For the second consecutive year, lack of a suitable venue forced what used to be the Braintree Junior Congress to move to Colchester, thereby allowing Britain's Oldest Town the luxury of two junior chess congresses within a few months of each other. Although entries were slow to materialise in the first instance, eventually more than 100 people sat down to play.

There were four sections, all of which were sufficiently well supported to allow them to go ahead without amalgamation. Roger Sharman, the Tournament Organiser, has stopped organising sections exclusively for under-18s, preferring to run an Open section. Nineteen competitors participated in this and Gary Kenworthy (Powdermill) scored 5.5/6 to take first place. Gary could hardly have had tougher opposition. The lowest total amassed by any of his opponents was Steve Williams' 3/6, and Gary also played Russell White (Chelmsford), who completed the tournament on 5, losing only to Gary, and the third-placed pair Jim Howson (Dartford) and Jason Dilley (Grantham) on 4 points. Although Jason has a grade of 196, he found himself on the receiving end in the first round as Colchester's Stephen Payne (grade estimated at 145) performed a giant-killing act. Stephen's reward for this was a game against Jim Howson. Gary drew against Jason in the final round. The best score by a junior in this section was 3.5 by Chris Bates, one of only four juniors to participate in the top section, thereby thoroughly justifying the policy of opening the event to adults.

An innovation for this year was another section open to adults, an under-125 graded section. Some 34 players participated in this, making it the largest section. About 20 of these were juniors, and most of them of the secondary age range, providing encouraging signs of a maintenance in interest in chess in age groups noted for turning to other activities. Michael Bridger (Customs & Southend High School) scored 5.5/6 to win this section, on his way taking a number of scalps which have previously eluded him. He began with a fairly comfortable win against Catherine Taylor (Saffron Walden) and in round 2 beat Byron Alexandrou (Waltham Abbey), the father of one of the more promising Essex juniors. A third round win against Aubrey Purser (Colchester) was followed by another against Colchester's Katie Bates, who had succeeded in round 2 in beating Bobby Payne (Ilford), one of the strongest players in this section. In round 5, Michael was held to a draw by John Sneesby (Basildon) before completing the tournament with another victory, this time at the expense of Josiah Lutton (Basildon).

Bobby Payne finished the tournament in second place without having to play Michael: at the start of the final round, Michael was sharing the lead with John Sneesby and no doubt Michael was very grateful to Bobby for inflicting defeat on John. Alongside John in third place were John Lambert (Clacton) and Peter Sonnenberg (Sudbury).

There were two sections reserved for juniors. Twenty-eight competitors participated in the under-11, and this was a welcome return to tournament chess for Matthew and Nicholas Jellett (Customs & Temple Sutton Primary School). Matthew showed that he has not suffered too badly from his absence, as he shared first place with Edward Morris (Westcliff & Earls Hall Primary) on 5/6. Edward has been playing especially well in recent months.

Edward was first to drop half a point as he was held by James Heppell (Norfolk) in round 3. Matthew was lucky to scrape a draw in round 4 against the much improved Andew Murphy (Stock). Andrew was only three or four moves away from mating Matthew's lone king when Andrew's flag fell. Matthew then beat James Heppell and of course the final round between Edward and Matthew was agreed drawn. Third place was shared by Antony O'Toole (Customs & Prince Avenue School), James Heppell and Henry Duncanson (Norfolk) on 4.5. Leah Oaker (Basildon) showed signs of strong improvement with an impressive 4/6.

Lee Wicks (Old Heath School & Colchester) scored 5.5 in the under-9 to win outright and justify his position as the top seed. His first round win against Matthew Collins (St. Albans School, Harlow) was followed by another against Laurence Turner (Prince Avenue School, Southend). Joseph Coultas (Colchester) would have been somewhat tougher and round 4 decided first and second places as Lee beat Peter Poobalasingham (Barnet). Lee was held to a draw by David Smith (R.A. Butler School, Saffron Walden), the second time in a month that these two have met: the previous encounter in Ipswich on 18th January resulted in a win for David. In the final round Lee's opponent was Andrew Alexandrou (Waltham Abbey). Peter Poobalasingham finished on 5 and there was a multiple tie for third place on 4 points.


While the Colchester event was in full swing, four Essex players participated in the British Women's Chess Association Championship in Solihull. While it has to be a laudable aim to encourage more women and girls to play chess, the fact that fewer than 70 competitors were prepared to participate in what should be a prestigious National Championship causes one to wonder about the value of the tournament, particularly amongst the older girls. Only one player entered the under-21 section, which therefore did not take place, and the under-16, under-14 and under-12 were all combined to make a viable tournament. The 10s and 11s were combined, as were the 8s and 9s.

The one shining success for Essex was Heather Walker's 6.5/7 in the under-11 section. There were no notable absentees from this section and Heather's fourth round win over tournament favourite Jessie Gilbert effectively decided the Championship. Heather was rather fortunate in round 6 that Elizabeth Roberts settled for a perpetual check when a mate was there for the taking had she introduced her rook to the attack, but then she made no mistake against second seed Suzie Blackburn (Stoke on Trent). Jessie Gilbert demonstrated some very good endgame technique in several of her games to take second place on 6.

Francesca Berlin (Ilford) was rather unlucky in the under-10 section: she was one of the leading group in the final round and had won a pawn against Danielle Gross (London) when something went badly wrong and Danielle won. The two other Essex competitors were Annebel Flint, who took part in the under-10, and her sister Abigail, who played in the under-8.

Walker,H - Gilbert,J [C01]


1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.exd5 exd5 4.c4 dxc4 5.Bxc4 c5 6.Nf3 Nf6 7.0-0 Be7 8.dxc5 Qxd1 9.Rxd1 Bxc5 10.Bg5 Be7 11.Re1 Nbd7 12.Nc3 a6 13.Nd5 Nxd5 14.Bxd5 f6 15.Bf4 Nb6 16.Bb3 Bg4 17.Bd6 Nc8 18.Bxe7 Nxe7 19.Bd5 Rb8 20.Rac1 Kf8 21.Bb3 Bxf3 22.gxf3 Rc8 23.Be6 Rc6 24.Rcd1 g6 25.Rd8+ Kg7 26.Rd7 Kf8 27.Rxb7 h6 28.Rb8+ [28.Bd7] 28...Kg7 29.Rxh8 Kxh8 30.Bd7 Rc2 31.Rxe7 Rxb2 32.a4 Rb7 33.Kg2 Kg8 34.Be6+ Kf8 35.Rxb7 f5 36.Bxf5 gxf5 37.Kh3 Ke8 38.Kh4 Kd8 39.Kh5 Kc8 40.Rh7 Kd8 41.Kg6 Kc8 42.Kf6 Kb8 43.Ke6 Kc8 44.Kd6 Kb8 45.Kc6 Ka8 46.Kb6 Kb8 47.Rh8# 1-0