The Southern Counties' Chess Union team championships are now complete, and three teams representing Essex in the various competitions have qualified for the National Knockout stage of the Inter-County Championships. The Essex team in the Open Championship was not so successful as last year, when Essex were SCCU Champions and losing finalists in the National. Last year's National Champions, Kent, were SCCU Champions in 1998, scoring 6 wins and two tied matches. Kent were actually rather fortunate as both Sussex and Cambridgeshire drew with Kent in their respective matches, but Cambridgeshre lost to Sussex and Sussex lost to Essex. In spite of their losses, the joint runners-up, both of whom deservedly progress to the National stages, actually had considerably better game points scores than did Kent. Essex were placed 5th, with exactly the same game points and match points as Herts., but, since Herts were victorious in the match between the two sides, Herts. took 4th place.
Only four counties entered the U175 competition and because of this the counties played one another twice, home and away. This was a most emphatic win for Essex as John Philpott's team won all their matches and by wide margins: the closest call was a 10-6 victory against Kent. This augurs well for the National stages. Essex, who are reigning SCCU and National Champions at this level, are tied to play against the runner-up from the Northern Counties. The under-150 team, led by David Smith, again had a successful season, taking the runner-up spot to Kent in the SCCU Championship, having drawn with them in the individual match between the two sides. Essex were also held to a draw by Surrey, whereas Kent won all their remaining matches.
The under-125 team improved its position greatly on last season, when it lost all its matches. This year, they scored 2.5 match points out of a possible 5 and 40 game points out of a possible 80, which implies an average sort of season. Their victories were against Sussex and Herts and the heaviest loss, against Surrey, occurred when Richard Joyce was unable to pick his favoured team because many of his junior players were tied up with the National under-14 Championships. In fact, there were three very tight matches. 8 - 8 v Kent was the closest, but Essex can be particularly pleased with their achievements in the away matches against Herts and Oxon. Essex won the former 8.5 - 7.5, the latter was lost by the same score, but each was very badly affected by adverse traffic conditions and many Essex players arrived late.
The under-100 side fought a very tight campaign, finishing level with Surrey on match points. Apart from the home match against Herts., the result of every match Essex played was in doubt up to end of the last game. Narrow away losses against Surrey and Middlesex involved Essex going behind on the early results declared and then clawing their way back into the match. Against Herts, the away match was played the same day as the u125 encounter, and exactly the same traffic problems delayed our players. The home match against Surrey was an excellently close-fought affair which set up a great occasion for our home match against Middlesex, upon which the outcome of this division depended. Surrey had already qualified for the National stages before their loss to Essex, but a win against Middlesex would make Essex champions; a draw against Middlesex would make Surrey champions but Essex would take the second qualifying place for the National stages; and a win for Middlesex would give them the runners-up spot. This was all turned on its head when the Middlesex side, unable to find 12 players willing to make the journey to Southend, defaulted the match. Essex were now level with Surrey on 4 match points. Tie breaks now had to be applied to separate the two sides, the first of which was the results of the matches between the leading sides. Since the home side had won 6.5 - 5.5 in each case, this did not help. Game points are used as the second tie break, but the Middlesex result is not considered to be 12 - 0 to Essex. This match is discounted as are half of Surrey's points in their two matches against Middlesex. Since both these matches were 8 - 4 to the home side, Surrey were effectively docked 6 game points which left them on 32.5 to Essex's 32. Surrey were therefore awarded the title and the Harry Woolverton Trophy. An appeal against this decision has been lodged on the grounds that Essex needed only to win 6.5 - 5.5 against Middlesex to take the title and, had just one Middlesex player arrived, then the match score would have stood. In any case Essex had won both its home matches whereas Middlessex's away record was poor, and the other tie-break available is board count between Essex and Surrey, which Essex would have won by a large margin.
The following game was voted Best Game of Year for the Ilford Chess Club. Furmston,M - Green,G [C05] British Correspondence Chess Society v Ilford Club French Defence 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 3.Nd2 Nf6 4.e5 Nfd7 5.f4 c5 6.c3 Nc6 7.Ndf3 Qb6 8.g3 f6 9.Bh3 cxd4 10.cxd4 Bb4+ 11.Kf1 fxe5 12.fxe5 0-0 13.Bxe6+ Kh8 14.Kg2 Ndxe5 15.Nxe5 Nxe5 16.Bxc8 Raxc8 17.Nh3 Qg6 18.Nf4 Rc2+ 19.Kh3 Rxf4 20.Bxf4 Qf5+ 21.g4 Qxf4 22.Qg1 Nf3 0-1