Essex League Division 1.

P W D L U Pts

Writtle

9 7 0 1 1 14

Wanstead I

8 5 3 0 0 13

Ilford I

6 5 3 0 0 11

Upminster I

9 3 2 4 0 8

Eastbrook I

7 3 1 1 2 7

Southend I

6 2 2 1 1 6

Brentwood I

9 2 1 6 0 5

Basildon

8 2 0 4 2 4

Powdermill I

8 2 0 5 1 4

Edmonton

7 1 0 4 2 2

Grays I

9 1 0 7 1 2

With only a handful of matches left to play, there is still no clear favourite for the League Championship this season. Writtle's lead is marginal and their unfinished match against Eastbrook, started on 26th March, remains locked at 4 - 4 with two games awaiting the deliberations of the adjudicator. Writtle's only loss was to Wanstead & Woodford, and since the Wanstead club's only outstanding fixtures are against Basildon and Grays, it seems very likely that the target to beat will be 17 points. Wanstead had the misfortune to lose a play-off to Eastbrook in last year's Championship, and it would be especially hard on them if they were to be pipped again this season, especially since they will, barring accidents against their last two lowly opponents, finish the season unbeaten. Their tied matches were against Ilford, Brentwood and Southend.

Of course, if Writtle get the breaks against Eastbrook, that will take them to 16 points and all will then depend upon the May Day encounter between Ilford and Writtle - that will certainly be a result worth waiting for, but unlike the General Election, the outcome is unlikely to be certain on the night. It appears to be a point of honour that Ilford and Writtle meet late in the season. It was indeed this result last year which placed the League Championship beyond Ilford, but the mathematics were uncertain until two unfinished games had been decided.

Of the three leading teams, Ilford have the toughest run-in. Apart from their Election night special against Writtle, they also have two away matches, against Southend and Eastbrook. Both of these are potentially very difficult. Apart from the match against Writtle, Eastbrook have one other unfinished match, currently level at 4½ - 4½ against Powdermill. If Eastbrook get maximum points from these and their three remaining fixtures, they will also reach 17 points. However, even if Eastbrook manage that Herculean task, the title is beyond them as they lost the match against Wanstead. Of course, if Ilford do collect maximum points from their last four matches (the other, against Brentwood, should not seriously threaten them) then they will deservedly win the title.

Life at the other end of the table is not so hectic. I understand that relegation is not an issue this season, as there is currently a vacancy in Division 1. All of the bottom sides have taken points off each other. Grays beat Basildon and are currently poised 5 - 4 up against Edmonton. Likewise, Edmonton need only a draw from the incomplete game against Basildon to take both points in that match. Basildon beat Brentwood and Powdermill, and the scores are level between Southend and Basildon with one adjudication to come. It seems unlikely that Basildon will get anything from their oustanding match against Eastbrook.

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In the BCF Junior Squad Championships held recently in Tyneside, there were some disappointments amongst the Essex players. Bobby Payne was the County's top scorer in the under-12 with 4½/7 losing from a better position in the final round, closely followed by Alex O'Neill, Matthew Jellett and John Sneesby (4). The most unfortunate was Ezra Lutton. Ezra started well enough with 1½/2, but was taken ill soon after the start of his game against pre-tournament favourite Peter Titmas (Maidstone). Medical opinion was immediately sought (there are often plenty of doctors amongst the parents at important Junior events) and this culminated in a trip to North Tyneside District Hospital where, some 12 hours later, Ezra and his appendix parted company. To add insult to injury, because his round 3 game had been started he was deemed to have lost on time and the game will count for grading. Peter Titmas went on to score 6/7, sharing first place with Christopher Hansell (Hampshire).

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Illescas Cordoba,M (2635) - Polgar,J (2645)

Tournament Dos Hermanas, 1997

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White to play and win.

Forsyth check: 2rqbbk1/6p1/4R1Pp/5P2/1p1N4/8/PBP1Q3/1K6.

Last week's solution: 1 Ng7+ Bxg7 2 Qh5 Ne5 3 Rf6+ Ke7 4 Re6+ Kxe6 5 Qf5 mate.