The Essex Chess Association will be celebrating its centenary in 1998 and numerous special events celebrating this milesone are currently being planned. Perhaps the grandest of these plans is the 100 board match to take place on October 11th 1998, at a venue yet to be decided. Roy Watts and John Philpott are to take control of this event, in which the opposition will be a team representing the remainder of the Southern Counties Chess Union. Such matches were fairly common about 40 years ago, before the upsurge of interest in regular congress chess, and must have been an absolute nightmare of organisation. Selection of a team of only 12 boards can still present a captain with seemingly insurmountable problems, but without the aid of e-mail, printing facilities and when most of the players were without a telephone it is a wonder that tams were ever selected at all. I suspect that the joint organisers of this venture will need all of the 12-months' lead time they have allowed themselves to ensure that the two teams are complete.

Another event which has been planned for October next year is a match between Essex Past and Essex Present. John Cooke is to select the teams for this event, which will be over 20 boards and will be followed by a Celebration Dinner. Although the Essex Present team will contain quite a number of stars, perhaps the real prize will be if Dr. Jonathan Penrose can be persuaded to emerge from retirement to represent Essex Past. Dr. Penrose won the British Championship a record 10 times in the 12 seasons 1958 - 1969, a record which is very unlikely to be beaten. He now lives in Hertford and has not participated in top-level over-the-board chess for almost 20 years. In that time he has concentrated on postal chess, at which he has become one of the world's leading exponents.

Other events are being planned, of which there will be more news as the plans become more formalised.

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Junior players will be interested to learn of a change of format for the hugely popular London Junior Championships this year. Those players wishing to take part in the under-12, 10 and 8 sections of the Championships will still have to qualify, but in recent years a problem has become increasingly apparent in that there are too many qualifiers for the number of rounds available for each tournament. This is especially true of the under-10 section, for which 7 rounds are available, but last year some 150 competitors took part. It is theoretically possible in a tournament of this size to conclude with joint winners on 100%, clearly an unsatisfactory outcome. In practice, what has tended to happen is for a leading group to emerge after 5 rounds who then do not have time to sort themselves out properly. Last year, there was a 6-way tie for first place, and the organisers concluded that something had to be done about it.

Their response to the problem is interesting. Instead of having just one section per age group, there will now be two. In order to qualify for the Major section, a player will now need to score 4.5 / 6, a tall order indeed, and one which should reduce considerably the number of entrants. However, to ensure that as many players as possible are included in the Finals, there will now be a Minor section as well, for players who score 3.5. Under the previous rules, the qualifying score was 4/6, so the London finals have now been opened up to a whole swathe of players who previously would not have been able to qualify.

This policy has also been adopted for the under-12 Championship, for which 9 rounds are available and which, last year, produced a sole winner in the form of Peter Titmas (Maidstone). The under-8s also produced a sole winner last year, but ever younger children are starting to play chess, with several infant schools in Essex now offering the game, and qualified coaching, to their pupils. Six rounds is scarcely sufficient for more than 60 players, and pressure for places continues to grow.

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Chess Coaching for five, six and seven year olds in several centres throughout the County will hopefully provide our junior teams with a wealth of strong players at the turn of the century. For the next year or two it seems likely that Essex teams at under-9 and under-11 level will go through a lean spell.

Essex has been entering teams into these events since 1990, and more often than not our teams have qualified for the National Finals, and in 1996 both under-9 and under-11 teams won their events amid great rejoicing. It had been hoped that the 1997 under-11 team would repeat the performance, but a slightly off day placed them third, one point behind the winners. Now the real strength of that under-11 side is too old. Although the Champion under-9 side of two years ago is now the backbone of the under-11, the under-11 team is of 20 players, 8 more than the under-9. At present it is hard to see where the current year's under-9 team is coming from. In 1996, the victorious under-9 team packed the low boards of the under-11 and scored loads of points. This year, that sort of backup is looking ominously thin.

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In round 3 of the Fontys Tilburg tournament, the new World Junior Champion had the unenviable task of playing the Old Senior one. The encounter was brief and to the point.

White- Tal Shaked Black - Gary Kasparov

Fontys Tilburg 1997.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nxc3 6.bxc3 Bg7 7.Be3 c5 8.Qd2 Qa5 9.Rb1 b6 10.Bb5+ Bd7 11.Be2 Bc6 12.Bd3 Nd7 13.Ne2 Rd8 14.f3 0-0 15.h4 h5 16.Bg5 Rfe8 17.Rc1 Bb7 18.d5 Ne5 19.Bb1 Nc4 20.Qf4 Be5 0 - 1

[diagram for 9/10/97]