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John Saunders


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Tournament: 17th Varsity Match • Venue: British Chess Club, King Street, London • Date: Thursday 28 March 1889
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1888 • Forward to 1890 • last edited: Saturday April 20, 2024 1:46 PM

The 17th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at British Chess Club, King Street, Covent Garden, London, on Thursday 28 March 1889 with Leopold Hoffer adjudicating unfinished games. Start 1.30pm/1.45pm, end 6.00pm.

1888«     1889 Varsity Chess Match     »1890
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1w Alexander George Gordon Ross (New) 1-0   Richard Stoney Topham (Christ's)
2b William Stoney (Christ Church) 1-0   Henry Edwin Robinson (St Catharine's)
3w Edward Mackenzie Jackson (New) 1-0 1-0 Hubert Morgan-Browne (Trinity Hall)
4b Thomas Hamilton (Exeter) ½-½   Ashley William Graham Allen (Trinity)
5w Edward Bolland Osborn (Magdalen) 1-0 ½-½ Reginald Wyke Bayliss (Peterhouse)
6b Frederick Bernard Gunnery (Christ Church) ½-½   Charles Edward Taylor (Trinity)
7w Wallace Mackenzie Le Patourel (Balliol) 0-1 ½-½ Hubert Bell Lester (Queens')

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), (compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987); Sergeant, Philip W, A Century of Chess (London 1934, referred to in the text as PWS); The Field, 30 March 1889, p443; International Chess Magazine, May 1889, p136; FreeBMD & other statutory records; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. 2 complete games and 1 part-game of the 10 games played are available in the download.

The Field, 30 March 1889, p443: "This year's meeting of the Universities at the British Chess Club will be a red-letter day in the annals of the University matches. The members of the club gave the chess devotees a hearty and cordial reception. The large hall in which the match took place was tastefully decorated with the rival colours, and the members and visitors stood round the boards in large numbers, watching the progress of the games with appreciative interest. We have no doubt that the evident interest evinced in their play stimulated the teams to the utmost of their powers. After four hours' continuous and heavy work, they thoroughly entered into the enjoyment of the evening at the banquet and concert given in honour of their visit.

"The match commenced at 1.45pm, Oxford having won the toss for the first move. It was agreed that no second game should be commenced after 4.15, and that time should be called at six o'clock, the game not then finished to be adjudicated as on former occasions by the umpire. Time limit, twenty moves per hour. Oxford were the favourites this year, they having shown excellent form in the defeat they inflicted upon a team of the St. George's Chess Club on the previous day, when they won a match six games to two. Nevertheless they selected safe openings, with the exception of Jackson, who offered a Gambit, which the Cantab, however, declined.

"Play proceeded steadily until 3.50, when Oxford scored the first victory on Board No.3, at 3.15; Cambridge soon equalised the score by winning a game at 3.50 on Board No.7; but after this Oxford drew ahead, and there was no doubt as to the result of the match. The Cantabs were then only fighting for a defeat with honour, in commencing as quickly as possible a second game. We may specially mention the game on Board No.1, which was one of the most difficult. Ross had for nearly two hours a barely perceptible advantage of position; but gradually pressing on, he won a pawn on the 36th move, and forced a most stubbornly defended game just before time was called. Two other hard games were played on Boards Nos. 4 and 6.

"When time was called, Mr Hoffer adjudicated upon three unfinished games, which yielded the final score as follows... Oxford brought three new men into the field, and Cambridge four. Hamilton, however, played last year already in the teams against the City and St. George's Chess Clubs."


"At 7.30 the teams were entertained at dinner. Mr George Newnes, M.P., was in the chair; on his right the president of the victors, Mr A. G. G. Ross, and Capt. Selwyn, M.P., and on his left the president of the losing team, Mr A. Morgan-Brown [sic], and Mr Atherley Jones, M.P., followed on both sides by the teams, alternately a dark and light blue, Mr Minchin and the Rev. W. Wayte, of the St. George's, and Messrs Newbolt and Warburton of last year's team, closing up the ranks of the guests, and then came the members.

