There were some significant differences about this year's Braintree Junior Congress, traditionally held in late January or early February. Firstly, it was in Colchester and secondly, it was for adults.

Roger Sharman, who organises this event for the North Essex League, has found venues in Braintree increasingly hard to come by at reasonable cost to the extent that this year he simply decided to switch towns all together and stage the event at the Gilberd School, Colchester, the venue used each October for the Colchester tournament. In addition, all organisers have found that the age groups for under-18s and under-16s are very poorly supported, and in October last year Roger decided to hold an Open, including adults to play against the Juniors, while at the same time reserving some special prizes for juniors within the top section. In October, this innovation increased the entry for the top section from 5 to 28; and in the February tournament it was increased from 10 to 36, the largest section of all.

The Open was also extremely strong. Top seed was Colchester Club's German player Andreas Plüg. Andreas shared first place in the rapidplay tournament in Ipswich a month previously with Writtle club's Scottish under-16 international Eddie Dearing. Eddie was second seed on this occasion and at the start of the day he invited me to admire his new sweatshirt. "I always have a good tournament when I buy a new sweatshirt", Eddie confided. I commented that he must have an awful lot of new sweatshirts. However, on this occasion his designer fashionwear let him down against the sartorially challenged Paul Williamson, a remarkably English player from Rayleigh wearing an imitation leather jacket with zip pockets on each sleeve. Paul then had to play John Moore, his Rayleigh club colleague, an unfortunate pairing but a forced one, as they were the only two players to have won all of their games up to that point. Andreas Plüg had dropped half a point against Robert Fulford (Witham).

The Moore-Williamson encounter was quickly agreed drawn: not only were these two from the same club, they had travelled in the same car. After round 5, both players were a point off the lead. John had played Andreas and Paul had floated down to play Jim Howson (Dartford). With a round to spare, Andreas was in command and his final round game against Jim ended in exactly the same way as their encounter in Ipswich a month previously, that is Germany 1 Dartford 0. Second place was taken by Tony Rubin (Ipswich) who scored 5. His loss was to John Moore in round 3. John himself took third prize with a win against Bryan Lee, and exactly 25% of the entire section shared fourth prize with the princely sum of £1 each. Several of these generous souls elected to donate their prize to the Congress. Eddie Dearing won the North Essex Rapidplay Junior Championship, on a tie-break from Matthew Lewsey (Colchester) and Iain Gunn (Maldon). Iain took the Rating Prize with the best score by a player rated below 1600.

In the age-related sections, the under-13 was contested by 14 players and resulted in a three-way tie for first place. Top seed Graham Walker (Southend) lost to third seed David Gunn (Maldon) when he blundered a rook. David had threatened a mate and Graham instinctively grabbed his rook to drop it back to protect the back rank only to discover that the square concerned was being closely watched by white's knight. Graham resigned without completing his move. In the following round, David lost to second seed Mark Gray (Ipswich) and this set up an interesting final round between Graham and Mark. Mark, needing a draw to take the £40 first prize outright, played a Dutch Defence. Graham found the opportunity to castle queen-side and his inadvertant gift to Mark of the f2 pawn turned out to be greatly to his benefit. White took control of the f-file after the exchange of one pair of rooks and with two very aggressively placed bishops Graham found a timely exchange sacrifice. This allowed white's queen to join in the hunt. With black's queen stranded on the a-file and the centre jammed up with pawns, Mark's choice was in which of the six or seven different ways available he chose to be mated.

The under-11 inititially appeared to be heading towards Graham's sister Heather, as she was the only player to reach 4/4, with two very aggressive wins against the top two seeds Matthew Jellett and Michael Bridger (both Southend). She then lost two consecutive games, to the eventual winner Jonathan Livesley (Colchester) and then to Nicholas Jellett. Nicholas and Michael shared 2nd place on 4½.

The top prize in the under-9 was shared by Tom Swift and Daniel Hedges (both Southend) with 5/6. Third prize was shared by Edward Morris (Southend) and Jacob Rubin (Ipswich).

Walker, H. - Bridger, M. [C50]

Colchester, 1997

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Nf6 4.d3 Bc5 5.Nc3 d6 6.Bg5 h6 7.Bh4 g5 8.Bg3 Bg4 9.h3 Bh5 10.Bh2 Qe7 11.Bb5 Qd7 12.Nd5 Ng8 13.g4 Bg6 14.Nxe5 dxe5 15.Bxe5 Rh7 16.Nxc7+ Kf8 17.Nxa8 Qe6 18.Bxc6 bxc6 19.c3 Qxe5 20.d4 Qxe4+ 21.Kd2 Qd3+ 22.Kc1 Qc4 23.dxc5 Qf4+ 24.Qd2 Qf3 25.Rd1 f6 26.Re1 Kg7 27.Nc7 Kh8 28.Ne6 Re7 29.Nf8 Rxe1+ 30.Qxe1 Be4 31.Ne6 Bg6 32.Nd4 Qf4+ 33.Kd1 Kh7 34.Qe3 Qh2 35.Kd2 Kh8 36.Qf3 Qc7 37.b4 Kg7 38.Kc1 Ne7 39.Ne6+ 1-0