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John Saunders


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Tournament: 2nd Varsity Match • Venue: City of London CC, London • Date: Friday 27 March 1874
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The 2nd Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at City of London CC, Gordon's City Restaurant, 34 Milk Street, Cheapside, London, on Friday 27 March 1874 at 6.15pm with Wilhelm Steinitz adjudicating unfinished games at 11pm. Time limit: 20 moves per hour.

Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Cambridge University
1b * Walter Parratt (Magdalen) ½-½ ½-½ 0-1 John de Soyres (Caius)
2w Falconer Madan (Brasenose) 0-1 ½-½ 0-1 John Neville Keynes (Pembroke)
3b Samuel Redhead Meredith (Brasenose) 0-1 0-1 1-0? Charles Burdett Ogden (Magdalene)
4w William Grundy (Worcester) 0-1 1-0 - * Walter William Rouse Ball (Trinity)
5b Hon. Horace Curzon Plunkett (University) ½-½ 0-1 0-1 Thomas Hughes Delabere May (Trinity)
6w Campbell Tracey (Lincoln) 0-1 0-1 1-0 Joseph Shield Nicholson (Trinity)
7b Alexander Richard Campbell Connell (Trinity) 1-0 0-1 0-1 Wynnard Hooper (Clare)

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 28 March 1874; Sergeant, Philip W, A Century of Chess (London 1934), p295 & 344; Illustrated London News (ILN), 4 Apr 1874; Huddersfield College Magazine, May 1874; Westminster Papers, 1 Apr 1874; The York Herald, Friday 27 March 1874; Dictionary of National Biography (Parratt, Nicholson); FreeBMD & other statutory records; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia; BCM, Jan 1892, p16 (Grundy). 12 of the 20 games played are available in the download.

* Parratt & Rouse Ball were the respective presidents of the Oxford and Cambridge clubs.

[results given in red] There is some residual doubt about the individual scores in this match as well as the final score. The Times (28 Mar 1874), Sergeant and Gaige show board 3 as Meredith (Oxford) 0-2 Ogden (Cambridge) and board 6 as Tracey (Oxford) 1-3 Nicholson (Cambridge) but the results as shown in the table in the Illustrated London News of 4 April 1874, and as commented on by de Soyres - a participant in the match - indicate that the actual scores were board 3: Meredith 1-2 Ogden and board 6: Tracey 1-2 Nicholson, making the final score 14-6 in Cambridge's favour rather than 15-5, as shown in the table in the ILN de Soyres says that Ogden lost a 3rd game, and that Nicholson's 4th game didn't count as only the first three games counted.

Gaige gives ARCHIBALD Richard Campbell Connell but he has mixed up two entries in the Oxford Alumni Register - definitely should be Alexander. Or possibly the fault lies with The Field (Gaige quotes his source as The Field, 4 Apr 1874, p334)

PW Sergeant, A Century of Chess: "Played in the evening, when the attendance was reckoned at not less than 700, and included, besides Steinitz as umpire, Howard Staunton (his only visit to the club, it is said**), Zukertort, Blackburne, Bird, Horwitz, Lowenthal, and other celebrities of the day. The room in which play took place was decorated, we are told, with dark and light blue everywhere, even to spirals on the candles. Zukertort gave a blindfold exhibition against six opponents, and Blackburne played simultaneously on seven boards, allowing fresh adversaries to take the place of those whose games were finished - altogether about 20. It was designed, by these counter-attractions, to lessen the press of spectators about the University teams."

** ["There were many present who had never seen him", says The City of London Chess Magazine, "and who were consequently glad to have the opportunity of doing so afforded to them. We were happy to observe that Mr Staunton had apparently recovered from his late illness." But he died three months later.]

Illustrated London News, 4 Apr 1874 ("from our Cambridge correspondent" - John de Soyres): "The second match between the two Universities took place last Friday week (March 27), at the rooms of the City of London Club. The conditions were identical with those of last year; and, as it turned out, the result was equally one sided and decisive. This was mainly due to the untiring energy of the last two Cambridge presidents, Messrs. Ball and Keynes, who had worked unceasingly in the arrangement of tournaments and matches.

