Six of the strongest Junior players in Essex were recently on International duty for the British Chess Federation as England teams were assembled to take on foreign foes. The Welsh Chess Federation has introduced some very enterprising innovations, and Kevin Stavely, the Welsh Director of Junior Chess, has been largely responsible for organising these matches which took place at the Chepstow Leisure Centre, a few minutes' drive beyond the Severn bridge.

It has to be said that the matches, for teams of under-14s, under-11s, under-11 girls and under-10s, were fairly one-sided. England's large conurbations produce far more strong players than Wales can, but the Welsh view these matches as the way to improve, and some of the English were surprised by the strength of the opposition.

Ilford members Lawrence Trent, Alex O'Neill and Bobby Payne all scored well for their respective teams. Lawrence and Alex played for the England under-11 side and Bobby was board 3 for the England under-10 side. This was the first occasion that an under-10 team has been selected. Usually about half-a-dozen year 5 children represent England at under-11 level. This time they had a team all to themselves.

Each match consisted of two rounds, 30 moves in 1 hour each and a 15-minute finish. Each board 1 and 2 played the opposing boards 1 and 2 respectively, and so on, in pairs throughout each match. The under-14s was played over 8 boards, and the aggregate score over the two matches was 11.5 - 4.5 in favour of the English team. The Welsh captain and board 1, Richard Jones, performed particularly well against the English top pair, Leigh Debbage (Swindon) and Thomas Doherty (Richmond), taking 1.5 points from them.

The Boys' under-11 match was contested over 16 boards and this too was rather one-sided with an aggregate score of 24.5 - 7.5. Lawrence Trent played on board 5, winning both his games but by the end of a very warm afternoon he was suffering from a headache which prevented him from being his normal effervescent self. Alex O'Neill played on board 12 and he too scored 100%. One other Essex player was selected in this team. Ezra Lutton (Basidon) did not have the sort of debut he would have wished for, having to agree a draw through lack of time in a winning position in his first game, and losing the second. One interesting fact about this team was that boards 1 and 3 (Peter Titmas and David Ho) are both from Barming school, near Maidstone, the school which must be favourites to win the National under-11 Schools' title later this month.

One unfortunate Essex player who was originally selected to play in the Girls' under-11 team but later was obliged to withdraw was Katie Bates (Colchester). Her place was taken by another Essex player, Heather Walker (Southend). Heather played on board 6 and scored 1 point from 2 games as her team notched up a 16.5 - 3.5 victory over 10 boards. The first round was almost a whitewash, but Annie Powell, the Welsh board 1, scored an excellent draw against Lydia Goodwin (Bucks) and then followed this up with an even better win against Vanessa Aarons (Hampstead).

The under-10 was the most one-sided of all with a final sore of 20.5 - 3.5. Bobby played on board 3 and, just like the majority of his team, scored 2/2.

The one Essex player whose international duties took him away from these shores travelled to St. Petersburg. Graham Walker (Southend) was a member of a 20-strong party of under-13s to take on the might of the youngsters of the St. Petersburg Chess Club. Here, the chess was mixed with sight-seeing at the city with perhaps the best museums anywhere.

The England selectors have been particularly busy this year, as the BCF's first ever trip to South Africa at Easter was followed up with the ambitious Russian project. However, the England manager remarked "We went to Johanneburg to win; we are going to St. Petersburg to learn." Whatever it was that was learned in Russia did not stop the England team winning the only long-play match 16.5 - 3.5, although it has to be admitted that the Russian team deliberately left out some of their best players in order to make sure that they did not annihilate their guests. When they returned for the rapidplay event, the England top 4 could score only 1 point from a possible 16 against them! The other chess highlight of the Tour was a simultaneous display by Grandmaster Mark Taimanov. Taimanov was one of the World's best about 40 years ago. Unfortunately Western chess players best remember him for the 6 - 0 drubbing meted out to him by Bobby Fischer when the American player was at his peak and destined for the World Title. At that time Taimanov, who also achieved renown as an International Concert Pianist, was on the decline as a chess player. Nonetheless, even though he is now in his 72nd year, he still beat the English team by a score of 15 - 5.

Abramovic,B (2485) - Taimanov,M (2480) Paris, 1989

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.g3 g6 4.Bg2 Bg7 5.d3 Rb8 6.f4 b5 7.Nf3 b4 8.Ne2 e6 9.0-0 Nge7 10.a3 a5 11.axb4 axb4 12.Be3 d6 13.d4 cxd4 14.Nfxd4 0-0 15.Qd3 Nxd4 16.Nxd4 e5 17.Nb5 exf4 18.gxf4 Bxb2 19.Ra2 Bg7 20.Nxd6 Be6 21.Ra6 b3 22.f5 b2 23.Rb1 Bd7 24.Bd4 Bxd4+ 25.Qxd4 Nc6 26.Qc5 Qg5 27.Kh1 Qc1+ 28.Qg1 Qxc2 29.e5 Nxe5 30.Be4 Qe2 31.Ra5 Ng4 32.Qg2 Qxg2+ 33.Kxg2 Rb6 0-1