Although absent at the York Vikings tournament, this year's British Champion, Julian Hodgson, had already wrapped up the pounds 3,000 Grand Prix first prize with a perfect 200/200.
It was his second victory - the first was in 1990 - and he was followed by Mark Hebden 195.5, Keith Arkell 194.7 and Bogdan Lalic 190.8.
The Grand Prix always comprises a number of different sections, notably the so-called Prixette which was won by Jovanka Houska on 81.5/100, streets ahead of Heather Richards on 64.0. Houska has played excellently this month, preceding her second equal at Islington with a clear first at the Kensington Rapidplay tournament on 12 December: though Simon Williams's victory at Islington enabled him to pip her at the post in the Junior Prix, with 84.4/100 while she was second on 81.5. Meanwhile N. Burrows won the Amateur Prix with 48.3/50; the British Braille Chess Association champion Graeme Lilley won the Disabled Prix with 38.7/50; and the Senior Prix was taken by Brian Shaw with 35.0/50.
More than 15,000 players compete on the Grand Prix circuit which has been contested annually since 1974. Next year the Grand Prix will welcome a new sponsor, the Terence Chapman Group plc, which provides IT consultancy to the financial sector. The group is headed by Terry Chapman, a former London Junior Champion and easily the strongest chess player ever to head a UK public company.
Although he was only second this time, Mark Hebden does take a maximum 40/40 bonus into next year's Grand Prix. This was his typically efficient win in the first round at Islington. Although White won a pawn - and indeed it appears that if 18 Ne7+ Kf7 19 Qxd6 Qf3 20 Qc7 Qxf2+ 21 Kh1 Qf3+ 22 Kg1 Black must acquiesce in perpetual check - Hebden's pressure was bound to count in a practical game and eventually he smashed his way through.
White: C Tippleston
Black: Mark Hebden
Islington Open '99 (Round 1)
Exchange Ruy Lopez