"The first pair, Messrs. Parratt (Oxford) and De Soyres (Cambridge), had already met in last year's match, when Parratt won both games. This year the Cambridge captain had his revenge: after two stubbornly-contested games had ended in draws the third presented a won position for him at the eighteenth move, and Herr Steinitz adjudged it in his favour. In the second pair Keynes (Cambridge) won his first game very rapidly, drew the second, and had so considerable an advantage in the third that the award of the umpire gave him victory. At the next board Ogden (Cambridge) was still more fortunate, scoring two games before some of the others had finished their first; but his third attempt gave Oxford one victory. At board No. 4 perhaps the best-fought struggle took place, between Ball, the Cambridge president, and Grundy of Oxford, each winning a game, and no time remaining to decide by a third partie. Farther down the table luck still more strongly favoured the side of the Light Blue, Plunkett only making one draw out of three games; Tracey and Connell only gaining one game each out of the rubber. The full score is..." [table of results]

"In reality, Mr. Nicholson won another game; but as the stipulation was for three games only, it does not count in the score.

"After the match, the combatants were hospitably entertained by the City of London Club. The usual toasts were given, that in honour of the losers being responded to by Mr. Parratt in a most amusing speech—in fact, the speech of the evening, or rather morning. Next best was the characteristic oration by Mr. Bird, and the song by Mr. Steinitz (We would suggest to our Oxford friends, that when they have to undergo the ordeal of “Schools,” and should be set to construe Gaudeamus igitur, juvenes dum sumus, &c., it would not be advisable to write “For he’s a jolly good fellow,” &c.. however effective this translation turned out to be when sung in chorus.) The other toasts were responded to by Messrs. Lowenthal, Gastineau, Horwitz, Zukertort, Rabbeth, Potter, and Duffy.

"The natural pride of the Cambridge men at the result of this contest was considerably enhanced by the fact that they won the victory under the eyes of their patron, Mr. Staunton, whose name their club has always enjoyed the honour of bearing." J. DE S. [presumably John de Soyres]

Huddersfield College Magazine, May 1874: "THE OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE CHESS MATCH. (By our Oxford Correspondent.) AMONG the annual contests between the two Universities the Chess Match seems at last to have taken a permanent place; and though for obvious reasons it would be hopeless to predict for it a popularity such as is enjoyed by the boat race, the cricket match, or the athletic sports-the chess tourney does attract a crowd of spectators without parallel in the history of the game.

"As an exhibition of chess skill the match will probably prove always a failure: the ordinary undergraduate of two or three years standing will possibly never afterwards find himself in a better condition for handling an oar or a bat, or for a three mile run, but the youth that is so much in his favour in any contest requiring strength and activity tells against him at chess.

"There can be no doubt, moreover, that Chess is not popular in the University, and is cultivated only in a very languid manner by the few who play at all. The merest glance at the games already played in the University Matches will show their great want of skill. Yet was this contest on both occasions watched with a keen and surprising interest by all the chess talent of London.

"Readers of the Huddersfield College Magazine may remember that upon the invitation of the City of London Chess Club the first match took place in their club rooms, 34, Milk Street, Cheapside, on March 28th, last year [1873]. Seven players represented each University, and Oxford won the match easily by nine games to two, with two drawn. This year the same club most hospitably repeated the invitation, and the second match was played on March 27th [1874] in the presence of from 600 to 800 spectators, including, among others, Staunton (who paid his first visit to the club on this occasion), Lowenthal, Horwitz, Bird, Blackburn [sic], Zukertort, and Steinitz, who acted as umpire.

"Great preparations had been made by the City of London Club to do honour to the occasion. The room was most impartially decorated with dark and light blue - not a window was allowed to display favouritism, but each had one dark and one light blue curtain. The very candles were adorned with dark and light blue spirals, and the players were almost surprised to find that their chess-men and boards did not partake of the prevailing hues. A substantial railing round the players enabled them to conduct their games with much greater comfort than last year when the crowd was very oppressive. At a quarter past six the two captains, Mr. De Soyres (Cambridge) and Mr. Parratt (Oxford) drew for move, which fell to Cambridge on the first board, and was then taken alternately all down the line.

"The first four players on the Cambridge side took part in the match last year, and the first three on the Oxford side.
Fortune very soon declared itself in favour of Cambridge, and as time went on the defeat of Oxford became only the more severe. At eleven o'clock several games remained unfinished, and were adjudged by the umpire. The following list gives the names of the players and the result of the match.

