The St. Matthias Church, just off Poplar High Street, is the oldest building in Docklands. Erected in 1654 by the East India Company, it is no longer used as a church, but is a most pleasant haven dwarfed by the nearby "carbuncle" of the Canary Wharf Tower. It is in the St. Matthias Church that John Sargent organises his monthly Westminster Chess rapidplay tournaments. The most recent of these attracted 40 enthusiasts who braved some of the most vicious weather that Autumn could unleash.

The Open Championship was an intimate event of only 8 players. However, there was no doubting the strength and some very tough chess ensued. Abimbola Adelaja, a member of the Barbican club, was the top seed and all his games went to form as he scored a splendid 6/6. Michael Kobylka, from Wood Green, was the runner up with 4.

The under-160 event was contested by 12 players and there was an immediate upset as the top seed, Ilya Shevelev, was held to a draw by Clare Thrower (Surrey), one of the strongest 15-year old girls in Britain. However, Ilya won his next game, playing on the white side of a Ruy Lopez, with a fine queen sacrifice at the expense of your correspondent. Only two players won their first two games. Ellen Walker (Customs) firstly beat William Bennet (Cambridge) and then dealt with Uwe Schwick (Thames View). Gary Cook had beaten Aaron Smith (E. London) in round 1 and Ken Groce (Powdermill) in round 2. When Gary and Ellen played, Gary appeared to have taken the upper hand as Ellen's pawns became disjointed. It also appeared that Gary could have won a piece for a couple of pawns, but subsequent analysis showed this to be unsafe. However, Ellen found a tactic which won Gary's rook and after that the win was fairly straightforward.

In round 4, Ellen had to play Ilya and a tremendous battle ensued. It was a Sicilian Dragon, and in the time-honoured fashion both players threw caution to the winds as each attacked the other's king. Ilya sacrificed the exchange but Ellen's king-side attack became so dangerous that Ilya had to sacrifice more material to attempt to stem it. Ellen's king had been chased from c1 to g4, an unlikely spot to find shelter from the checks, but now Ilya was faced with mating threats. Both players' flags were hanging by this time, but Ilya must surely lose. He found a wonderfully inventive defence, in which he firstly sacrificed his rook and then his queen. These sacrifices were unsound as Ellen could have moved her king to safety after the queen check, but in the last few seconds remaining she touched her rook while in check, so was obliged to capture the queen with it: stalemate! Sadly, neither player recorded the moves so I am unable to give the game.

This result left Ellen still half a point in the lead, so Ilya now had to play Gary and Ellen played Clare. Although Ellen went a pawn down, she attacked strongly, but the position was still unclear when Clare's flag fell. Ilya won the other critical game, so the final round saw Ellen playing white against her ageing parent and Ilya playing against Aaron Smith. Walker v Walker was another Sicilian Dragon, but boring old dad exchanged queens early and it became very drawish. Ilya won a pawn and reached an ending in which, because his extra pawn was backward, it was not entirely clear that he could win the game with best play by black. Aaron eventually decided to exchange his bishop for Ilya's knight, and with now just kings and pawns, it was a much simpler matter for White, as black was unable to create the blocked position he was looking for. First prize was thus shared by Ilya and Ellen on 5/6, with your correspondent a point behind in third place.

The Minor section, consisting of 20 players, was again closely fought as nobody appeared to be able to maintain the lead for long. The early running was made by 13-year-old Alexander O'Neill (Ilford), who reached 3/3 at the expense of John Bussman (Hampstead), Tony Bynnersley (Bayswater) and Gregory Procyk (Barbican). "It makes me feel really old!", commented Alex's father Mick during round 2. "I remember playing Alex's opponent 20 years ago!" Alex's good run came to an end, however, when he met his Ilford club-mate Howard Berlin. Howard now led with 3.5/4, and had to play Barry McMurdock (Walthamstow), who was on 3. Once again the lead changed hands as Barry won. With one round to go, Barry, who was so far unbeaten, was obliged to play Heather Walker, the youngest player in the tournament. Heather had lost her first round but thereafter won four games on the trot to share the lead. In the final round there was a wholesale exchange in the centre at the end of which Barry's queen was stranded on the e-file. Since his king was there also, all Heather had to do was to play Re1, pinning the queen to the king. Barry played on for a few more moves, but when Heather won a rook as well, leaving Barry a whole queen down, he resigned, making it an excellent day's work for the Walker sisters.

John Sargent's next rapidplay will be on 21st November at the St. Matthias Church. For an excellent day's chess in pleasant surroundings and a friendly atmosphere, these events are highly recommended. For further details contact John on 0181 270 9196.

Shevelev,I - Walker,P [C84]

Westminster Rapidplay

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 a6 4.Ba4 Nf6 5.d3 b5 6.Bb3 Be7 7.0-0 Bb7 8.c3 d6 9.Re1 0-0 10.Nbd2 Na5 11.Bc2 c5 12.Nf1 Re8 13.Ne3 g6 14.h3 Nh5 15.Ng4 Nf4 16.Bxf4 exf4 17.Qc1 g5 18.Nh6+ Kf8 19.d4 Rc8 20.Qd1 Bf6 21.Nh2 Kg7 22.Qh5 Rc7 23.e5 dxe5 24.Nf5+ Kg8 25.dxe5 Rxe5 26.Rxe5 Bxe5 27.Re1 Qd5? (after 27...f6 white's advantage is minimal) 28.Qxg5+ Kh8 29.Qg7+! and Black resigned on account of 29...Bxg7 30.Re8+ Bf8 31.Rxf8# 1-0

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