It’s positive news this year as far as the M&G Investments Chelmsford & District Table Tennis League 2019 Championships are concerned. Entries are up for the third year running and this year 125 players are taking part including 42 juniors.

The event takes place at Hylands School, Chelmsford, over the weekend of 1-3 February and admission is free.

The blue riband event as always is the Men’s Singles and last year’s winner, ace defender Duncan Taylor, is the top seed. The second seed, 19-year-old Ugur Saglik, will be a new name to a lot of people. A very modern topspin exponent he hails from the Generation 2 club in Fareham and he is the highest nationally ranked player in the league.

The joint third seeds are Paul Lucas who has made a very successful return to the sport after a couple of lengthy breaks and Trevor Lloyd (runner-up last year in the Men’s Singles but the winner of the Veterans’ Singles).

Paul Davison, Gary Young, Wale Bada and Reece Seddon are the joint fifth seeds whilst Casey Cross, Charles Sweeny, Liam Squirrel, David Cole and Scott Dowsett are also seeded to win their groups.

Four times former champion David Cole might possibly have been seeded higher but as he is playing in division two he hasn’t made one of the top eight berths. With two players to qualify from each group, two particular groups stand out. Group two features impressive Casey Cross and another top-notch newcomer in Simon Jarvis as well Dan Anderson and Daniel Young, whilst group three matches Charles Sweeny with Steve Kerns, Keith Martin and Colin Napper.

23 times M&G Investments Chelmsford Ladies’ Singles champion Julie Johnson is top seed in the Ladies’ Singles this year although she will have to play the equally redoubtable Lin Roff and Kelly Yuen in her group.

Julie is ranked an impressive No 25 nationally at Over-40s level, well above Lin, but the positions are reversed at Over-50s, with Lin ranked at No 38 and Julie at 39.

Tulay Dundar, another newcomer to Chelmsford and the mother of Ugur Saglik is seeded No 2 and she also has a formidable pedigree. She is ranked No 21 nationally at Veterans’ Over-40s. The winner in 2016 and 2017, Dawn Baldry, is also seeded to win her group as is Jan Fuller, runner-up in 2016.

The Men’s Doubles is traditionally the most open event of the weekend and although the holders Charles Sweeny & Duncan Taylor are seeded No 1 and Wale Bada & Ugur Saglik are seeded second, at least at least another half-dozen pairs will surely fancy their chances. Other pairings to look out for are joint third seeds Casey Cross & Trevor Lloyd and Paul Lucas & Scott Dowsett as well as father/son combination Gary & Daniel Young, David Cole & Gary Cattermole, Liam Squirrel & Reece Seddon, Simon Jarvis & Robert Shrimpton, Steve Kerns & Paul Davison and Lee McHugh & Peter Mynard.

The Ladies’ Doubles looks more clear-cut. With Shirley Caroll forced to withdraw through injury it is hard to look beyond Julie Johnson & Jan Fuller when assessing genuine challengers for this title.

The Mixed Doubles looks very interesting and has a touch of TV’s Generation Game. Mother and son combination Tulay Dundar & Ugur Saglik are top seeds whilst aunt/nephew pairing Julie Johnson & Scott Dowsett are seeded No 2. Julie will be looking to win the title with an unprecedented sixth partner having previously been successful with her brother Terry, Steve Dettmar, Paul Chaplin, David Cole (no fewer than eight times) and another nephew, Ryan Gooday. Other pairings to look out for include Gary Young & Lin Roff, Wale Bada & Jan Fuller and Ciaran Whelan & Dawn Baldry.

After a major blip last year the number of entries in the Veterans’ Singles is restored to a high level and the event promises to be fiercely competitive.

Last year’s winner Trevor Lloyd is the top seed with last year’s runner-up Duncan Taylor seeded No 2. Other players to look out for in a “loaded” field are David Cole, Gary Young, Wale Bada, Simon Jarvis, Steve Whiteley, Tulay Dundar, Peter Barrett, Paul Davison, Eric Green and Gary Cattermole.

The Veterans’ Doubles also looks very evenly matched. Three pairings stand out – top seeds Duncan Taylor & Trevor Lloyd, second seeds Gary Young & Paul Davison and David Cole & Gary Cattermole.

Likewise, there are three outstanding players in the Under-21 Singles. Ugur Saglik is the heavy favourite and his main rivals will be Liam Squirrel and Daniel Young. With a Finals Night appearance guaranteed for the two finalists, this event has retained a high profile in the tournament over the years.

