Essex League Division 1 1997 - 98

P W D L Pts

Writtle

10

9

0

1

18

Ilford

10

8

1

1

17

Wanstead

10

8

0

2

16

Powdermill

10

4

2

4

10

Newham

10

4

2

4

10

Edmonton

10

5

0

5

10

Southend

9

4

0

5

8

Brentwood

9

3

0

6

6

Upminster

10

3

0

7

6

Eastbrook

10

2

1

7

5

Basildon

10

0

0

10

0

The new season of Essex League matches begins next week and apart from Basildon, who have been relieved of the burden of having to participate in the top flight, all the remaining clubs will be looking to improve on last season's results. In addition to last year's survivors, the first division will include Billericay, who won the second division championship, and Waltham Forest, who would have done had a results sheet been posted on time. Late result sheets involve the automatic loss of any unfinished game and this, apparently, cost the Waltham Forest side vital points.

There were some reversals of fortune in last season's first division results which were fairly hard to predict. Southend, the Champions in 1996-97, were very inconsistent. They managed a splendid victory over Ilford which ultimately cost Ilford the title, but the very first match of the season indicated that it was not to be Southend's year: newly-promoted Newham, who have not maintained a first division place since they changed their name from East Ham, won comfortably. Newham's final tally of 10 points from10 matches was an excellent performance from a newly-promoted club, giving them exactly the same record, even down to the last game point, as Powdermill.

Eastbrook also were disappointing and will be looking to improve considerably on last year's performance. Only two seasons previously they were League Champions, having won the title on a tie-break from Wanstead, and although there was never any danger of Eastbrook being relegated because of Basildon's woeful season, they will certainly be keen to re-establish themselves as a top-half team.

Wanstead have been perhaps the most consistent side over the past three seasons and with their efficient and committed organisation will no doubt continue to be a force to be reckoned with. They suffered in two out of the last three years the indignity of finishing jointly in first place and then losing the play-off, firstly to Eastbrook and then to Southend. Last season, third place was another impressive performance. In the coming year, they will have to manage without the services of perhaps the Club's strongest player ever. Karl Mah, although still only 17, has accepted a place at Pembroke College, Cambridge, to study History, and unless arrangements can be made for Karl to travel the length of the M11 for home matches, Wanstead will have to do without.

Last season, there was such a significant difference between the performances of the top three sides and the rest that it seems unlikely that the new 1998-99 Champions will come from anywhere else. Both Ilford and Writtle clubs possess a wealth of strong players and again both will be in contention for the title. In recent years, Ilford has had the better record, even though for much of the time Writtle has boasted players with higher grades. Karl Bowden has played on board 1 for Writtle for many years, but his grade has taken a dive this season and he is now a "mere" 202 grade. That means that Eddie Dearing will be board 1 for Writtle and although this is A level year, if I know anything about Eddie he will fit his A levels in around his chess rather than the other way round. Writtle will again be the strongest side on paper and they are therefore my selection to win the title. However, again it will be a close battle amongst the top three and if any of the other sides can disturb the 1997-98 order of Writtle - Ilford - Wanstead then they will have done very well indeed.

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The following win was achieved by one of the top Essex players in last month's British Championships

Gunter,D - Coleman,D

British (7), 1998

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5 e6 3.e4 h6 4.Bxf6 Qxf6 5.Nc3 d6 6.Qd2 g5 7.0-0-0 Bg7 8.g3 Nc6 9.Nge2 Bd7 10.f4 0-0-0 11.Bg2 gxf4 12.gxf4 h5 13.Nb5 e5 14.dxe5 dxe5 15.Qc3 a6 16.Na3 Nd4 17.Nxd4 Qxf4+ 18.Kb1 exd4 19.Qc5 Kb8 20.Nc4 Qg4 21.Rhg1 Bb5 22.e5 Bf8 23.Nd6 cxd6 24.Qb6 Qc8 25.Qxd4 Bg7 26.Bxb7 Bxe5 27.Bxc8 Bxd4 28.Rxd4 Kxc8 29.Rg7 Be8 30.h4 Rh6 31.a4 Re6 32.Rd5 Re5 33.Rg5 f6 34.Rdxe5 dxe5 35.Rg7 Bxa4 0-1

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