 2.Nc3 g6 3.g3 Bg7 4.Bg2 c5 5.f4 Nc6 6.Nf3 Bg4 7.h3 Bxf3 8.Bxf3 Nd4 9.Bg2 e6 10.Ne2 Ne7 11.c3 Nxe2 12.Qxe2 0-0 13.d3 Rb8 14.h4 Qa5 15.Bd2 b5 16.0-0 b4 17.Rfc1 bxc3 18.Bxc3 Bxc3 19.bxc3 Qa3 20.Rc2 Rb6 21.h5 Rfb8 22.h6 Kf8 23.Qd2 Rb1+ 24.Rxb1 Rxb1+ 25.Kh2 Ng8 26.f5 Nf6 27.Qg5 Ne8 28.fxg6 f6 29.Rf2 Ke7 30.Rxf6 Nxf6 31.gxh7 Qc1 32.Qg7+ Kd8 1-0
1996 will be remembered as an annus mirabilis in Essex Junior Chess circles. The County's teams at under-9 and under-11 level won their respective championships in events in Torquay and Letchworth. Now this catalogue of achievement has been extended by one of the County's schools winning another National Title, the English Primary Schools' Chess Association under-9 Schools' Championship.
Four teams participated in the Finals in Birmingham. Temple Sutton (Southend) and Aldro (Guildford) had qualified from the Rye Semifinals; and Cockington (Torquay) and Northbridge House (London) had qualified from a similar event held in Prestatyn. Firstly, Temple Sutton played Cockington, whom they beat 4½ - ½. Their opponents in the next match were Aldro. Aldro were runners-up to Temple Sutton in the Southern zonal, although the Surrey side had won the individual encounter between the two schools. This time Temple Sutton gained some sweet revenge, winning by a 4 - 1 margin.
It is a quite remarkable achievement to defeat the best schools in the country by such wide margins. This event began with regional zones in January, involving some 220 schools. 100 of these qualified for the Semifinals and from the Semifinals there were four finalists. In all of these events Temple Sutton have played twelve 5-board matches. Seven of these matches have been won 5 - 0, and the team's tally from the 60 games played is an incredible 53 points. Four of the seven points dropped were against Aldro, who were the second strongest team. Such a level of consistency amongst young children is rare indeed.
White to play and win.
Forsyth check: 2k5/ppp2p1p/16/2Nb4/6qP/PP6/3RR2K.
Last week's solution: 1 Rd8+ Kxd8 2 Qb8+ Kd7 3 Qxb7+ Kd8 4 Qb8+ Kd7 5 c6 mate.