In an excursion almost reminiscent of the mammoth matches of half a century ago, three Essex teams took to the road and headed for the same venue, The Goslings Sports & Conference Centre, Welwyn Garden City. The under-150 team was already scheduled to play against Hertfordshire on the Saturday concerned, but the under-125 and under-100 Captains took advantage of the opportunity to play matches postponed from earlier in the season.

What was not reminiscent of a bygone era was the enormous build up of traffic as a result of an accident on the M25, and many players, your correspondent included, arrived more than 30 minutes after the proposed starting time. The rate of play is a fairly leisurely 35 moves in 105 minutes, so even after the delay there was still a fair chance of reaching the time control and still play sensible chess.

The under-150 team had its work cut out, as not only were several of the players delayed, but a powerful Hertfordshire side seemed to mean business. Essex were marginally outgraded and, although the first result was John White's comfortable draw with black, Hertfordshire took the lead as Christopher Lovisa, a pupil at Bishops Stortford High, made short work of Mark Murrell's attempt to muddy the waters. Jason Roberts dropped a piece early and never recovered. Tony Drake was on the receiving end, attempting usuccessfully to stave off defeat while a pawn down in an ending, and Arnold Lutton, making a rare appearance for Essex, was obliged to play Lorin d'Costa, one of Britain's strongest 13-year-olds and currently London under16 Champion. Although Arnold's was the last game to finish, this loss meant that the top half of the team was three points adrift of the Hertfordshire total on those boards.

Lower down, David Rawlings followed his excellent performance against Kent with another quick win, and both Barry Shepard and Dave Cannan picked up the points on the bottom two boards. My own game had presented me with few problems until a glance at the clock indicated that I had to make ten moves in 2 minutes. In the resulting melee I just made it to the time control, missing mate in 3 on the way, but by this time both kings were exposed and subject to mating threats. While I was contemplating my 36th move, now able to take my time with the 30 extra minutes being added, my opponent kindly resigned. He had seen that I had mate in 2: I was still ruing the missed opportunities earlier and certainly had not yet adjusted to the changed position on the board. The match was eventually sealed in Essex's favour when Ian MacLachlan, who had had the better position througout, mated his opponent. The final score was 8.5 - 7.5.

The under-125 team found life no easier than the under-150s had done. The early results were generally in Hertfordshire's favour, but Essex had the better of the higher boards. Lawrence Trent, in spite of being one of the last to arrive, was one of the first Essex players to win. Lawrence's current results indicate that next season he will be much too highly graded for under-125 eligibility. The question remains whether he will be too highly graded for the under-150s.

Ellen Walker played weakly in the opening and lost two pawns, but the queens and rooks were still on. She gradually clawed her way back into contention and once one of her rooks had taken up residence on the seventh rank the Hertfordshire player was simply unably to deal with the multiple threats and lost much material.

The score in this match reached 8 - 7 in Essex's favour, and a draw was required from board 1. Michael Bradford had a completely level rook and pawn ending and the draw was agreed after the exchange of rooks.

The under-100s started well with a quick win from Jonathan Livesley. John Marsh again won well, and Robert Parish also took advantage. Further wins from Katie Bates and Michael Bridger, who now has 3 wins from 3 games, and draws from John Sneesby and Josiah Lutton left Essex 6 - 5 ahead with only Matthew Cain's game to be completed. Matthew had a difficult position in which he had bishop, knight and five pawns against rook and seven. His opponent tried desperately to make progress but found this impossible. Finally, out of sheer frustration and with Matthew down to less than five minutes for all remaining moves, the Hertfordshire player sacrificed his rook for the knight. Because black had three pawns against one on the king-side as well as his king being in attendance, it was not long before Matthew was obliged to give up his bishop to prevent a queen appearing. Meanwhile, Matthew's king mopped up the remaing queen-side pawns and the race was on. Black's final pawn reached the queening square and white's followed immediately. After a few checks, the players agreed a draw and Essex had won this match as well. Quite remarkably, all three victories had been by a single point.

Walker,E - Barnes,M

Herts v Essex u125

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 e6 5.Nc3 Bc5 6.Be3 Qb6 7.Nb3 Bxe3 8.fxe3 Qxe3+ 9.Qe2 Qf4 10.g3 Qe5 11.Bg2 Nf6 12.0-0 0-0 13.Rad1 b6 14.Kh1 Nb4 15.Qd2 Bb7 16.Qe3 Nxc2 17.Qf2 Nb4 18.a3 Nc6 19.Nd2 Ng4 20.Qe2 Qh5 21.Bf3 Nce5 22.Nb5 Nxf3 23.Nxf3 Ne5 24.Nc3 Rfd8 25.Qb5 d5 26.Nxe5 Qxe5 27.exd5 exd5 28.Rde1 Qg5 29.Qb3 d4+ 30.Kg1 Qg6 31.Re7 dxc3 32.Rxb7 c2 33.Rbxf7 h6 34.R7f6+ Kh7 35.Rxg6 c1Q 36.Rxg7+ 1-0

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