The Open attracted fewest players, 19 arriving for round 1, but is was remarkably strong with three players graded over 200 and a further 9 over 170. The last to enter was Karl Mah, who was also top seed. Indeed, Karl's entry was so late that the first round pairings had already been displayed and he was awarded the bye. However, the most interesting pairing was on board 1, where Eddie Dearing (Chelmsford), a gnarled old man of 17 years, was obliged to play Lorin d'Costa (Herts), a mere stripling at 14. During the past couple of years Lorin has been working his way up the rating list so fast that he is now the second highest graded player of his age in Britain, and even the England selectors have belatedly woken up to the fact that he is worthy of an invitation to the World Junior Championships in a few weeks' time. In spite of Lorin's improvements, Eddie was still the favourite in this encounter, and indeed the Scots international outplayed his English opponent.
The majority of other first round games went according to the grading list. One that did not was the draw between Keith Cook (Chelmsford), graded 132, and Robert Parker (Colchester), graded 176.
Round 2 witnessed an encounter of some historical interest. Karl Mah was paired against David Spence, whose home town is now given as Middlesborough. When both these two were developing players and David's home town was Ipswich, they invariably met during the late stages of the many Rapidplay Junior tournaments which were organised by both Suffolk and Essex. It was usual for Karl to dominate then, even though he is the more youthful by some 4 years, and in the latest encounter he prevailed. Eddie Dearing beat Ilford Club's Tim Hebbes, and Simon Williams (Surrey), who has at least one IM norm to his name, beat John Anderson (Grays). John Friedland (Wood Green) was the fourth player to reach 2/2.
After three rounds Eddie became sole leader as he beat John Friedland. John has recently had a good deal of exposure to top class opposition as he participated in most of the events at the Mind Sports Olympiad last month, in which he played several Grandmasters and International Masters. Karl Mah and Simon Williams drew their game, and four other players reached 2 points.
In round 4, Eddie played Simon, and this too was drawn. Karl joined Eddie in the lead as he beat Bob Latter (Braintree), but none of the group on 2/3 made it to 3/4 so Simon was alone in third place. Another pairing of some interest to England Junior Selectors was that between Heather Richards (Thanet) and Lawrence Trent (Ilford), which was drawn. One Essex parent remarked to Heather's mother that a draw against Lawrence was a creditable result, but Mrs. Richards was less than impressed by this point of view! Certainly Heather is the higher graded by some 24 points.
The final round went very much with the form book as Karl Mah and Eddie Dearing drew their game and Simon Williams joined them on 4/5 with a win against Steve Gregory (Ipswich). John Anderson and Shaun Munson finished on 3.5 with wins against Bob Latter and David Spence respectively. The Open was so dominated by Junior Internationals that there were only three players aged over 18 in the top 10. No spcial prize for Juniors had been advertised on the entry form and that is probably just as well.
It is remarkable how the grading limited sections at Braintree have often "found out" aspiring Juniors, in marked contrast to this year's Open. Last year, younger players who had performed with considerable credit only a month previously in the British Championships found themselves on the receiving end when faced with adult players in what may well have been their first event after the two weeks playing against other players their own age. Once again Juniors suffered at the hands of adults and in both the under-130 and under-100 sections it was the youngsters who were battling it out on the low boards during the late rounds while the seasoned campaigners picked up the prize money.
Open: 1st= Karl Mah (Wanstead), Eddie Dearing (Chelmsford), Simon Williams (Richmond) 4/5 (19 competitors)
Under-160: 1st= Anthony Fulton (St. Albans), Andrew Hartland (Writtle), Robin Slade (Chelmsford) 4/5 (25 competitors)
Under-130: 1st Michael Clapham (Ipswich) 4.5 / 5
2nd= Derek Hanson (Cobham), Lydia Goodwin (High Wycombe), John Wright (Grays) 4/5 (40 competitors)
Under-100: 1st Philip Chapman (Bury St. Edmunds) 5/5
2nd Paul Baker (Braintree) 4.5
3rd Gordon Chapman (Bury St. Edmunds) 4 (36 competitors)
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