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THE UNDER-EIGHT, under-10 and under-14 sections of the 69th annual London Junior Championships took place last weekend at Queen Elizabeth Boys School in Barnet. Over 200 children competed in five separate events (one under-eight but both a "major" and a "minor" for the older groups).

Sponsored by B.T. Batsford (in its new incarnation after being rescued from the receiver by Chrysalis), it is one of the most prestigious British junior events and features not only Londoners but a number of players from further afield.

Competition in junior events is always fierce, with a low percentage of draws, so the winning scores in all sections were high: Simon Payne from Essex made 8.5/9 in the under-eights; Ben Derricks (Norfolk) and Joseff Thomas (Monmouthshire) both scored 6/7 in the under-10 minor; Dana Hawrani (Essex) 6.5/7 in the under-10 major; Douglas Cooke (Cornwall) and Mark Goodwin (Bucks) 5/6 in the under-14 minor; and David Howell (Sussex) 5/6 in the under-14 major.

Of them by far the best-known is Howell, who turned nine on 14 November. Readers may remember the total media hoo-ha he precipitated when he defeated the grandmaster John Nunn in a blitz game at the Mind Sports Olympiad in August. With his unbeaten 5/6, he bettered Nigel Short's record as the youngest-ever London U-14 winner by more than a year and scored his second success in a fortnight, following his second prize with exactly the same score at the Kilkenny Major over the weekend of 26-28 November.

That is how Howell, who is sponsored by gameplay.com, an on-line computer games network, and coached by the international master Andrew Kinsman, scored his decisive last-round victory.

In a Grunfeld Defence, White played the wildly over-optimistic 9 Bf4 - he needs to defend the d pawn - and 10 Nb5?. Once the d pawn had dropped off, it was one-way traffic, and Black quickly won a piece. Howell was not efficient in the conversion of his advantage - for example, 29 Bxe4 Qxh2+, 30 Kf1 Rb2, 31 Bc2 would have put up some resistance - but his superiority was so great, it was hardly surprising that he rather "dozed off" along the way.

He will face sterner tests at his next event, the World Amateur Championship in Hastings from 29 December to 6 January.

W Bennet v D Howell London U-14 championship 1999

Grunfeld Defence

1 d4 Nf6

2 c4 g6

3 Nc3 d5

4 Nf3 Bg7

5 Qb3 dxc4

6 Qxc4 0-0

7 e4 Bg4

8 Be2 Nfd7

9 Bf4 Nc6

10 Nb5? Bxf3

11 Bxf3 Nb6

12 Qc2 Nxd4

13 Nxd4 Qxd4

14 Qxc7 Qb4+

15 Bd2 Qxb2

16 Rd1 Rfd8

17 Qxe7 Rxd2

18 Rxd2 Bc3

19 Qg5 Nc4

20 0-0 Qxd2

21 Qc5 Qd4

22 Qb5 Nd6

23 Qd7 Qe5

24 Rd1 Nxe4

25 Qxb7 Re8

26 Rd5 Qf4

27 Qc6 Rb8

28 Rd1 Be5

29 Qxe4


30 Kf1 Rb2