Essex teams have specialised during the 1995 - 96 season in close finishes in jamboree tournaments. In a match between two teams, it is straightforward: if we lose, our opponents win. In a jamboree, in which all of the competing teams are divided up to play opposition from all of the other teams, life is far more complicated. The team manager's job is therefore a very stressful experience as he attempts to keep track of 20 games involving his own players and at the same time try to second-guess the results of key games between other teams. The closer the finish, the more stressful the experience, and the mere act of answering simple questions like "My opponent has just offered me a draw. Do you want me to accept it?" requires a Doctorate in Statistical Probability.

Earlier in the year, the Essex under-9 team (12 boards) won their National Championship by the margin of one point (sheer luxury!) over the second placed side in a field of 16. A few weeks later, the Essex under-11 side (20 boards) also won their National Championship by a margin of half a point over the team placed second and 1½ points over the team placed third. This was made even more interesting when one considers that the last game to finish, which fluctuated wildly throughout, was between Essex and the third placed side and any one of the top three teams could have won, depending upon the result of that game.

Recently, a team representing the Essex League scrambled their way to first place in the Ralph Barnett Memorial Trophy tournament, an annual event organised in commemoration of the life of Ralph Barnett MBE, a long time committee member of the Middlesex League and the Middlesex County Association. Ralph was also an influential figure in the (now defunct) EMI Chess Club. He was prominent in the world of recorded music and his MBE was awarded for achievements in that field.

This year's tournament began successfully, if unsatisfactorily, for Essex when Chris Hobb's opponent failed to arrive. However, there was a long wait before the next result came in: a win for Mike Cresswell after a dashing attack, closely followed by a draw from David Smith. Soon afterwards, Keith Jones won well to keep his 100% record in this particular event - 7 wins in 7 matches. Russell White and Mark Doxey both added to the Essex score.

Team selection for this event is an important factor. The match is actually played less than a fortnight after the publication of the new grading list, but clearly the teams are selected well in advance and the old grades are used. Since the teams are divided into grading bands, it is important to look for players who have improved during the past season. Mark Doxey must be one of the most improved players in Essex: last season he was graded 117, so he was selected to play in the under-120 band. By the time of the event, his grade was a cool 139, and some of his Southend club colleagues regard that as an underestimate.

Mustafa Rahaman achieved an important draw from the Surrey Captain, but on other boards Surrey were piling on the points. David Millward and Sid Kalinsky were both victims. Middlesex were trailing badly, but the Civil Service League, who are normally the "whipping boys" in this event, were putting up sterner resistance.

Now a series of crucial Essex victories wiped out the Surrey lead. Ivor Smith, Howard Staunton and Roger Medcalf all beat Surrey opponents to level the scores at 9 each for Essex and Surrey. Surrey had four games in progress, two of which they won, but critically lost two against the Civil Service. Both victors in these encounters (Gary Kenworthy and Carlos Calvino Eiroa) were eligible to play for the Essex League team.

Essex players Nick Gough and Steve Piper both converted advantageous positions into full points, and it was left to the Essex top board, Michael Twyble, to force a draw against the Middlesex board 1 to ensure that Essex overhauled the Surrey total by half a point.

This was the 9th time that the Essex League had entered the Ralph Barnett tournament and the sixth occasion that they have won outright. On another occasion they won jointly.

Essex

The Rest

1

Michael Twyble (Southend)

½ - ½

P.J. Sowray (M)

2

David Millward (Writtle)

0 - 1

P.D. Kemp (S)

3

Russell White (Writtle)

1 - 0

O.S. Phillips (C)

4

Laurie Marden (Wanstead)

0 - 1

M.J. Rose (C)

5

Nick Gough (Writtle)

1 - 0

N. Chan (M)

6

Ivor Smith (Writtle)

1 - 0

R.M. Wilcox (S)

7

Sid Kalinsky (Ilford)

0 - 1

C.R. Clegg(S)

8

Steve Piper (Newham)

1 - 0

G. Brown (M)

9

Keith Jones (Wanstead)

1 - 0

K.W. Lovel (C)

10

Andy King (Grays)

0 - 1

R.J. Shephard (C)

11

Stan Harwood (Southend)

0 - 1

P.J. Voke (M)

12

David Smith (Wanstead)

½ - ½

A.N. Smith (S)

13

Paul Barclay (Wanstead)

0 - 1

G.M. Gibson (C)

14

Alan Parsons (Southend)

0 - 1

K.A. Morris (M)

15

Mustafa Rahaman (Upminster)

½ - ½

F.C. Manning (S)

16

Howard Staunton (Eastbrook)

1 - 0

L. Evbaumwan (S)

17

Mike Cresswell (Newham)

1 - 0

A. Hailemichael (C)

18

Chris Hobbs (Wanstead)

1 - 0

default (C)

19

Mark Doxey (Southend)

1 - 0

G.W. Gwilliams (M)

20

Roger Medcalf (Wanstead)

1 - 0

D. Parsons (S)

1

Essex League

11½/20
2

Surrey League

11
3

Civil Service League

4

Middlesex League

7

Speigel, Jack A. - Walker, Peter

Writtle, 1996

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