"During the match Herr Zukertort played six games blindfold, and Mr. Blackburn played a number of simultaneous games, with a view to draw some of the crowd away from the University Match - a benevolent intention which was by no means successful. Upon the conclusion of the play the combatants were invited to a magnificent supper, which was not concluded until two o'clock. The hospitality of the City of London Chess Club was unbounded, and the University players were very much impressed with the hearty kindness of their reception. The result of the match no doubt took Oxford by surprise, but it is probably good for both sides that both matches should not have been won by either. W. P.

The Times, Saturday 28 March 1874: "The Oxford and Cambridge Chess Match – Last year, on the eve of the contest on the River between the two Universities an inter-University Chess Match was played for the first time. The precedent thus set seems likely to become a permanent institution, if we may judge from the eagerness with which the proposal to repeat the match this year was accepted by the parties concerned, and the amount of interest it has excited in the chess world. The invitation to the University players to meet for the competition in the metropolis was given, as on the last occasion, by the City of London Chess Club. The rooms of the club at the City restaurant, Milk Street, Cheapside, were placed at the disposal of the Universities for the contest, and last night about 800 people attended to witness the match, among them being most of the chess celebrities of the metropolis, besides a large number of members of both Universities.

"The conditions of the match were that each University should be represented by seven players to be paired according to strength, each pair to play three games, and the majority of games was to decide the match. Play was to commence at 6 o'clock p.m., and all games remaining unfinished by 11 o'clock p.m. were to be adjudicated upon by Herr Steinitz, the winner of the Emperor's prize in the Vienna International Tournament of last year, who had been appointed umpire for the purpose, and whose decision upon the question of relative advantages was to be final. It was also agreed that any player might call for sand-glasses, in order to measure the time occupied by each player, and that the time limit should be 20 moves per hour.

"Adequate preparations had been made for the reception of the two University teams, and the room in which the match was played was decorated in the University colours and various emblems. For the greater comfort of the players a portion of the room was screened by a wooden barrier, inside of which no one was allowed to enter excepting the players, the umpire, and the secretaries to each board who had been appointed by the City of London Chess Club to score the moves.

"Play commenced at the appointed time, and the first move being drawn for on board no.1, fell to Mr. De Soyres on the Cambridge side, and then was taken alternately on the other boards. At half-past-7 Mr. Keynes, of Cambridge, who played the Petrous [sic] defence, scored the first game for his University. Ogden, who had opened with the Scotch gambit, soon followed suit with a victory for the same side. Parrott [sic], who played the Sicilian defence, drew his first games, after a protracted struggle of 43 moves, against De Soyres. Ball, who, as second player, played the French opening, won in 48 moves. May played against Plunkett the queen's gambit, and the game ended in a draw. The longest game in the first round as regards the number of moves was played between Tracey and Nicholson, the latter having played the queen's fianchetto as second player, won his games after 74 moves. The longest game in point of time, and therefore the last of the first round, ended in favour of Mr. Connell, of Oxford, at a quarter-past-9 o'clock.

"Thus the first round gave a score of 4 to 1 and 2 draws in favour of Cambridge.

"In the second round Cambridge still more increased their score by winning 4, losing 1, and 2 more draws. In the third round the Cantabs scored 1 over. At 11 o'clock the umpire decided five of the remaining games, 4 in favour of Cambridge and 1 for Oxford, the score at the end standing thus - Cambridge, won 13, Oxford, 3, and 4 draws. The following list will show the games.

"With the view of dividing the crowd which attended the rooms, the Prussian player, Herr Zukertort, had been engaged by the City of London Chess Club to play in another part of the establishment six games simultaneously against that number of players without seeing boards or men, and this performance appeared to excite great interest among the spectators. In the result the blindfold player won one, lost one, two were drawn, and two unfinished. In another room Mr. Blackburne, the winner of the second prize at the Vienna International Chess Congress, played seven games simultaneously over the board, allowing fresh opponents to enter as each game was finished. In the result Mr. Blackburne won 17 and lost three. The teams of the two Universities were then entertained to a repast as guests of the City of London Chess Club.

