The first weekend's events of the London Junior Championships Finals were held at the Ravenscroft School, Barnet, where three sections were contested. It has been traditional that the under-8, under-10 and under-14 sections take place a couple of weeks before Christmas, and that part of tradition was followed. However, there was a considerable difference this year in the structure of the two lowest sections. The under-8 section has hitherto been a one-day six-round 30 minute rapidplay which in recent years has attracted between 60 and 70 entrants. When the number of entrants is in excess of 60, six rounds are scarcely enough to separate the top players, so it was decided to organise the event as a 9-round rapidplay over two days. Of course, the number of competitors dropped to below 40, which meant that 9 rounds were now rather too many. It is a matter of concern that younger sections of tournaments have suddenly declined in numbers. Although the Basildon Junior Congress last month attracted a healthy number of under-8s, to some extent this was due to the barrage of publicity achieved over a long period by Arnold Lutton, the Tournament Organiser. So far as the Finals are concerned, one would have thought that the honour of having been invited to play in one of the most prestigious events in the calendar would be sufficient to attract an aspiring 8-year-old, but the lack of competitors seems to be part of a trend.
The standard of the chess was high. One of the most talented youngsters to have emerged for some years won the section. David Howell (Sussex), whose achievements have already been mentioned a couple of times in the Recorder, scored 9/9, two points ahead of his nearest rival. This was Poppy Aarons, whose 7/9 was sufficient to win the Girls' Prize. The practice of awarding separate prizes for boys and girls is one which is dying out, but it is still alive and well, and likely to remain so, in the London Junior Championships. These events are amongst the oldest for Juniors to be held in Britain, and at their inception some 40 years ago, they were first called the London Boys' Championships. Then suddenly someone discovered that girls could also play chess, and even though the numbers of girls have never matched the numbers of boys who have participated, there have been some years when section winners have indeed been girls. Poppy, who is a pupil at Northbridge House School in Camden, therefore won the girls' trophy. The boys' trophy was won by Alex Gilmore, as David Howell does not qualify as he is not resident, native or educated in London. There were two Essex players in this section. Abigail Flint scored 5/9 and Nathaniel Lutton scored 4.
The under-10s broke with tradition in that it was divided into Major and Minor sections. Last year, about 140 competitors slugged it out over 7 rounds, but at the end of it all there was an inconclusive 7-way tie for first place on 6/7. The suggestion was made, allegedly by John Payne and Alan Trent, both of them fathers of strong chess players, that the event should be divided into two sections. The organisers listened and so it was that the Under 10 Major required competitors to score 4.5/6 to qualify, whereas 3.5 would be sufficient to qualify for the Minor. By one simple change, the top section was strengthened and chess was made available to more players as a result. The first day saw some excellent performances by Essex competitors. Edward Morris took pride of place here as in consecutive rounds he defeated Matthew Moore (Kent), who in May took first place in the Mini-squad Championships, and Jonathan Zoubaida (Richmond) who was probably pre-tournament favourite in this event. Others scoring well were Josiah Lutton, Stewart Trent, Daniel Hedges and Alan Hawrami. Indeed, such was the nature of the score group that Josiah was obliged to play Stewart in round 4 and Edward in round 5. It is normal practice for the organisers to try to keep apart players from the same county, but there were so many Essex players amongst the leading group that this proved impossible. Both these games resulted in draws, although Edward was perhaps a little fortunate against Josiah. Sadly for Edward, he ran out of steam and lost his last two rounds, although Josiah kept going to the end.
The top game in the final round was between Josiah and Lee Gold (London). This was a very tight affair which Josiah needed to win as he was on 5/6 and Lee was on 5.5. The two have played several times before, the most recent being in the English under-11 Championships in October, when Lee suddenly turned a reasonable position into a complete loss with a couple of injudicious moves and Josiah is far too good a player to let such an opportunity slip. On this occasion, Lee sensibly played for safety at every opportunity. When an ending was reached with a rook each and opposite coloured bishops, the players could well have shaken hands and agreed a draw. That, however, would have given Lee the title on a plate so Josiah played on, pushing his passed h-pawn towards the queening square. When Lee won a pawn on the other side of the board, the draw was still available to Josiah, who could have forced the exchange of rooks and double white's pawns. Josiah carried on, but a poor position declined into the desperate, and Lee eventually won to become London under-10 Champion with 6.5/7. Amir Habibi (Kent) was second on 6, and Daniel Hedges, Josiah Lutton and Stewart Trent each finished on 5.
A little bit of history was made in the under 14 Championship, as Thomas Rendle became the second Sussex player of the weekend to win a section, although like David Howell he has no known London connections. More importantly, he is the first player since Nigel Short to win the London under-14 while still an under-11. Thomas struggled to begin with, as he failed to find a winning plan against Lydia Goodwin (Bucks) even though he was a piece up, and drew. He finished on 5, ahead of Lorin d'Costa (Herts) and Thirumurugan Thiuchelvam (London), who drew their final round. Had either of these two succeeded in winning, then he would have been placed aheadof Thomas on tie-break.
White - Oliver Cooley Black - Thomas Rendle London u14 1997 1. e4 e6 2. d4 d5 3. e5 c5 4. c3 Nc6 5. Nf3 Qb6 6. Be2 cxd4 7. cxd4 Nge7 8. Na3 Nf5 9. Nc2 Bd7 10. O-O Rc8 11. b3 Nb4 12. Nxb4 Bxb4 13. Bb2 Bb5 14. Bd3 Qa6 15. Ne1 O-O 16. Bxb5 Qxb5 17. g4 Ne7 18. Nd3 Bc3 19. a4 Qb6 20. Bxc3 Rxc3 21. Nc5 Qb4 22. Rb1 Nc6 23. Kh1 b6 24. Na6 Qxd4 25. Nc7 Qxd1 26. Rfxd1 Nxe5 27. Nb5 Rc2 28. Kg1 Nxg4 29. Rf1 a6 30. Nd4 Rc7 31. h3 Nf6 32. Rfe1 Rfc8 33. Kg2 Nh5 34. Re5 Nf4+ 35. Kg3 Nd3 36. Re3 Nb4 37. Re2 Rc1 38. Rbb2 R1c3+ 39. Kg2 Nd3 40. Kh2 Nxb2 41. Rxb2 Kf8 42. Kg2 g6 43. Kf1 e5 44. Ne2 R3c7 45. Rb1 d4 46. Ke1 d3 47. Ng3 0-1
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