"Judging from the crowded appearance of the room, the number present must have been over eighty. It being understood that a smoking concert was to follow the dinner, the toasts were curtailed both in number and duration, a precedent worthy of imitation. After the loyal toasts, Mr Newnes proposed the toast of the evening, "The Universities," and Mr Ross and Mr Morgan-Brown replied. The latter proved a talented and humorous speaker. Mr Atherley Jones Proposed "The Visitors," Capt. Selwyn and Mr Minchin replied: the Rev. W. Wayte proposed "The Umpire," and Mr Hoffer replied. The toasts were interspersed with songs by Mr Everard, Dunn, and others. At the smoking concert which followed, Mr Grossmith [almost certainly George Grossmith but just possibly his younger brother Weedon Grossmith], of the Savoy, gave a varied entertainment, eliciting continuous peals of laughter, and so did Mr Bertram's performance. The electric light and decorations added greatly to the festive character of the evening."

The Field, 6 April 1889, p480: [full score of board 1 game Ross (Oxford) 1-0 Topham (Cambridge)]... "Board No.2.—Mr Robinson (Cambridge) selected the Petroff, and made a tolerably good defence up to an advanced stage of the game, but then Mr Stoney, by superior generalship (on this occasion) managed to secure a victory. We should have given an opinion about the ending, but in spite of several attempts at deciphering the score, we must give up the task, the record being quite incorrectly kept." [Slightly puzzling: Robinson should have been White so it would have been his opponent Stoney selecting and defending the Petroff - JS]

"Board No.3.—First game: The Cantab [Morgan-Browne] declined the offered Gambit with 2...P to Q4, and fell into a well-known "book" variation, in which he has either to lose the queen or, the lesser evil, a piece. He selected the latter course, and made as a good a struggle as possible under the given circumstances. But he had to strike his colours on the 22nd move, and the misfortune to be the first loser for Cambridge. Time, 3.15.

"[Board No.3] Second game: This game commenced immediately on the conclusion of the foregoing, was an Evans Gambit, conducted by both sides somewhat against the canons laid down by the authorities. As a rule, we are not adverse to variations in the openings by less experienced players, as by these means they are thrown upon their own resources, and the games naturally result in interesting specimens. In the present instance, however, none of these incidents are to be recorded. Mr Jackson (Oxford) could have won a piece on the 12th move, instead of which he only effected an exchange of one, satisfied merely with the superior position and prospects of a counter-attack, which was soon realised. Had the game then been correctly played to the end, it would have presented a redeeming feature, but the Cantab lost a piece by an injudicious exchange, which occurred on the 27th move, after a short skirmish in the centre position, and resigned a few moves afterwards. Time, 4.55.

"Board No.4.—Allen (Cambridge) defended with the Petroff, and the game proceeded regularly for nineteen moves, when Hamilton captured a pawn which the Cantab left en prise. As he obtained a counter-attack in consequence, we will give him the benefit of the doubt, and assume that it was done designedly, this assumption being justified by the fact that he showed considerable ingenuity and fertility of resource afterwards. [The Field has the names the wrong way round—Allen was White and Hamilton Black. This was acknowledged in the next issue of the magazine - JS] [moves from 28 to the end given]

"Board No.5.—The first game was defended by Osborn (Oxford) with the King's fianchetto, and won at 4.10; and the second game, a French, adopted by Bayliss (Cambridge), was adjudicated as drawn, when time was called.

"Board No.6.—This was a hard-fought Ruy Lopez, given up as drawn, by mutual consent, at an hour when it was too late to commence a second game.

"Board No.7.—First Game: A Petroff, in which Mr Le Patourel (Oxford), on the sixth move, prematurely sacrificed two minor pieces for a rook, for no adequate compensation in attack; on the contrary, Mr Lester soon assumed the offensive, and brought the game to an early conclusion...

