The Essex Junior Championships took place at what has become their traditional venue of Temple Sutton Promary School, Southend. Some 64 competitors took part in what also served as a final trial for the Essex under-18, under-9 and under 11 teams, which all participate in their respective inter-county competitions over the next three weekends.

As is normal, the under-18, 16 and 14 sections were held as one tournament and the three trophies were allocated according to the intention declared on the entry form. In fact, nobody chose to enter the under-16 section but, since all four entrants to the under-18 section were also under 16, it was declared that the winner would take the under-18 title and trophy and the second-placed competitor from those four would take the under-16 title and trophy. The 10 remaining players competed for the under-14 trophy.

The tournament was held as a seeded Swiss, so in the first round the top half played the bottom half. There was only one casualty from the top half of the draw as Julian Winkworth (Wanstead) was beaten by Heather Walker after an accurately-played king and pawn ending. During the second round Heather again demonstrated good play as she took Iain Gunn (Maldon) to a level ending: last year she played Iain in round 2 and should have won - on that occasion Iain went on to win the under-18 title for the second consecutive year. In the 1998 encounter, Iain ran very short of time and Heather, quite unnecesarily, also began to move quickly. The problem with a time scramble is that it is very difficult to stop, and even after Iain made the first time control and the clocks were turned back 15 minutes, still the frenetic play continued. Indeed, at one point Iain made a king move which allowed instant mate and within seconds Heather had responded, not even noticing the forlorn sigh emanating from her opponent as his fate hung in the balance. That was her last chance, however, and still moving at breakneck speed, eventually Iain queened his pawn and the game was over.

Meanwhile, Lawrence Trent had had a lucky escape against John Sneesby. Lawrence had launched a blistering attack but clearly underestimated John's defensive resources as John emerged with an extra piece. Somewhere along the line John must have miscalculated, however, and Lawrence attacked John's knight with his king. This forced the win of black's last queen-side pawn after which John was obliged to give up his knight for the white pawn. With three pawns each on the king-side, a draw was agreed as Lawrence just had the defensive resources to keep black's king out.

Iain Gunn played another error-prone game in round 3, this time against Ezra Lutton. Initially Ezra had the opportunity to win a couple of pawns with a temporary piece sacrifice, but twice this opportunity went begging. A little later it was Iain's turn to miss a chance. He could have played his queen to the h6 square, threatening a mate on h2. All Ezra's pieces were absent from the king-side so he would have been forced to make a weakening pawn move after which Iain's queen and bishop would have wreaked carnage on the dark squares. After this opportunity had gone, however, Iain played some very good chess as a rook and pawn ending was reached in which Iain won a pawn and advanced his king well into white's half of the board. However, when it seemed inevitable that Iain would win, he captured a second pawn. This undid all the good work he had achieved over the previous dozen or so moves as at a stroke Ezra's king and rook were released from a very cramped position. Ezra won one of the pawns back and Iain then exchanged rooks to reach a king and pawn ending a pawn up. Now, however, Ezra's king was closer to the remaining pawns and had he noticed the opportunity he could probably have won. Ezra's problem was that he really needed a few minutes in order to readjust his thinking. Only a few seconds previously his position was hopeless and now he was winning but he simply didn't know it and with each player down to the last minute or two there was not the time for cool reflection. Finally each player queened his last pawn and after a series of checks the queens were exchanged and a draw forced. Ezra had 10 seconds left, Iain about 30.

On the second day, Lawrence began with a complete demolition of Ezra Lutton in just 16 moves. Iain Gunn played out a protracted draw against John Sneesby. It was felt that John was winning this game, but it frequently seemed to be the case in this tournament that John would establish an advantage and then make a slight error and let it slip. In other games he recovered from real trouble and proved to be very hard to beat but if he had succeeded in "putting away" those opponents against whom he had had an advantage, then he would surely have won the event. Meanwhile, Julian Winkworth had recovered from a poor start to turn the tables on Graham Walker. Graham had won a pawn but then a blunder cost Graham the exchange and Julian demonstrated some great fighting qualities.

In the following round, Julian played Josiah Lutton and again demonstrated a great feat of escapology as Josiah planted a knight right in the middle of Julian's king-side. It will remain one of the great mysteries of chess that this game was not wrapped up by move 20, but Julian wriggled and succeeded in reaching the seventh rank with one of his pawns. Even after Josiah won queen for rook in the ending which followed, still Julian would not lie down and eventually a blunder by Josiah allowed the pawn to queen and that was that. Lawrence Trent, meanwhile, had beaten Michael Bridger who, after a first round loss to Bobby Payne had been quietly accumulating points. Heather Walker had had an emphatic morning win against Edward Morris and now had to play Stewart Trent. At last Stewart achieved his first ever victory over Heather in about 6 meetings, but this took a great deal more effort than at first seemed likely. Heather has been white every time the two have met and once again they explored the Sicilian Dragon and Yugoslav Attack. Stewart won two pawns but then Heather recaptured one offering a knight which Stewart did not dare capture. Instead, because of multiple threats to his king and queen he had to go on a checking spree. Heather could probably have drawn by repetition here, but instead decided to capture as many pawns with her fleeing monarch as she possibly could. This was an error as it simply opened lines for Stewart's pieces and Heather was eventually mated.

The final round at last saw the long awaited encounter between Lawrence Trent and Iain Gunn and Lawrence, playing white, enjoyed a very vigorous win. Lawrence offered two or three draws, even after winning a piece, but Iain declined them and even won the piece back. Once more time trouble played its part and Iain, just as he had in round 2, left a mate in 1 on. Lawrence, more observant than Heather Walker had been, duly delivered the mate and took the under-18 title. Ezra had beaten Julian Winkworth to share second place and the under-16 title with Iain, and Michael Bridger achieved what no-one else had managed when he beat John Sneesby. Michael also finished on 4 points to share second place and take the under-14 title.

The under-9 competition was won by Abigail Flint (Galleywood) ahead of Joe Martin and David Smith (both Saffrom Walden) and Nicholas Jellett (Southend) won the under-11 ahead of his twin brother Matthew.

Trent,L - Gunn,I [B12]

1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.e5 Bf5 4.Nc3 e6 5.g4 Bg6 6.Nge2 Nd7 7.h4 h6 8.Be3 Qb6 9.Qd2 c5 10.0-0-0 cxd4 11.Bxd4 Bc5 12.f4 a6 13.Bh3 Ne7 14.Rhf1 Bxd4 15.Nxd4 0-0 16.f5 Nxe5 17.Na4 Qc7 18.fxg6 N7xg6 19.h5 Ne7 20.Qc3 N7c6 21.Nxc6 Nxc6 22.Rg1 Qf4+ 23.Kb1 Qxa4 24.g5 hxg5 25.Rxg5 f6 26.Bxe6+ Kh8 27.Rxg7 Qf4 28.Qd3 f5 29.Qg3 Qxg3 30.Rxg3 Rad8 31.Rdg1 Nd4 32.Rg6 Nxe6 33.Rh6# 1-0