Winners of this event who went on to win the Men’s Singles title have included the legendary Dave Newman, Steve Whiteley, Richard Darnell, Steve Rand, Steve Joslin, Reagan Nettleingham, Keiran Lally, Vytas Rybakas and Tony Halling, so it is clearly an important stepping stone.

Trevor Lloyd will be bidding to win all three Veterans’ Singles events having just become eligible for the Over-60s. He is seeded to win both the Over-50s and Over-60s. In the Over-50s event, likely rivals include Julie Johnson, Tulay Dundar, Steve Whiteley, Steve Kerns, Ian Whiteside, Eric Green and Mike Johnston. Group eight stands out here. Mike Johnston goes face to face with Neil Freeman and Lin Roff.

It is difficult to look beyond Trevor Lloyd in the Over 60s Singles but the likes of Ian Whiteside, Lin Roff (another newcomer to this age group), Eric Green and Steve Whitely might well have other ideas.

Daniel Young is an outstanding favourite to win the Junior Boys’ Singles and the Mixed Under-16s Singles. An established first division player he knows how to pace himself at these events and remains calm when under pressure.

His main rivals in the Junior Boys should be Harry Buckle, Thomas Page and Luca Bailey. Buckle is also seeded to reach the final in the Under-16s and other players to look out for include Ewan Hynd, Ben Porter, Vineeth Kamma, Charlie Craig, Thomas Page, Aidan Noguchi, Noah Sage, Luca Bailey, Sam Mortimer-Ford, James Donald and Josh Bickles.

Ewan Hynd will be bidding to win the Under-14 Singles and he is expected to meet Ben Porter in the final. Joachin Mapes and James Donald are due to reach the semi-finals.

Daniel Young is also top seed in the Junior Doubles where he is paired with Aidan Noguchi and they are seeded to play Ben Porter & Sam Mortimer-Ford in the final.

Sunday’s play is dominated by the Divisional Singles competitions. Ciaran Whelan is favourite in the Division Two event where he is due to meet Mike Johnston in the final. Whelan will need to get out of the blocks strongly though, as he plays Wiktor Delimat and Dave Moles in his group.

Trevor Collin, the Division four singles winner in 2017, is the top seed in the Division Three singles this year. Ashton Parker is seeded second. As in the Division Two singles, the top seed will be under pressure in his group. Collin is up against Malcolm Storey and Thomas Page.

Nick Duce is favourite in the Division Four singles where he is due to meet Mark Glenister in the final whilst Denis Crapnell is the top seed in the Division Five singles, where his final opponent is again scheduled to be Mark Glenister.

In League action, in division 1(A) the leaders Maldon A produced a storming performance – in fact what is arguably the performance of the season as they thrashed second placed Chelmsford A 9-1. Alex Abbott and John Poysden were both undefeated against a strong Chelmsford side who were without Ugur Saglik but were still able to field Casey Cross, Wale Bada and Eddy Ogbebor.

Poysden was unstoppable. He beat Ogbebor 3-0 (11-3, 11-6, 11-6) and then Cross 3-0 (11-5, 11-4, 11-6) and went on to complete a truly stunning hat-trick with a 3-0 (12-10, 11-9, 12-10) win over Bada. It was Bada who scored Chelmsford’s sole win – a marathon 3-2 (13-11, 21-23, 8-11, 11-7, 11-9) victory over Trevor Lloyd.

OCs A ran out 6-4 winners over Writtle A. Lee McHugh dominated proceedings with a very good hat-trick of wins which included a top-drawer 3-2 (11-8, 13-11, 9-11, 10-12,13-11) victory over Paul Lucas.

Galleywood A stay top in division 1(B). With James Hicks leading the way they beat Hatfield Peverel A 8-2. Julie Johnson made her mark with a hard-fought 3-2 (2-11, 12-10, 8-11, 12-10, 11-6) win over Steve Kerns but she met her match in the free-flowing Gary Brignall who in turn beat her 3-0 (11-9, 11-8, 11-6).

Chelmsford B, led by an undefeated Simon Jarvis, ran out 7-3 winners over Writtle B. Lin Roff impressed here for the losers. She scored a fine 3-2 (11-4, 12-10, 8-11, 8-11, 11-3) win over Wu Dong Liu.

