In this event last year, Essex Juniors performed exceptionally well, and took the bulk of the prize fund from most sections. Although there were plenty of Essex youngsters who finished amongst the prizes this year, it was Essex adults players in the two Open sections who completely dominated.
The Open A was won jointly by Andreas Plüg (Colchester) and Eddie Dearing (Writtle), scoring 5½/6. They met in round 4 and the game as agreed drawn, but nobody else was able to stay with them. Jim Howson, formerly of Essex, and Ivor Smith (Writtle) also finished amongst the prize money in this section.
The Open B provided an outright winner. Howard Berlin (Ilford) scored 6/6, a very impressive performance. In round 4 he was obliged to play Alan Trent, also of Ilford. This pairing caused considerable entertainment amongst the Essex contingent, as both players are fathers of strong Juniors and both are Committee Members of the Essex Junior Chess Association. Alan, a relatively inexperienced player, has been very well taught by his sons, Lawrence (11) and Stewart (9), and it was a great surprise to everybody except for Alan himself that he had actually won his first three rounds! Howard was simply too good, and an ending was reached in which Alan had to give up his knight to stop a pawn becoming a queen. Howard became sole leader after round 5 in which he beat Peter Flint (Galleywood). Peter, who is also an EJCA Committee Member, won his final round against Ellen Walker (Southend) to take second prize. Alan Trent finished on 4, so he and Ellen were in a group sharing 5th prize.
The best Essex performance in the under-14 section was by Robert Giddens (Ilford), whose 4½ placed him second behind Edmund Player (Stowmarket), England's representative in the World under-14 Championships in November. Neil Hopgood (Colchester) had a good tournament, but after his fifth round, which took him to 3½, he was obliged to play Edmund, with the expected result.
Lawrence Trent played in the under-13 section and performed slightly better than his father by scoring 5/6. There was a good first-round result for Caius Turner (Powdermill) when he held the tournament favourite, Matthew Broomfield (London) to a draw. However, Matthew won all his remaining games.
The under-12 was dominated by Essex. Bobby Payne (Ilford), still under-10, scored an excellent 5½/6, conceding a draw in the final round when a point clear of his nearest rival. David Gunn (Maldon) was alone in second place, scoring 5. Graham Walker (Southend) scored 4½ to share 3rd place with two others.
James Berlin made it an excellent day for his family when he scored 5/6 in the under-11, taking second place. Michael Bridger (Southend) was also amongst the prizes, with 4½.
The top four seeds in the under-10 were from Essex, indeed three of them were from Temple Sutton School, Southend. However, the first prize in this section was won by a Lincolnshire player, Christopher Dorrington. He beat both Nicholas and Matthew Jellett, who had made the early running. Matthew beat Nicholas and also scored a win against Heather Walker, but Heather and Matthew shared second place on 5. Matthew's last round game was against top seed Jason Klimach (Ilford). In the end-game, each player had two rooks but Jason had an extra bishop and pawn. Something went horribly wrong for Jason, as he lost all of his advantage and then had to try and draw the ending of bishop against rook, with neither side having any pawns. Under normal circumstances this should be drawn, but the game had lasted a very long time, both players were tired and time trouble played its part. Jason lost.
In the under-9s, the Norfolk pair James Heppell and Harry Fischl shared first place with 5/6. Edward Morris and Tom Swift (both Southend) shared 3rd on 4½. Daniel Hedges (also Southend) scored 4. Max Stechman (Danbury) was the best Essex player in the under-8, taking 3rd place with 4/6, but the under-7s proved to be an excellent tournament for one of the best Essex youngsters to appear recently. Andrew Alexandrou, still only 6, scored 5/6 to share first place with David Grimsey (Suffolk). Abigail Flint (Galleywood) scored 4 to take third place.
Nunn,J - Conquest,S, Premier Hastings ENG, 1997
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