Westminster Papers, 1 Apr 1874: "The second of the annual Chess matches between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge was played on Friday, the 27th ult.[March 1874], at the rooms of the City Chess Club, in Milk Street, amid every indication of undiminished popular interest. The match attracted the attendance of almost every person of note in the Metropolitan Chess world, and the outsiders mustered even in greater force than on the occasion of the first contest in 1873. The conditions of the match were the same as those laid down last year, viz., that the players should be paired according to their reputed force ; that each player should play two games, inclusive of draws, with a time limit of one hour to each player for fifteen moves, and that any game unfinished at half-past ten o'clock should be decided by Mr. Steinitz. The following is the pairing of the players :—The contest resulted in a hollow victory for Cambridge, whose champions scored 13 to Oxford's 3. Drawn games 4. The result is a complete reversal of the defeat sustained by Cambridge last year, when Oxford won, with a score of 9 games to 2, and 2 draws ; and may in some measure, at all events, be attributed to the "coaching" of Mr. Steinitz. The play on both sides was much superior to that of last year, and the games of Mr. de Soyres and Mr. Parratt, Mr. Keynes and Mr. Madan, will be found worthy of perusual. The attractions of the meeting were not confined to the play of the University teams. In a crowded room, the atmosphere of which was heavy with the smoke of the "fragrant weed," Dr. Zukertort accomplished the difficult task of playing six games concurrently, sans voir, winning 3, drawing 2, and losing only 1 ; while in another apartment, Mr. Blackburne was playing "simultaneously" any number of games on the "one down and the other come on" principle. So soon as one antagonist was defeated, the gap was at once filled by another. Mr. Blackburne's performance was the clearest exposé of the "simultaneous game" imposture we could desire to witness. To a player of his force and readiness of resource, simultaneous games must appear to be child's-play. On the conclusion of the University match, the players were entertained at a banquet, prepared by the hospitable Committee of the City Club, and the meeting broke up at an early hour on Saturday morning, amid general congratulations upon its unqualified success. It is only right to mention that the boards and pieces used by the match players were kindly lent for the occasion by Messrs. W. Howard and Sons, of 63 Barbican."

City of London Chess Magazine, April 1874: "On the 16th March [1874], Herr Steinitz paid a visit to Cambridge, and remained there, as the guest of the University Chess Club, for five days. He was fortunate enough to lose no games during his stay, though three were drawn against him. One of these—a game played against Messrs. Ball, Keynes and Nicholson—has been sent to us, through the courtesy of one of the players, and we hope to publish the same in our next issue.

"The Cambridge University Chess Club appears to be in a most flourishing condition, and is able, as Herr Steinitz informs us, to boast of over one hundred members—a fact which demonstrates very conclusively that the Cantabrian undergraduates do not devote all their time to athletic sports. A tournament, which has been in progress amongst them, and for which 16 players entered, has lately terminated, and we give the score as follows:—Keynes, 12½; Willis, 11½; Nicholson, 10½; Hooper, 10; Ball, 9½; Lord, 9; May, 8½; Whiting, 8; Rogers and Murray, 7½ each; Evill, 7; Fisher, 6½; Ardblaster, 4½; Fraser, 4; Murton, 2½, and Wright, 1. In explanation of the above score we should state that each competitor played one game with the other fifteen, and the drawn games were counted as half.

"There has likewise been a tournament at the Oxford University Chess Club, though we have not yet been informed of the result. We notice, however, that the ties in the second round were Mr. Connell v. Hon. H. C. Plunkett, Mr. Tracey v. Mr. Coles, Mr. Gent v. Mr. Woods, and H. R. H. Prince Leopold constituted a "bye." The fact of a member of the Royal Family taking part in a Chess tournament may be alluded to as a further indication of the increasing popularity of the game with all classes."

City of London Chess Magazine, May 1874: "The Second Annual Match between the Oxford and Cambridge University Chess Clubs took place on Friday, 27th March, at the City of London Chess Club, City Restaurant, 31 Milk-street, Cheapside. It will be remembered that the first match, which took place last year, between the two University Clubs, and which was also played at the City Restaurant, was a grand success. It was the unanimous opinion of all Chess circles that such a vast number as was then gathered together—from 600 to 800—had never been assembled before to witness a match at Chess. Moreover, it was found that sections of the community which previously knew little or nothing of Chess, regarded the event with interest, and the daily Press, perceiving this to be the case, showed their usual zest as caterers of public information.

"The explanation of this is that the public take a vivid interest in all that concerns the two great Universities, and they do so not without some reason, discerning that onr undergraduates are our future leaders in science, art, politics, commerce, war, in everything.

"Now, Chess players, while sharing in this general interest, and discerning a great future for the game from the fact of our University students engaging in emulative Chess encounters, are also not ignorant of the fact that in these early days of dark and light blue Chess matches no very high degree of strength is to be expected; that will come by and bye, though the zest with which they have taken up the study of the game speaks well for a quick advent of Chess excellence.

