This coming weekend sees the 1997 Suffolk Open Rapidplay Championships, which take place on Sunday 19th January at the Town Hall and Corn Exchange, Ipswich. In recent years this event, which in its early years was open only to Juniors, has become so large that the entry form bears the claim "The UK's Largest one-day Chess Tounament".

There is no doubt that Ipswich has become one of the main rapidplay events in South-East England. The venue is as good as any, travel by road to Ipswich is very easy, and since the tournament benefits from the financial support of Kall-Kwik of Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich Borough Council, a prize fund in the region of £1600 is on offer. All of this represents a very attractive package to competitors.

Large numbers of competitors will travel from Essex to take part. Last year, our players performed particularly well, winning almost every Junior section and scoring well in the Open events. Once again, strong Essex players have entered, and many of the Juniors have entered sections above their own age group, in the search of tougher opposition.

There is still time to enter by telephone without incurring a late entry fee. There are sections for under-7, u-8 and u-9 players (entry fee £4.50); u-10 and u-11 (£5); u-12 and u-13 (£5.50); u-14 & u-15 (£6). The Open is divided into two sections. Section B is for players graded under-125 (entry fee £7) and Section A for the strongest entrants (entry fee £8). In each section, first prize will be 10 times the entry fee, and other prizes will depend upon entry.

The Tournament Organiser is Bob Jones, who can be contacted on 01284 811555.

The next event in Essex will be the North Essex Open Rapidplay Tournament, organised by Roger Sharman (01206 231025) to be held at the Gilberd School, Colchester on 16th February.

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The London under-12 Championship, details of which were included in last week's Recorder, was unusual for two reasons. Firstly, the Top Seed won the event (Peter Titmas of Barming School, Maidstone) and secondly, none of the competitors' grades were in excess of 120.

This second observation may cause some alarm amongst the National Organisers of Junior Chess, as there is evidence which suggests that the batch of chess-players currently in their final year at primary school is the weakest since the British Chess Federation first began to publish lists of the Top Twenty in each age group.

The current list was published in August last year, and the range of grades which covered the top twenty 10-year-old players was from 120 down to 93. In 1995-96, the equivalent age group was graded 133 to 98 and in 1994-95 the grades were 183 (Luke McShane) to 100. The year before that, which was the first year that the BCF published these lists, the grade range for the top 20 10-year-olds was 129 to 101.

This weakening appears to be a "blip" rather than a trend, as the top 20 players yet to reach their 10th birthday are back to normality with a range of grades from 117 (Gawain Jones) to 83. However, this certainly re-inforces the view that the current under-11s are not so strong. In Nottingham last August, the British under-10 Championship was won by Gawain Jones, aged 8 at the time. Leonard Barden, in a Guardian article published to co-incide with the London under-10 Championship, berated the British Chess Federation for not sending Gawain to represent England in the World Championship. Mr. Barden was instrumental in sending Luke McShane, aged 8 at the time, to the World under-10, and of course Luke won the event and became the youngest ever FIDE master. However, Luke was, and still is, quite the most exceptional chess player this country has produced, having recently notched up an IM norm a month before his 13th birthday, an achievement hitherto unprecedented anywhere in the world.

There is, of course, no firm evidence to suggest that an early display of talent will automatically lead to great things in later life, but it does help. There are several examples of players whose later development was far in excess of anything which could reasonably have been expected from their performances as primary school children. Nigel Short and Michael Adams both broke records on their way to Grandmaster status, but Matthew Sadler was, by their standards, a late developer. Matthew's grade was 128 as an 11-year-old but at 16 he was the World's youngest IM. He is now a "SuperGrandmaster" with a FIDE rating of 2615.

One of the top Essex players, Michael Twyble, was very impressed with the standard of play in the London under-12. Here are two of the games showing the players' book knowledge of the Sicilian Dragon.

d'Costa, Lorin - Titmas, Peter

London u12 rd 6, 1996

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 0-0 8.Qd2 Nc6 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7 14.Qc5 Qb7 15.Bd4 Bf5 16.c3 Rfc8 17.Qa3 Bh6+ 18.Rd2 Bxd2+ 19.Kxd2 Rab8 20.b3 Qd7 21.Qa5 Qc7 22.Qxc7 Rxc7 23.Bd3 Bxd3 24.Be5 Rd7 25.Bxb8 Bb1+ 26.Ke3 Bxa2 27.Ra1 Bxb3 28.Rxa7 Rxa7 29.Bxa7 Kf8 30.Kd4 Ke8 31.Ke4 Kd7 32.Kf4 f6 ½-½

d'Costa, Lorin - Ghasi, Ameet

London u12 rd 8, 1996

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 g6 6.Be3 Bg7 7.f3 Nc6 8.Qd2 0-0 9.0-0-0 d5 10.exd5 Nxd5 11.Nxc6 bxc6 12.Nxd5 cxd5 13.Qxd5 Qc7 14.Qc5 Qb7 15.b3 Bf5 16.Bc4 Rac8 17.Qa3 Qc7 18.Rd2 Rfd8 19.Rhd1 Rxd2 20.Rxd2 Qe5 21.Re2 Qa1+ 22.Kd2 Bc3 0-1

White to play and win.

Forsyth: q1rr2k1/p4ppp/1p4n1/2pN1N1Q/3b1P2/1P4P1/P6P/3R1Rk1.

Last week's solution (Rossolimo - Raizman, 1967): 1 Bxd5 cxd5 2 Nf6+ Kh8 3 Qg6 Qc2 4 Rh3 black resigns