"Board No.7.—Second Game: This was an Irregular Opening, in which the Oxonian played steadier, after his violent sortie in the first game. When time was called, Mr Hoffer adjudicated the game as drawn." [The Field gives the final position for adjudication but the scan in the online archive is illegible; besides which, the side to move is not given - JS]

International Chess Magazine, May 1889, p136: "The Inter-University match came off in the handsome rooms of the British Chess Club when there was a large gathering of interested spectators. Play had to commence at 1.30 and to cease at 6. but no second game at any board had to be begun after 4 o'clock. I cannot help thinking, however, that it would be better for the Universities to fall in with the "one board, one game" principle which is now universally accepted in this country in all important matches. Oxford undoubtedly was the favorite before the match and after events did not belie the forecast. Play was a little late in commencing and it was not till 1:45 that the fight began. A little before 4, two games were finished, one going to Oxford, the other to Cambridge. After this, however, Oxford drew ahead and ultimately won by 4 games, the score being Oxford 7, Cambridge 3.

"After the play had finished, the British entertained the two teams at dinner over which Mr. George Newnes, M. P., presided. Afterwards a smoking concert was held. This is the 17th match between the two Universities and of these Cambridge has won 10 matches and Oxford 6, whilst 1 match was drawn. The total score of games is Cambridge 113, Oxford 103."

1889 Universities Week Matches

Monday 25 March - Cambridge University 1½, Athenaeum 4½
Tuesday 26 March - Combined Universities 10½, City of London 9½
Wednesday 27 March - Cambridge University 2½, British Chess Club 5½
Wednesday 27 March - Oxford University 6, City of London 2

1889 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match, Wednesday 27 March 1889, British Chess Club (1st Match)

1889 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Walter Montague Gattie (Christ Church) ½-½   William Hewison Gunston (St John's)
2w Charles Dealtry Locock (University) 0-1   John Neville Keynes (Pembroke)
3b George Edward Wainwright (University) 1-0 ½-½ Francis Parker Carr (St Catharine's)
4w Rev. William Grundy (Worcester) 1-0 0-1 Herman George Gwinner (Trinity)
5b Richard Whieldon Barnett (Wadham) 0-1   Rev. Hugh William Sherrard (Non-Coll.)
6w Rev. John Francis Welsh (Christ Church) 0-1 1-0 William Henry Blythe (Jesus)
7b Rev. Edward Herring Kinder (Brasenose) 0-1   Efric Leofwin Kearney (St Catharine's)

Two games were played on boards 3, 4 and 6 and the results for those boards are as per the result given in The Field, 30 March 1889, p443. However, the footnote given there—"Mr Hoffer adjudicated the one game in favour of Mr Keynes; and one favour of Mr Blythe"—might seem to indicate that, on board 6, Welsh won the first game and Blythe the second as it is more likely that the second game was subject to adjudication than the first. JS

A Century of British Chess by P. W. Sergeant (publ. Hutchinson, 1934), p303: "An interesting pendant to the series of matches between the Oxford and Cambridge University Chess Clubs is that between past members of the two Universities, which, though at first only intermittent, has now developed into a regular annual series of encounters, in which the anxiety of past University members to play makes the organisers’ task of selection difficult, in view of the necessity of limiting the expenditure on securing a meeting-place in central London. The extent to which enthusiasm concerning the match has been stirred is illustrated by the case of the late Sir Walter Parratt, who, as we have seen, figured at the top board for Oxford in the first two matches of the inter-University series, in 1873-74. In his last illness at Windsor in March, 1924, when he was eighty-three years of age, he had accepted an invitation to play for Oxford Past v. Cambridge Past on the 22nd of the month. His doctor would not allow him to go to London for the match, but he had the result telegraphed to him. Less than five days after it he passed away in his sleep, some of his last conscious talk having been about the match.

"The first of these encounters was played on March 27th, 1889, the day before the seventeenth of the inter-University series; and teams of seven faced one another under similar conditions to those of the undergraduate match. Cambridge Past won, but not by a large margin."

File updated

Date Notes
31 March 2021 Original upload.
20 April 2024 Added the game C.Locock 0-1 J.Keynes from the Oxford Past vs Cambridge Past match held on 27 March 1889. My thanks to Richard James for drawing my attention to this game.


All material © 2020 John Saunders