The fixtures for the County Chess teams have recently been published, by the new Southern Counties' Chess Union Match Controller, David Smith. David, who is also Essex Chess Association Treasurer, has relinquished the job he has done for several years now, as Match Captain tothe Essex under-150 team.

Date

Open

U175

U150

U125

U100

10/10/98

Surrey (a)

17/10/98

Surrey (a)

Middx (a)

31/10/98

Sussex (a)

Sussex (a)

7/11/98

Sussex (h)

Sussex (a)

14/11/98

Kent (h)

28/11/98

Bucks (h)

Herts (h)

Herts (a)

5/12/98

Middx (h)

Herts (h)

9/1/99

Surrey (h)

Surrey (h)

16/1/99

Berks (a)

23/1/99

Sussex (a)

30/1/99

Cambs (h)

Oxon(a)

13/2/99

Oxon (a)

Kent (h)

20/2/99

Middx (a)

Kent (a)

27/2/99

Herts (h)

Surrey (a)

13/3/99

Kent (a)

Middx (a)

Surrey (h)

Middx (a)

There are fewer under-175 teams competing that last year, Kent no longer participating. Normally a well-organised county, their under-175 team has suffered considerably in the past season or two, a victim of the increasing support given to the Four Nations Chess League by Invicta Knights, which is effectively the Kent County team. There could, of course be a new factor creeping into this competition: defeatism. Such has been the domination by Essex of this competition during the past two seasons, winning almost every match by large margins, that John Philpott's team casts a cold fear into the hearts of the opposition...

All of the Southern Counties with the exception of Middlesex have entered the Open section. Given the great strength of chess within the Capital, it is something of a disappointment that the metropolitan county is unable to field a team. Not too many years ago it was not unknown for Middlesex to field half a dozen master players in their team.

Ian Hunnable has produced player table for the entire county's team performances during the past season. One hundred and twelve players represented Essex during 1997-98, playing a total of 551 games of chess and scoring no fewer than 313.5 points. The two most prolific scorers for the County were Ivor Smith, who was unbeaten on 9/10, and Bill Saunders, who turned round some very dodgy positions to reach a very creditable 9/15. Michael Bridger, aged only 12, scored 7/7 for the under-100 team. Ian Hunnable was himself unbeaten on 6/8. Ian MacLachlan managed 100% for the under-150s and Julian Winkworth scored 4/4 for the under-100s. Ellen Walker scored 3/3 for the under-125 team.

Next season may well bring further success for John Philpott's under-175 team. Most of the players who represented Essex at under-175 level last year are still under 175 in grade. This is in contrast to the under-100 team. Both these teams won their respective national titles, but more than half the regulars in the u100 team have new grades well above 100. This gives the new captain, Tony O'Toole, something of a problem as last year's under-100 team was built around eight juniors who were undergraded, and a number of adults in the high 90s. There is quite simply a lack of players in the right category, and not many players who played county chess for the under-125 team last year are now below 100.

The Open team will also have its problems. Last season John Cook found that he regularly had to pick players below 175 in grade, and from the list of players who represented Essex last year, there are not 16 individuals higher graded than 175. Some of those whe were higher graded have dropped below the 175 threshold, and there are a few who. although still above 175, did not play very often.

The following game is Colin Ramage's final Grob of the season, played against Yorkshire in the u175 final. Colin represented Essex 11 times during the season, and has been one of the regulars in County Chess for the past 30 years or so.

Ramage,C - Dossett,C [A00]

1.g4 d5 2.Bg2 c6 3.c4 dxc4 4.b3 Bxg4 5.bxc4 Nf6 6.Nc3 e6 7.Rb1 Qc8 8.Qb3 b6 9.Ba3 Kd7 10.Nf3 Bxf3 11.Bxf3 Na6 12.d4 Rb8 13.Rg1 g6 14.Bxf8 Rxf8 15.Qa4 Rd8 16.Rd1 b5 17.cxb5 cxb5 18.Nxb5 Ke7 19.Qa3+ Kd7 20.Nxa7 Qc4 21.Nc6 Nb4 22.Qa7+ Kc8 23.Ne7# 1-0

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