Versatility was the order of the day when a double booking deprived John Sargent's Westminster Rapidplay tournament of its normal venue of the St. Matthias Old Church in Poplar. John immediately switched to the Thames View Community Centre, relying upon the few drivers who had entered to ferry the 22 competitors from Docklands to Dagenham. The event eventually started about an hour behind the scheduled time.

Graham Clarke was the pre-tournament favourite in view of the grade he had estimated for himself. However, this was based upon games played almost 30 years ago and 190 was probably an over-estimate. The player with the highest established grade was Bertie Barlow, at 186.

The first round included two upsets as Heather Walker defeated Uwe Schwick and Michael Bridger also inflicted defeat on a supposedly higher graded opponent. In round 2 all the games from the leading group went with grade but in round 3 Graham Clarke lost his game. His opponent was none other than David Raeburn, still playing good chess some 66 years after he won the British Boys' Championship. White played a risky line against the Two Knights' Defence and "lost" a piece for three pawns. In purely material terms, of course, this is a straightforward exchange, but at the end of the exchanges White's king was still in the middle and none of white's remaining pieces were properly developed whereas Black had castled and was the proud owner of a very fine bishop pair. Although White appeared to organise his forces, he was unable to prevent a rook sacrifice on a3 which, if accepted, would have allowed instant mate. Now the exchange down, all White's queen-side pawns disappeared and black was just about to begin the process of capturing the king-side ones as well when white left a rook en prise. Bertie Barlow won his game quite comfortably when your correspondent allowed his queen to be pinned to his king by a bishop. Bertie then made it to 4/4 with an impressive win against David Raeburn.

Just behind Bertie came Donny Muter, an ambitious youth from Surrey whose recent performances suggest that his grade of 138 is considerably lower than his true ability, and Peter Jaszkiwskij, a player from the Newham club. These two had drawn with each other and in rounds 5 and 6 they each played Bertie Barlow and both these games also ended as draws. However, when Peter beat David Raeburn in round 6 he shared the lead with Bertie. Donny, meanwhile, had drawn again, against Graham Clarke.

Seven rounds were really too many for only 22 players and it was actually quite difficult to find a suitable opponent for Bertie Barlow as he had already played everyone whose score was close to his. In the end he played a considerably lower graded player and had a fairly easy win to take first place. However, life was not so simple for the chasing group. Your correspondent had enjoyed a hectic win in round 6 against Graham Clarke. Graham, playing white, had taken the intitiative when one of black's knights became stranded and had to be captured. However, he was insufficiently patient and moving his queen-side pawns subjected the a1 rook to attack. This cost him the exchange, but he launched an attack against Black's uncastled king which would probably have been winning had Graham not then opened the h-file where Black's queen and rooked lined up to deliver checkmate. This threat prevented White from winning the bishop pinned on d7 and after straightforward exchanges Black emerged with Queen and Rook against Queen and Knight. White's exposed king then allowed the capture of the knight and once black's own king had sheltered on g6, the checkmate was a formality.

In the final round, Peter Jaszkiwskij was my opponent and I was keen to redress the balance of previous games, which stood at 2 - 0 in his favour. Initially it appeared that this was to become 3 - 0 as after an Exchange Lopez in which all the minor pieces were swapped, Black had an initiative on the king-side after castling on the queen-side. However, I felt that if I could exchange the major pieces then the ending would be won for me as my king was closer to the vulnerable black pawns. This plan worked beautifully as firstly one pair of rooks was exchanged and then Peter missed a tactic which exchanged the other pair, won a pawn for White and still allowed the white queen to return, after a couple of checks, to prevent the black queen from invading and gobbling up the white pawns. Now the exchange of queens would have left a hopeless game for black, so the rest was a simple matter of advancing queen, king and pawns down the board, and of course with no re-inforcements available, the black queen was overwhelmed. Donny Muter also won his final round so the final placings were:-

1 Bertie Barlow (6/7) 2= Donny Muter, Peter Walker (5.5/7)

Cheung,I - Walker,P [C53] Westminster Rapidplay

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4 Bc5 4.c3 Qe7 5.0-0 d6 6.d4 Bb6 7.Re1 Nf6 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 g5 10.Bg3 g4 11.Nh4 Bd7 12.dxe5 Nxe5 13.Nf5 Bxf5 14.exf5 0-0-0 15.Qb3 Nf3+ 16.gxf3 Qxe1+ 17.Bf1 gxf3 18.Qxf7 Ne4 19.Qe6+ Kb8 20.Nd2 Bxf2+ 21.Bxf2 Rdg8+ 22.Bg3 Rxg3+ 0-1