"On the present occasion there was evidently no diminution of the public interest excited by last year's encounter. There were in attendance certainly not less than 700 to witness the match, and much speculation was evinced as to the probable result. Oxford was the favourite, but it was fully well known that there would be a much harder fight by Cambridge than last year, when, it will be remembered, the dark blue representatives gained the day by 9 games to 2. Great preparations had been made for the reception of the two Clubs, and the saloon in which the match was to be played was handsomely decorated with the University colours and various emblems, besides being adorned with choice plants and some splendid candelabra, which the proprietor of the restaurant, Mr. Gordon, had provided for the occasion. Nearly all the Chess celebrities of the metropolis were present on the occasion, and amongst them we may mention Staunton, Steinitz (who officiated as umpire), Lowenthal, Horwitz, Zukertort, Bird, Blackburne, De Vere, Macdonnell, Boden, Duffy, Zytogorski, Wisker, etc.

"The number of players each side was, as last year, 7, and it was agreed that each pair should play three games.
Sand glasses to be provided to any players requiring same, and time limit in that case 20 moves per hour.

"Play commenced at a little after 6 o’clock p.m., and terminated at 11 o’clock, when the score showed that Cambridge had won the match by 13 games as against 3 won by their opponents, 4 being drawn.

"The following pairs made drawn games, viz.: May and Plunkett, Keynes and Madan, De Soyres and Parratt (2 draws).
Herr Zukertort, in another room, played 6 games without seeing the board, against the following players:—Messrs. Pearson, Wood, Cohen, Hall, Taylor, Woodard and Stowe in consultation.

"Herr Zukertort won 2, lost 1, and 3 were drawn.

"Mr. Blackburne, in another part of the establishment, played 7 simultaneous games over the board at a time, allowing fresh opponents as each game was finished—altogether about 20. He won all except three, which were lost by him.

"Altogether the event was emphatically the most successful that has ever taken place in the Chess world. The utmost order and good humour prevailed throughout the large assemblage, and it was generally agreed that the arrangements made had proved most successful.

"We should not omit to allude to the marked improvement in the play of the Cambridge players as compared with last year. They have evidently used the interval of time which has elapsed to the best advantage. Of Oxford we cannot say the same ; hence their defeat by such a large majority of games.

"Not the least interesting and pleasing part of the affair was the appearance of Mr. Staunton among the crowd of spectators who witnessed the match. There were many present who had never seen him, and who were consequently glad to have the opportunity of doing so afforded to them. We were happy to observe that Mr. Staunton had apparently recovered from his late illness.

"At the conclusion of the match there were six games not finished, and these, according to agreement, were examined by Herr Steinitz, who had been appointed umpire for the occasion. He awarded four games to Cambridge, and two to Oxford.

"With reference to Herr Zukertort, we should add that Mr. Taylor was the player who won his game; Messrs. Cohen and Wood lost; while Messrs. Pearson, Hall, and the two who were consulting—viz. Messrs. Woodard and Stowe, effected drawn battles.

"The Chess men and boards with which the University match was played were supplied by Messrs. Howard, of No. G3 Barbican.

"After the conclusion of the proceedings the players and officials of tho two University clubs were entertained at a supper, as the guests of the City of London Chess Clnb, and the remainder of the evening was occupied with toast making. Among the toasts were those of “The Two University Chess Clubs;” “The City of London Chess Club;” “ The Umpire, Herr Steinitz;” “Chess Celebrities,” coupled with the names of Messrs. Bird and Zukertort. Messrs. Lowenthal, Horwitz, and Duffy (the latter for “The Press”) also came in for their share, and the round of compliments finished with the toast of “The President, Mr. Rabbeth,” by which time the clock made an announcement which sent all away to their homes."

All material © 2018-2021 John Saunders

File Updated

Date Notes
2018 Original upload of the 1874 Varsity match material.
5 September 2020 Added the third game played between Ogden and Meredith. Jason Radley pointed out that I had overlooked this score when gathering games from the Westminster Papers, 1 April 1874, and he's right. I have now added the score, with light notes penned by Zukertort and/or Wisker. So we now have 12 of the 20 games played. Thanks, Jason.
30 March 2021 Added the reports on the match from the City of London Chess Magazine.