During the second week of the London Junior Chess Championships Essex players continued from where they left off during the first week, that is by winning far more events than any one county is entitled to expect to win, and in an emphatic fashion. During the weekend of 12th and 13th December, Essex players had won no fewer than 5 of the titles on offer: George O'Toole (Southend) had won the prize for the best under 7 with 6/9, an award he might well win again next year, and Dana Hawrami (Ilford) stamped his authority on the under 8 event by scoring 8 / 9. Lawrence Trent (Ilford) scored 100% in the very strong under 14 championships and in the under 14 Minor event Heather Walker (Southend) won the prize for the best girl. Sam Wass (Saffron Walden), playing the first tournament for which he had had to qualify, shared first place in the under 10 minor with 6/7.
Against this background of success it was unreasonable to expect our players to win a great deal more in the under 12, under-16, under-18 and under 21 events which took place between Christmas and the New Year. However, unreasonable or not, this is precisely what they managed. On the first morning, the two most outrageous upsets both involved Essex players. In the under 12, Heather Walker overcame a 38 point grading difference to inflict defeat on Richmond's Jonathan Zoubaida, the joint top seed and last year's runner up, and in the under 16 James Berlin (Ilford) similarly disposed of Liam Varnam (Bucks). A third triumph by and Essex underdog was only narrowly averted as Oliver Cooley (Kent) lost a piece for two pawns against Michael Bridger (Leigh-on-Sea) but Michael was unable to find a winning plan or, for that matter, a drawing one.
Meanwhile, in the combined Open /U21 / U18, Lawrence Trent had been re-paried after his scheduled opponent had failed to arrive and now had to contend with Jonathan Arnott (Yorkshire). This game, after reaching a king and pawn ending, was agreed drawn a few moves after each side had queened a pawn. Neither side had any possibility of winning an ending of Q & P v Q & P when both flags were hanging.
On the first day, Josiah Lutton (Basildon) made the running in the under 12, but a disappointing defeat in round 4 cost him the lead, and he only managed 50% on days 2 and 3 to finish on 6/9. Bobby Payne was on 2.5 after the first day's play, and three draws on day 2 was not really what was required to keep pace with the sole leader, Christopher Dorrington (Bucks), who had won his first six games. William Bennet (Cambridge) was not far behind, losing to Christopher in round 6. This was to be the Buckinghamshire player's last victory.
On the second day in the Open Championship, Lawrence Trent was paired against Bertie Barlow (Surrey), a very experienced County player. Lawrence had fared well on day one, having drawn both his games in spite of being one of the youngest as well as one of the lowest graded competitors. One of the main reasons for these young players taking part in an event in which they clearly (!) had no chance of winning a major prize was that the event was FIDE rated. Lawrence had played four FIDE rated opponents at the Southend congress last Easter, and it was important to play another 5 and achieve a reasonable score during a fairly confined space of time. Both Lawrence's opponents so far were FIDE rated, so to meet Bertie Barlow was a bonus. To inflict an emphatic defeat upon him was certainly not part of the script that Bertie had prepared.
Now Lawrence had to play Craig Hanley (Lancashire) a player whose game Lawrence knew well, as both players were invited to represent England in the European Championships in Austria last July. Craig is considerably higher graded as well as two years older than Lawrence, so once again Lawrence was technically the underdog. When Lawrence won a rook for a bishop it appeared that he was heading for another win, but after more than three hours' play a draw was agreed. Lawrence had decided to play safe and accept the draw because the win was not imminent, despite the material advantage, a decision based upon stamina rather than chess considerations.
Ths final day in the under 12s allowed Bobby Payne to stamp his authority upon the tournament. After an adequate first two days, Bobby now moved into a higher gear. His round 7 opponent, Philip Hayward, was despatched, and in round 8 Bobby beat Tom Eckersley-Waite, an opponent he has met on several occasions in the past. This set up a splendid finale as the top board was now between Bobby on 6/8 and Christopher Dorrington on 7. A win was required and Bobby duly supplied one, thereby tying for first place with Christoper Dorrington and William Bennett. Bobby was the only player in the tournament to remain undefeated throughout.
Back in the Open Championship, Lawrence was playing black against Rosalind Keiran. Rosalind, from Kent, is another junior of considerable international experience, but Lawrence's Sicilian defence was too good for her. Lawrence won a pawn in the centre and Rosalind recaptured Lawrence's a-pawn. This merely gave his rooks scope to create threats down the open a-file, and Rosalind could reasonably have resigned when Lawrence won the exchange. She chose to play on for a few moves, but when the choice was between being mated or losing a further bishop, the game ended.
In the final round, Lawrence played Nicholas Lee and another tense struggle progressed. This was actually the last game of the event to finish and Lawrence was never in danger of losing it. It was clear that Lawrence was going to become London under-18 Champion and complete his FIDE rating, but it was later that he learned that he had become the second youngest ever London under 18 Champion in the 74 year history of the Competition, at 12 years 8 months just three months older than Julian Hodgson was when he won the title in 1975.
Normally, juniors' chess development is a series of climbs followed by a series of plateaux. Lawrence seems to have been involved in one high-speed improvement which has now lasted some eighteen months or so and at present shows no sign of abating. There is no telling how far this will go, but one thing is certain: Ilford Club is very fortunate to have three such talented youngsters as Lawrence Trent, Bobby Payne and Dana Hawrami.
Trent,L - Barlow,B 1.e4 Nf6 2.e5 Nd5 3.d4 d6 4.Nf3 g6 5.Bc4 Nb6 6.Bb3 Bg7 7.0-0 0-0 8.exd6 cxd6 9.h3 Nc6 10.c3 d5 11.Re1 Kh8 12.Bc2 f6 13.Nh4 f5 14.Nf3 e6 15.Na3 Bd7 16.Bf4 a6 17.Qd2 Re8 18.Re2 Na5 19.Ne5 Kg8 20.b4 Nac4 21.Naxc4 dxc4 22.Rae1 Rc8 23.Nf3 Nd5 24.Be5 Bf8 25.h4 Bc6 26.Bg3 a5 27.a3 axb4 28.axb4 Bd7 29.Ne5 b5 30.Ra1 Bc6 31.h5 g5 32.Nxc6 Rxc6 33.Be5 h6 34.g4 fxg4 35.Bh7+ Kf7 36.Qc2 Ke7 37.Ra7+ Nc7 38.Qe4 Rd6 39.Bg6 Qb8 40.Bxd6+ 1-0