Liberal are second in this division and they had Adam Buxton to thank as they beat Danbury B 8-2. Robin Armstrong won twice and this included a fine 3-0 (11-7, 11-6, 13-11) win over Ian Whiteside.

Division Two produced three clear-cut sets of winners this week. Danbury D (Sam Lowman, George Ashley and Dan Anderson) beat Hatfield Peverel B 9-1. Anderson excelled here racing to three 3-0 wins. He beat Neil Freeman (11-5, 11- 6, 11-7), Guy McKenzie (11-7, 11-3, 11-6) and Dave Fiddeman (11-3, 11-7, 11-5).

Chelmsford C were even more dominant. Mike Johnston, Wiktor Delimat and Waseem Qureshi ran out 10-0 winners against OCs C.

Maldon B (with Ciaran Whelan and Colin Napper both winning their three singles) beat Maldon C 7-3. Napper had to work very hard for this trio of wins. He beat Dawn Baldry 3-2 (11-7, 5-11, 11-6, 1-11, 11-6) and Ev Lucas in five (9-11, 11-4, 11-9, 12-14, 11-9). If that wasn‘t hard enough he completed his hat-trick with a 3-2 (11-4, 6-11, 10-12, 11-8, 12-10) victory over Brian Reidling.

There was a second defeat for second-placed Chelmsford D in division three. Trevor Collin caused them the most problems. He powered his way to wins over Keith Martin 3-1 (11-9, 12-14, 11-2, 12-10), Dave Parker 3-1 (11-8, 11-8, 8-11, 12-10) and Jarek Pietraszuk 3-0 (12-10, 15-13, 11-4).

The leaders OCs D took full advantage. Mick Richardson was undefeated as they beat Writtle E 7-3. Chelmsford League Chairman Dave Porter pressed home his “seniority” by beating Chelmsford League General Secretary Dave Moles 3-2 (7-11, 11-8, 8-11, 11-9, 11-9).

OCs E ran out 8-2 winners over a two-man Maldon D. Richard Baxter led the way here with two wins. It was also 8-2 with Danbury G beating Danbury F. Peter Hance and Mo Hardy both won their three singles. Nicky Reece-Ford had to pull out all the stops to beat John Robinson 3-2 (8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 5-11, 12-10).

With Dave Hancox calling the shots Danbury H beat OCs F 7-3. Bob Francis beat Luca Bailey 3-2 (4-11, 11-8, 5-11, 11-5, 14-12) in a well contested last game of the evening.

Nothing can get in the way of Danbury J in division four. With Rob Kneale and Dave Powell both wining their three singles they beat Danbury K 9-1. Denis Balic was on target for Danbury K with an opening game 3-2 win over Dave Goody (6-11, 6-11, 11-6, 11-9, 11-9).

Writtle F had Ian Hockley undefeated as they beat Highwood A 6-4 whilst John Newman led OCs G to a 6-4 win over Chelmsford F. James Mitty beat Amanda Hogger 3-2 (11-13, 11-6, 5-11, 4-11, 11-9) in the  closest game of the night.

With Jon Dyson leading the way Chelmsford E beat Galleywood B 7-3 whilst Hatfield Peverel C had Peter Mortensen and Paul Mulley dominating proceedings as they beat Highwood B 7-3. Hatfield Peverel C also beat Danbury K 9-1. Mulley and Keith Flowers both won their three singles.

In division five the leaders Galleywood C pulled further ahead by beating OCs H 8-2. Mark Glenister and Aidan Noguchi both bagged hat-tricks. Noguchi impressed by beating the experienced Stuart Wintle 3-2 (12-10, 10-12, 8-11, 11-3, 11-9).

Chelmsford J came through 6-4 after a cracking match against Chelmsford H. Six games were decided in the fifth end and Jacqui Smith won her three singles. She beat John Wickens 3-0 (11-8, 11-8, 11-5), Luke Richardson 3-2 (12-10, 12-10, 5-11, 6-11, 11-8) and Jamie Dowsett 3-2 (11-8, 10-12, 11-9, 7-11, 11-6).

West Maldon (Oliver Wylie and Noah Sage) beat Chelmsford Leopards 3-2 in CLICK division 2(B). However they both lost to Cleon Fernandes who had to pull out all the stops to beat Noah Sage 3-2 (11-7, 10-12, 11-9, 1-11, 12-10).