SCCU Inter-County Championships, under-150 section.

Sussex

Essex

1

P.R. Selby

1 - 0

P.R. Barclay

2

P.A. Greaves

0 - 1

T.G. Winter

3

D.J. Hopson

½ - ½

David Smith

4

L.J. Cannon

1 - 0

L.J. Burtt

5

P.N. Kingston

1 - 0

D.J. Payne

6

D.S. Hall

0 - 1

S. Harwood

7

R.A. Clement

0 - 1

G. Gooding

8

R.D. Hirsch

0 - 1

D.J. Rawlings

9

F.W. Brown

0 - 1

S. Armour

10

M.R. Hickman

1 - 0

D.J. Cannan

11

T.J. Woods

0 - 1

M.R.A. Murrell

12

C.C. Dunn

0 - 1

M.J. Cresswell

13

S.J. Elgie

½ - ½

A. Drake

14

P.H. Benson

0 - 1

R.D. Sharman

15

E.J. Hillier

½ - ½

C. J. Hobbs

16

B. Chamberlain

0 - 1

D. Bird

5½ - 10½

The Essex under-150 side travelled to Crawley for their first match in the County Championship and scored a well-deserved win. There was very little to choose between the sides' respective grades, especially on the high boards, and it was indeed on boards 1 to 5 that Sussex scored the bulk of their points. However, the Essex middle order were on fine form, scoring 6 points from the next seven boards. Sussex gleaned a couple of draws at the bottom, but that was little consolation.

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There have been some very close results lately in which British competitors have been edged out of World Championships. Karl Mah's superb, but ultimately unrewarded, efforts in the World under-16 Championship co-incided with Harriet Hunt (Oxford) sharing first place in the World Girls' under-18 Championships but then taking silver on a tie break. Both Karl and Harriet were victims of an arbitrary tie-break rule which is commonly applied but is really there to benefit the organisers rather than the competitors. The other British near miss was Jonathan Mestel (Cambridge), who recently participated in the World Problem Solving Championships in Israel.

Jonathan was the leading British player in a team of three, the other two being Michael McDowell (Southend) and Graham Lee (Oakham). The results were remarkable in the extreme. Firstly, the new World Champion was a young man by the name of N. Elkies. I understand that Mr. Elkies, at 27, became the youngest mathematics professor Harvard has ever known, and two years ago this highly cerebral gentleman published an endgame study on

the Internet which was white to play and draw. Nothing remarkable in that, one might think, except that this particular study is probably the only one ever composed to make use of the 50 move rule. (It has since been published in that excellent book Secrets of Spectacular Chess by Jonathan Levitt and David Friedgood, published by B.T. Batsford.) What is remarkable is the fact that, until the weekend in question, our new World Champion had never before taken part in a problem solving competition.

But I digress. Jonathan Mestel scored a very creditable 75 / 90 which placed him a mere 2½ points behind the four solvers to share first place (Elkies won his title on a tie-break). Unfortunately, during the endgame study round, Jonathan handed in an almost perfect set of solutions: the one slight imperfection was that he transposed two moves in one of the studies which cost him five marks. Now, as an over-the-board Grandmaster, one might expect Jonathan to find the endgame studies his area of strength, as they are by their very nature more akin to game positions than are other chess problems. Jonathan did indeed do very well in the studies, but sadly he chose to hand in his answer sheet after a mere 20 minutes' work when 100 minutes were allowed (this is not so stupid as it sounds, as in the event of a tie the amount of time taken is used as a tie break and 80 minutes saved would have come in very handy had Jonathan tied for first place) whereas an extra 5 minutes' checking his analysis would very probably have revealed the error and given him 5 more marks and with them the World Championship.

By way of consolation, Jonathan achieved his third and final Grandmaster norm which made him the first player ever to become a Grandmaster at both problem-solving and over-the-board chess - or so he thought. What he didn't realise was that one of his previous norms was now "spent", being more than 5 years old, and that he is not a Problems Grandmaster after all.

This is a quite ludicrous situation. Over-the-board players who wish to achieve norms have many opportunities every year in which to gain titles and the five-year deadline from the first to the final norm is not unreasonable. For solvers, there is only one event each year in which norms can be achieved and that is the World Championship. The norm is quite straightforward: you have to score 90% of the World Champion's total and Jonathan has achieved that three times in the past 6 years. On another occasion he scored 80½/90, a superb achievement, but that year the German World Champion scored 90/90. Jonathan would have needed 81 to score a Grandmaster norm.

Of the other two British team members, Mike McDowell finished 23rd, his best ever performance, but Graham Lee had a poor weekend, finishing way down the field.