The Essex Chess Association Annual Congress, which took place for the third consecutive year at Woodlands School in Basildon, represented another financial loss for the Association. A meagre total of 97 competitors participated when at least 120 were needed for the congress to break even. It is not surprising that a number of players, especially strong players, are absent, as there was a full weekend of activity in the Four Nations Chess League and, as reported in last week's Recorder, a fair number of Essex players were involved in the Capelle la Grande journey with the King's Head Club. Of course, increased numbers of chess events are all very laudable, but it seems to be the case that there are simply not enough chess players available to support them all.

The Open Championship in Basildon was contested by 21 players, although withdrawals reduced this to 18 by the start of the last round. The only "upset" was Lawrence Trent's win over Tim Spanton, in which Lawrence was outgraded by some 49 points. However, recent form suggests that Lawrence is probably playing around the 180 mark anyway. Lawrence has recently been selected to represent England in the European under-12 Championships which take place in Austria next month, and another competitor in the Basildon event, Thomas Rendle, has been selected for the World Championships in Barcelona in the Autumn, so it was especially interesting to compare their results. There was no doubt that Lawrence had the better tournament as, although the two of them finished on 2.5/6, Thomas lost his first two games and was then given a 1-point bye. Lawrence lost rounds 2 and 3, his third round opponent being a child prodigy from the 1960s, one Francis Rayner, whose piano playing was so outstanding as a 9-year-old that the BBC made a documentary about him. Francis is still a concert pianist by profession, but plays chess for Wales in his spare time.

Only three players won their first two games. They were Carsten Hansen, a danish player currently resident in Colchester, Nick Thomas (Leytonstone) and Donald Mason (Solihull). Since both Nick and Donald elected to take half-point byes in round 3, Carsten took advantage of their absence to become the only player to reach 3/3, by winning his game against Bertrand Barlow (Cavendish). On Donald Mason's return for round 4, he found himself facing the Dane and succeeded in holding the draw. Paul Georghiou (Barnet) then joined Carsten on 3.5 / 4 by beating John Guilfoyle (Islington). They both reached 4.5, Carsten beating Nick Thomas and Paul beating Donald Mason, before agreeing a final round draw which enabled them to share the prize money.

The under-160 competition was won by Vladimir Kapanadze (Wood Green). Whereas it is quite common for juniors like Lawrence Trent to play chess of a quality far higher than their grades would imply is likely, this phenomenon is rare in adults. Vladimir has demonstrated in several tournaments that his grade of 128 is very much lower than his true ability, and his 5.5/6 was actually a grading performance of about 170. Ralph Newton (Rayleigh) was second alongside Ilya Shevelev (Middlesex) and Thirumurugan Thiruchelvam (Richmond), Britain's strongest 9-year-old and England's representative in the under-10 section of the European Championships.

Julian Winkworth (Wanstead) played especially well to share the under-120 title. Julian, another 12-year-old, has been playing at this level a relatively short period of time but has turned in some fine performances in recent months. The two others to score 5/6 were Laurence Cornhill (York) and Andrew Talbot (Rugby).

The next event to take place in Essex will be the Writtle Congress, organised by Ivor Smith. This will take place at the Longmeads Community Centre, Writtle during the weekend of July 18th - 19th. This 5 round tournament, in which the prize fund is not massive and the entry fee is commensurately low, consists of just one section and normally attracts about 30 competitors. It is always a very agreeable tournament in which to participate, representing an end-of-season get-together for the County's players in a pleasant setting. There is the added attraction in that the two County Champions' Cups (Open and under-150) are awarded to the highest scoring eligible Essex players. Readers wishing to take part in this event should contact Ivor Smith on 01245 421193.

The weekend after the Writtle event, the British Championships take place at the Riviera Centre, Torquay. Once again, the Championships are sponsored by Smith and Williamson and the first prize in the British Championship of £10,000 will ensure that many of Britain's top Grandmasters will participate. As well as the British Championship, there are many other events, mainly either age or grade related. Entry fees are always high for British Championship events, simpy because hotel bills for the large team of organises need to be paid, but in order to avoid surcharges for late entry these must be postmarked no later than 27th June. Entries will only be accepted if submitted on the official form. For a supply of these contact the BCF Office on 01424 442500.

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Hansen,C - Barlow,B [D25]

Essex CC, Basildon 1998

1.d4 d5 2.c4 dxc4 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bg4 5.Bxc4 e6 6.Nc3 Nbd7 7.Qe2 c5 8.h3 Bh5 9.0-0 a6 10.a4 Be7 11.a5 0-0 12.g4 Bg6 13.d5 e5 14.e4 Ne8 15.Be3 Nd6 16.Bd3 Rc8 17.b3 h5 18.Nd2 hxg4 19.hxg4 Bg5 20.Nc4 Nxc4 21.bxc4 Bxe3 22.Qxe3 Nf6 23.Be2 Ne8 24.Kg2 f6 25.Rfb1 Nd6 26.Rb6 Be8 27.Rh1 Qe7 28.Qh3 Bg6 29.f3 Rb8 30.Kf2 Kf7 31.Nd1 Qc7 32.Ne3 Nc8 33.g5 Re8 34.Re6 Nd6 35.Nf5 Bxf5 36.exf5 fxg5 37.Qh5+ Kg8 38.f6 1-0

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