As in last year's competition, the finish was extremely tight, but the 1997 Essex Under-11 team was unable to emulate the 1996 team and the County did not become National Champions in this event this year.

As has been stated in recent Recorder articles, this Essex team was a very strong one, on paper a better team than last year's. However, that in itself showed how difficult it is for the "best" team to live up to its reputation when it really matters. The 1997 team won the Southern England Championship, which was a qualifying event for the Finals, and team managers felt that the team did not really perform to its full potential even then. The comfortable lead established after round two had been reduced during round the third and final round.

In the Finals, which took place at St. Dunstan's College, Catford, the Essex first round total was 14 points from 20 games. This was not enough, and it was disappointing to see two losses in the bottom four boards, against Cheshire & North Wales and Manchester. Every team has strong players on the top boards, but the strongest teams should have enormous strength in depth and losses on boards 16 - 20 should be rare, and only against the nearest rivals, usually Richmond, Kent, Wey valley and Devon. Normally, no other team has the strength on the low boards to trouble a potential Champion. For the record, three players on boards 11 - 20 met opponents from the Big Four, Michael Bridger (Southend) beating Kent, Tom Swift (Southend) beating Richmond and Jason Klimach (Ilford) drawing with Wey Valley. Our top 6 managed 2.5 points, but the only winner was Bobby Payne (Ilford). This result must have come as a welcome relief for Bobby, has he had the toughest possible set of pairings in the Qualifier and had lost all three.

Round 2 saw Essex close the gap as 16 points were added. All of the top 6 won, and Lawrence Trent's second consecutive victory against Peter Titmas was welcome indeed. There were four losses, against Devon, Kent, Cambridgeshire and Hampshire. The results indicated that Hampshire were scoring far more heavily on the low boards than one would expect from their high boards' performance.

With one round to go, Essex were on 30/40. The winning team very rarely scores less than 45/60, so we were on target for victory but we knew that 15 points from the last round gave us only a slim chance of winning. Seventeen would surely be sufficient, but that is a very tall order in a tournament of this nature.

The finish was, as last year, very close and tense and with only a handful of results to be declared, any one of three teams could win. There were two critical games in which Essex played these two, and sadly both results went against us. The final scores of Richmond on 46.5, Kent on 45.5 and Essex on 44.5 with the remaining thirteen finalists some way behind, show exactly how tight this event is. Last year, the three leading scores were Essex 46, Richmond 45.5 and Wey Valley 44.5.

There were some excellent individual performances. Heather Walker, Katie Bates, Jonathan Livesley, Nicholas Jellett, Stewart Trent, Daniel Hedges and Tom Swift all scored 100%. Katie Bates and Tom Swift managed this in spite of tough pairings in that they both played opponents from Richmond, Wey Valley and Nottinghamshire. Ezra Lutton scored 2.5/3 on board 2, bringing his tally for the season to 5/6. Bobby Payne received instructions from the team Manager that he should play for a win against his Cheshire & N. Wales opponent when a draw was there for the taking, but he went on to lose.

Essex

1 Lawrence Trent Ilford 2

2 Ezra Lutton Basildon 2.5

3 Bobby Payne Ilford 2

4 Alex O'Neill Ilford 1

5 Josiah Lutton Basildon 2.5

6 James Berlin Ilford 1

7 Matthew Jellett Southend 2

8 Heather Walker Southend 3

9 Katie Bates Colchester 3

10 Jonathan Livesley Colchester 3

11 Michael Bridger Southend 2

12 Nicholas Jellett Southend 3

13 Stewart Trent Ilford 3

14 Jason Klimach Ilford 1.5

15 Daniel Hedges Southend 3

16 Nicolas Mulrenan Sff. Walden 2

17 Charles Wager Chelmsford 2

18 Edward Morris Southend 1

19 Tom Swift Southend 3

20 Alistair Hung Basildon 2

Reserves: Sam Waterson 0.5

Andrew Murphy 3

Alistair Baldwin 3

Paul Butfield 3

1 Richmond 46.5

2 Kent 45.5

3 Essex 44.5

4 Wey Valley 42.5

5 Hampshire 38

6 Devon 32

7 Notts 27.5

8 Manchester 26.5

9 Cambs 25.5

10 Lancs 24.5

11 Barnet 24

12 Cornwall 23.5

13 Lincs 22

14 Chesh. & N. Wales 20.5

15 Oldham 20.5

16 Liverpool 16.5

Caulfield, Liam - Trent, Stewart

EPSCA u-11, 1997

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.Nf3 e6 4.Bb5 Nge7 5.0-0 g6 6.d3 Bg7 7.Bg5 Qc7 8.g3 0-0 9.Bxc6 Nxc6 10.Nb5 Qb8 11.Bf4 e5 12.Bg5 a6 13.Nc3 b6 14.Nd5 f6 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.Ne7+ Kh8 17.Bf4 d6 18.h4 Rd8 19.Nd5 Be6 20.Ne3 Qc8 21.Bxe5 fxe5 22.g4 Rf8 23.c4 Ra7 24.Qc2 Bxg4 25.Nd5 Bh3 26.Rfe1 Qg4+ 27.Kh2 Qg2# 0-1

Diagram for 22/5/97

White to play and win.

Forsyth check: 3rrbk1/1p1npq2/p1npp1pp/4P3/2P1NPB1/4B3/PPQ3PP/3R1RK1

Last week's soution: 1 Bd4 Nxd5 2 Rxe5 Nxc3 3 Bxc3 Black resigns