The 1996-97 Essex Junior Championships took place in their usual venue of the Temple Sutton Primary School and attracted a very select group of competitors. The pre-tournament favourite was the defending under-18 Champion, Iain Gunn (Maldon), but when he was held to a draw in the first round by Ezra Lutton (Basildon) it was not the most auspicious of starts. His second round was a downfloat against Heather Walker (Southend) and when the endgame began the position was level at four pawns each but Heather had a knight against Iain's bishop. Iain had a central passed pawn, and Heather could have won this pawn had she sent her king towards it by a different route. Once Iain had established its safety, it became his best chance of a win and by degrees Heather was pushed back onto the defensive. With both her pieces tied down stopping the passed pawn from queening, she was unable to prevent Iain's king from attacking and winning all her other pawns.

Iain's younger brother David was not enjoying the best of fortune, however, and consecutive losses against Bobby Payne (Ilford) and Ezra Lutton meant that he was in a group of three players on 0. Bobby Payne had made the best of his round 2 game against John Sneesby (Basildon). John played a very sensible game as black and had an advantage when the queens were exchanged. Just as he should have been converting his advantage into the full point, John underestimated the power of Bobby's rook and knight. John took a second pawn but allowed mate in 2. A different move would have forced the rooks off and given him excellent prospects in the B v N ending which would have ensued.

Josiah Lutton was the youngest player in the tournament and his first round was an excellent one for him as he beat Robert Giddens (Ilford), some 5 years his senior. Josiah's second opponent was Graham Walker and although Josiah came up with some enterprising attacking ideas, winning two pieces for rook and pawn, his remaining pawns were too difficult to defend and Graham emerged the winner. Graham had beaten Jack Gallie (Battlesbridge) in round 1 so Graham and Bobby Payne were the only two players on 100%. In round 3, Bobby's Benko Gambit was declined and Graham built a powerful centre. As Graham's pawns advanced it became clear that a number of tactical possibilities were limited because black had a check which forced the exchange of queens. Eventually the queens were exchanged and each player had two rooks, a knight and four pawns. The interest now lay in whose pawns were better - Bobby's passed e-pawn or Graham's queen-side majority. After a number of seemingly planless moves by Graham, Bobby's pawn began its march to the queening square and the consensus amongst the watching organisers was that Bobby would probably chalk up his 5th consecutive victory in this pair's personal battle. Suddenly, Graham's knight, which had been occupying h6, leaped back into a relevant position and posed a number of serious threats to Bobby's pawn, the rook defending it and, most seriously, to the black king hiding on b8. Bobby attempted to simplify by exchanging rooks and the position was indeed simplified to the extent that one move later Bobby resigned, unable to prevent the promotion of the b-pawn.

Graham was sole leader overnight, but his lead lasted only one round as Iain Gunn, well prepared with the English opening, took an early advantage against Graham and won quickly. Josiah Lutton lost to Bobby and John Sneesby drew aganst Ezra Lutton.

Round 5 was another convincing win by Iain Gunn, whose chess seemed to be getting better as the tournament progressed. Bobby Payne did what he could against Iain's invading rook, but it was to no avail. Ezra's initially powerful attack against Graham's castled king had won only a pawn but lost the initiative and this game was agreed drawn. Iain now had only to draw against John Sneesby and the title was his for the second successive year. This was indeed the result, so Graham's win against David Gunn ensured him of the under-16 title while Ezra completed the tournament unbeaten to take the under-14 title and the satisfaction of having drawn against both players finishing ahead of him.

During the second day of the Championships a rapidplay tournament for younger players attracted a further 60 competitors. Matthew Jellett (Southend) scored an excellent 6/6 to win the 24-playerw under-11 section, and Daniel Hedges (Southend) did exactly the same thing in the 36-player under-9. James Berlin (Ilford) was runner-up in the under-11s, losing to Matthew and failing to take the full point from an overwhelmingly won position against Heather Walker, who had transferred from the Championship section of the previous day, where her sole intention was to keep even numbers for the first day. The runners up in the under-9 were Tom Swift and Edward Morris, making it a clean sweep in that section for Southend players. Ilford club members Alan Hawrami and Francesca Berlin each scored 4½.

Lutton, J. Ezra - Gunn, Iain [B12]

EJCA, 1997

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3 e6 5.Nf3 c5 6.Bg5 Qc7 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.Bb5+ Nc6 9.0-0 a6 10.Ba4 b5 11.Bb3 Nxe5 12.Nxe5 Qxe5 13.Re1 Qd4 14.Qxd4 Bxd4 15.Bxd5 Bxc3 16.bxc3 Rc8 17.Bb7 Rxc3 18.Bxa6 Rc5 19.Be3 Rd5 20.Bb7 Rd6 21.Bc5 Rd2 22.Rad1 Rxd1 23.Rxd1 f6 24.Bc6+ Kf7 25.Rd7+ Kg6 26.Bf8 Nh6 27.Rxg7+ Kh5 28.Be7 Ng4 29.Bd6 Kh6 30.Rf7 Rc8 31.Bxb5 Rxc2 32.Bf8+ Kh5 33.f3 ½-½