The under 8 section has often been contested by around 70 children. Last year, there was a decline to fewer than 40 entrants, but 1998 saw a partial recovery as 47 sat down to play. The event consists of 9 rounds over two days at thirty minutes per player per game, an exhausting schedule for such young children. Dana Hawrami (Ilford) was quickly on 3/3, but a fourth round loss meant that he was still in touch with the leaders. After the first day's play, Dana had moved on to 4 points, sharing second place: only Sebastian Pozzo (S.E. London) had won all five games.
Other Essex players who performed well on the first day were Ricky Martin (Saffron Walden) and George O'Toole (Southend). Ricky had given Dana the toughest fight during the Dunmow tournament, in which George had also performed well, so it was encouraging to see the establishment of a nucleus of strong Essex players in this tournament, which is invariably the first opportunity that these youngsters have to compete against the best in the country. Very often, the "pecking order" decided at the London under-8 is not greatly disturbed for the next ten years.
Dana had to play Sebastian in round 6, and the overnight leader was toppled. He lost again in round 7, so now Dana was sole leader with two rounds to go. The Ilford lad has showed great determination during the tournament, and two more wins, the last against Errol Wood (Richmond) crowned a magnificent weekend's work. Dana is therefore the first Essex player to win the London under 8 Championship since Karl Mah did so ten years ago. George O'Toole won the prize for best under 7, scoring 6 points, and Ricky Martin also scored 6 and finished amongst the prizes. Other Essex players in this event were Ranita Klimach (Newbury Park), Nathanael Lutton (Basildon) and Subin Sen (Woodford) all of whom performed with credit in what was a very tough tournament.
The under 10 Championship is divided into Major and Minor divisions, and Essex players performed well in these too. Joe Martin, Ricky's brother, scored 3.5/7 in the Major event, unfortunately being paired against Colchester's Lee Wicks in the final round. Alex O'Toole could have competed in the under 8 Championship but, having qualified for the under 10, preferred to play with the older children. He too managed 50%. In the Minor, Sam Wass (Saffron Walden) scored a very good 6/7.
It was perhaps to be expected that an Essex player would dominate the under 14 section as Lawrence Trent has been established as one of the best British players in his age group for about the past 18 months. He was selected to represent England in the European Youth Championships in Austria in July, where he scored a very good 5.5/9, and since then has perfomed mostly in adult Open Championships, taking time out to win the British under 12 title in August. In the London event, Lawrence was on espcially good form and completed a perfect score, his best game being the round 5 encounter with Rafe Martin. The final round was a completely crushing win with black against Michael Zoubaida (Richmond).
Normally, each age group nationally has a small group of players, may be 6 in number, who establish themselves as the elite and any one of whom might win an event and whose performances are roughly comparable. Currently at under 13 level, this consensus seems to have been broken and I cannot see another player in the age group who can demonstrate the level of ability, hard work and sheer will to win which Lawrence is currently displaying. He demonstrated the following game to me, and at every stage he was able to explain lucidly why the pieces were where they were, and what would have happened had black's replies been different. Nothing was left to "general principles". Rafe Martin is also an excellent player and he has beaten Lawrence in the past. In this game, he loses on time but Lawrence seemed convinced that he could, with more time, have demonstrated an endgame win after the forced exchange of white's queen for black's rooks.
While the Junior events were in progress, the North London Open was being won by Keith Arkell, with 5/5, a result which may well give Keith first place in the Onyx Grand Prix. With only one event left in this year's competition, which is effectively a league table for Congress Chess, Mark Hebden was in first place on 190.6, ahead of Keith Arkell in 190.2. Next weekend's Islington Congress, which offers Octuple Points in the Grand Prix, will see all three leading contenders (the third is Jim Plaskett) against one another. This should be an excellent weekend's chess. Players wishing to enter on the day should arrive in good time for a 10 o'clock start on Saturday morning at the City and Islington College, Camden Road, N7. The entry fee will be £25 for the Open, under 160 and under 120 competitions, £21 for the under 90.
Trent,L - Martin,R [B23]
1.e4 c5 2.Nc3 Nc6 3.f4 g6 4.Nf3 Bg7 5.Bb5 Nd4 6.0-0 Nxb5 7.Nxb5 d6 8.a4 Nf6 9.d3 0-0 10.Qe1 a6 11.Nc3 e6 12.Qh4 b6 13.f5 exf5 14.Bg5 h6 15.Bxh6 Bxh6 16.Qxh6 Ng4 17.Qf4 Kg7 18.h3 Nf6 19.Qg5 Nh5 20.exf5 Qxg5 21.Nxg5 Kh6 22.Nge4 Bxf5 23.Nxd6 Be6 24.g4 Ng7 25.Rf6 Ne8 26.Nxe8 Raxe8 27.Raf1 Rb8 28.Ne4 Rbd8 29.a5 c4 30.axb6 Rfe8 31.Nc5 Bd5 32.d4 Re3 33.Kh2 Kg5 34.b7 Kh4 35.Rd6 Re2+ 36.Rf2 Rxf2+ 37.Kg1 Rg2+ 38.Kf1 Rxd6 39.b8Q Rf6+ 40.Ke1 Rff2 41.Qh8+ 1-0
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