One of the first annual events of the new chess season is the North Essex Congress, which for the third consecutive year was held at the Braintree Leisure Centre. This year, there were 110 participants which was a considerable reduction on the previous year's event. The Open Championship and the under-100 sections were almost unchanged with 16 and 35 players respectively. It was the under-160 and under-130 sections which suffered a decline, with 25 and 34 contestants.

The pre-tournament favourite in the Open was John Anderson. In the coming season, John will be playing for the Basildon club and will be their top board (last season he was with Grays) and he justified his position as top seed by scoring 4 points in his five games and thereby sharing first place with Richard Savory (Dereham). The joint winners drew with one another and each dropped another half-point in which John drew with Robert Parker (Colchester) and Richard agreed a draw with Paul Botham (Suffolk). Tim Hebbes (Ilford) started well by winning his first two games, but in round 3 was ground down in an exciting encounter against Suffolk player Steve Gregory. Tim found a combination which won a piece and exchanged queens, but the long-term consequences of this seemingly advantageous manoeuvre were that Tim was deprived of all his pawns and Steve won well. Tim finished on 2.5/5, losing his last round to John Anderson. The North Essex Champions' Shield was awarded to Robert Parker for his 3/5.

The under-130 and under-100 sections were both remarkable in the manner that adult players dominated the prize lists in spite of the presence of juniors with international experience. Mike Newman (Braintree) won the under 130 with 4.5 / 5, while David King (Braintree), David Lilley (Braintree) and Paul Stukas (Chelmsford) all scored 4. Peter Elliott (Chelmsford) scored 4.5 in the under-100 with a four-way tie for second place on 4 points by Peter Brander (Chelmsford), Ken Smith (Sidcup), Charles Szentmihaly (Brandon) and Jim Wilson (London).

The under-160 section was something of a revelation. Lawrence Trent, aged only 11 and graded only 120, took the tournament by storm with a superb 4.5 / 5, a grading performance of 182. Seldom can so young a player have performed so well against strong adults. Lawrence played with great assurance and maturity, keeping control of his games against higher-graded opposition and then punishing his opponents for their mistakes. His third round game was a little fortunate as, although Lawrence had an extra a-pawn only one square away from queening, it was well covered by his opponent's rook. Lawrence's own rook blocked the pawn's advance so provided white kept his king in the right place, no progress could be made. However, white's king strayed to the f2 square and Lawrence immediately banged his own rook down on h1, grinning broadly as he did so. White has to capture the pawn to avoid a queen appearing on a1, but he loses his rook to the deadly skewer with Rh2 check.

Lawrence's final game was against David Pearse (Maldon), the top seed and occupying second place at the start of the last round. Lawrence had black, but set up a very solid position and established a well-supported knight in white's half of the board. When Lawrence offered the draw that would give him outright first, David was unsure how to respond. Clearly, he knew that the draw offer was going to come. He also knew that, from the position on the board, it was perfectly reasonable. What is more, he knew that to accept guaranteed Lawrence all of the first prize of £150 and relegated him to little more in the way of prize money than he spent on food, petrol and the entry fee. On the other hand, chess is all about feeling good about oneself and no matter how hard David works at his game, as an adult he is unlikely to get significantly better than his current grade of 159. Lawrence, as a mere stripling of 11, is clearly rocketing ahead and one day he may become a Grandmaster. In years to come, David will look back on his chess career and will recall landmark games in which he achieved creditable results against strong players, even if they were small enough at the time to pick up bodily and dump in the pond outside.

The second time Lawrence offered the draw, David accepted it.

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The second Batsford Schools' Problem Solving Championships Finals took place at the City of London School, and several Essex schools took part. Although these schools did well in the postal round, scoring heavily when solving at leisure, with conferring allowed and with no time limit, this is a completely different kettle of fish from a solo effort on a timed paper.

Unfortunately, the organisers rather over-reacted to some very high scoring in last year's final by certain players and the problems this year were considerably more difficult. The consequence was that there were some quite decent players who scored nothing at all, or next to nothing. One very strong over-the-board player (graded around 220) could only score 24/100.

The winning team was the Tiffin School (Surrey), led by Richard Bates, whose total was 101 / 200. The best individual total was by David Moscowicz (City of London School) who scored 68 / 100.

Delieu,T - Trent,L [B23]

Braintree 1997

1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bc4 e6 6.0-0 Nge7 7.a4 Nd4 8.d3 d5 9.Ba2 0-0 10.Bd2 a6 11.Kh1 Rb8 12.e5 Nef5 13.Nxd4 Nxd4 14.Ne2 Nf5 15.Qe1 Bd7 16.b3 Bc6 17.h3 f6 18.Ng1 Nd4 19.Rc1 fxe5 20.c3 Nf5 21.fxe5 d4 22.b4 dxc3 23.Bxe6+ Kh8 24.Bxc3 Qxd3 25.Bxf5 Rxf5 26.Rxf5 Qxf5 27.bxc5 Re8 28.e6 Rxe6 29.Bxg7+ Kxg7 30.Qc3+ Kg8 31.a5 Re5 32.Kh2 Qf4+ 33.Kh1 Rg5 34.Rc2 Rd5 [34...Qf1] 35.Rc1 Rd2 36.Nf3 Bxf3 37.Qxf3 Qxf3 38.gxf3 Ra2 39.c6 bxc6 40.Rxc6 Rxa5 41.Kg2 Ra2+ 42.Kg3 Kg7 43.Rc7+ Kh6 44.Ra7 g5 45.Ra8 Kh5 46.Ra7 h6 47.Ra8 a5 48.Ra6 a4 49.Ra5 Ra1 50.Ra6 a3 51.Ra4 a2 52.Kf2?? Rh1 0-1

2/10/97

XABCDEFGHY 8-mk-+-+r+( 7zp-+-+-+-' 6-zp-zp-+-wQ& 5sn-zpPwqP+-% 4-+P+-+-zp$ 3+-+-+P+-# 2P+-sN-+P+" 1+-+R+-+K! xabcdefghy

Black to play and win.

Forsyth: k4r1/p7/1p1p3Q/n1pPqP2/2P4p/5P2/P2N2P1/3R3K.

Last week's solution: 1...Nh4+ 2 gxh4 Qg4+ 3 Kf1 Qh3+ 4 Qg2 Qd3+ white resigns