One of the objectives of the under-21 section is to establish English juniors on the World Ranking List, and the event is FIDE rated. As with the Southend Congress the previous weekend, the necessary qualification for a FIDE part-rating is to play a minimum of four rated players in the six rounds and to score at least 1.5 points against them. Where it is possible to do so without disturbing the normal rules of Swiss pairing too much, the controllers massage the pairings to maximise the number of unrated players who achieve this. About 75% of the participants in this section already have ratings, a somewhat larger percentage than in Southend, so generally there are several players who benefit from this process.
Although there were no Essex participants in this event, it was of considerable interest and closely fought. Richard Bates, although only 19 years old, is already an IM and was favourite, but he lost his round 4 game to an outsider and his Surrey colleague Simon Williams then took full advantage, becoming the only player to reach 4 / 4.
There were three Essex players in the under-14 section, all in the younger half and near the bottom of the draw. This event has the potential to be a real ordeal for the younger half, as the under-14s and under-16s play as one group, and although Caius Turner drew his first game, both Graham Walker and John Sneesby were on the receiving end. John made amends in round 2 with a forceful win, and Graham seemed set to emulate him. However, having done all the hard work in dragging White's king from safety, he failed to find the killer move. Graham's attack had been launched after a pawn sacrifice, so once the queens were exchanged, he was at a distinct disadvantage in the rook and pawn ending which followed. All three were on 2 points from 4 rounds, but then John scored a very good draw against Peter Titmas.
Essex participants in the under-12 fared rather better. This tournament included almost all of the best players in the country and very few who were significantly weaker. The closeness of the contests was demonstrated by the fact that after 2 rounds only 9 out of the 91 participants were on 100%, many of the games being draws. It just happened that four of the nine were Essex players as both Ezra and Josiah Lutton, Lawrence Trent and Bobby Payne won both of their first two rounds convincingly enough. The organisers therefore found it difficult to separate the Essex players and Bobby Payne once again played Josiah Lutton, a seemingly inevitable occurrence in an important National event.
Nine players on 100% after 2 rounds became only three after three rounds, and success for both Lawrence Trent and Ezra Lutton meant that they played one another in round 4. This game went with the form book as Lawrence's Italian Opening firstly stranded Ezra's knight on the edge of the board and then allowed Lawrence to give up his queen for both rooks, winning a piece into the bargain. Worse still, both of white's rooks were now firmly entrenched on the 7th rank, and Ezra's attempt at a frontal attack against Lawrence's castled king was never more than a gesture. Black's forces could only watch helpless as the white rooks and bishop murdered their undefended monarch.
Lawrence now played Rafe Martin, the strongest English junior player resident in Belgium. These two are very well matched and have a great respect for each other's play. Lawrence beat Rafe in the London under-12, Rafe returned the complement in the South of England Championships. This time, the game was drawn, both players deciding that the opponent stood better.
Round 6 effectively decided the tournament as Rafe slipped up and lost to Krunal Kahar (Gloucestershire). Lawrence completed a fine win against Jonathan Fish (Manchester) in round 6 before demolishing Krunal in round 7 to take the title outright, possibly the best result of Lawrence's career to date. Bobby Payne was the next best Essex competitor, scoring 5, and then there was a bunch on 4, creditable scores by all in one of the toughest age-related tournaments of the year.
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