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John Saunders


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Tournament: 18th Varsity Match • Venue: British Chess Club, King Street, London • Date: Thursday 27 March 1890
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1889 • Forward to 1891 • last edited: Monday December 11, 2023 11:08 PM

The 18th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at British Chess Club, 37 King Street, Covent Garden, London, on Thursday 27 March 1890 with Leopold Hoffer adjudicating unfinished games. Start 2.15pm, end 6.00pm.

1889«     1890 Varsity Chess Match     »1891
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Edward Mackenzie Jackson (New) 1-0   Ashley William Graham Allen (Trinity)
2w Frederick Bernard Gunnery (Christ Church) 1-0   Hubert Bell Lester (Queens')
3b William Stoney (Christ Church) ½-½ 0-1 Henry Edwin Robinson (St Catharine's)
4w Wallace Mackenzie Le Patourel (Balliol) 0-1   Richard Henry Prior (Trinity)
5b John Francis Frederick Whall Ure (Christ Church) 0-1   William Courtney Sandford (Queens')
6w Frank Edward Jelly (Magdalen) ½-½   Robert Cecil Stephenson (Caius)
7b Louis Charles Crump (Balliol) ½-½   Edward Bankes James (Caius)

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); BCM, April 1890, ppn 122-126 and BCM, May 1890, p178; The Field, 29 March 1890, p460 & 5 April 1890, p480; International Chess Magazine, Vol.6 No.5, May 1890, ppn 129-133; FreeBMD & other statutory records; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. 2 complete games and 4 game fragments of the eight games played are available in the download.

The Field, 29 March 1890, p460: "The Annual Universities Match. The Universities might aptly be called the nurseries of what otherwise would threaten to become an exotic production, viz., the first-class chess player. The Universities have produced players like Gattie, Donisthorpe, Locock, and Wainwright in later years: Charles Anthony, De Soyers, the Rev. W. Wayte, and the Rev. C. Ranken in former years. Whilst our masters have devoted a lifetime to the cultivation of the frame, the gentlemen named practise the same only as a pastime, and a wholesome intellectual recreation. Hence the slight line of demarcation which separates them. When in the course of time our old masters will have to vacate their places by the laws of nature, we shall have to look upon the men who have received their chess training at the Universities to take their places. That is, no doubt, the reason why so much importance attached to, and so much interest taken in, the annual chess matches of the Universities.

"The eighteenth annual match between the sister Universities was played on Thursday at the British Chess Club. Play commenced somewhat later than usual, viz., at 2.15; and as, according to the conditions, no second game was to be commenced after four o’clock, and play was to cease at six o clock, the above hour is rather too late. With the exception of No. 3 board, no second game could be played, and three of the games had to be adjudicated at the call of time. We would again suggest that play should commence earlier; there would then be ample time to play two games all found, to finish them probably without adjudication, and the test for supremacy would be a better one.

"The play promised to be of a steady nature, as the openings adopted were four Ruy Lopez, two Irregular Openings, a Giuoco Piano, and Centre Gambit [1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Bc4 according to an article in BCM, August 1898, p324]. Shortly before four o'clock only the game on No. 3 board was concluded—a draw; two more draws followed later on, and it was at that time difficult to see which side would gain the day. Mr Gunnery played a very good game; the second game between Stoney and Robinson should have been won by the Oxonian but for his impetuosity. An interesting ending ensued on No. 7 board, James having a bishop and three pawns against the Oxonian's five pawns; but with great judgment of position the Cantab was contented with a draw.

"Mr Hoffer was the umpire, and adjudicated upon three games at the close of the match.

"The Banquet—At 7.30 the teams were entertained at dinner. Mr Geo. Newnes, M.P., was in the chair, on his right Mr A. W. G. Allen, President of the Cantabs, and on his left Mr W. M. Le Patourel, the Oxford President; then followed the visitors— Mr L. J. Jennings, M.P., Capt. Selwyn, M.P., Mr Henniker Heaton, M.P.1, and the two teams. The speeches and toasts were curtailed on this occasion, owing to the smoking concert which was to follow, and the toasts were limited, after the loyal toast, to “The University Teams," proposed by Mr Atherley Jones, and responded to by the two Presidents, Messrs Allen and Le Patourel, the latter including in his reply "The British Chess Club," to which Mr Newnes responded. Mr Cubison 2 proposed "The Visitors," and Mr Jennings, M.P., Mr Henniker Heaton, M.P., and Capt. Selwyn replied. A smoking concert concluded the evening." 1 Sir John Henniker Heaton, M.P. (1848-1918) - his granddaughter Mary Araluen Elizabeth Anne Henniker-Heaton (1904-1972) was a well-known competition chess player and played in many British Women's Chess Championships and other UK events between the 1930s and the 1970s. 2 William Henry Cubison (1814-1906) - see Chess Notes 11069.

The Field, 5 April 1890, p503: [Board No.s 1 and 2 - full scores given] "Board No.3.—H. E. Robinson (Cambridge) had the move and played a Ruy Lopez. He lost a piece for two pawns in the opening, in a well-known theoretical position. He made, however, a good fight afterwards, and shortly before four o'clock both sides agreed to a draw, so as to have a chance of playing a second game. The ending at this stage was very difficult, and would probably have consumed the available time for a second game, with a doubtful result. The Oxonian had rook, bishop, and six pawns, against two bishops, knight, and four pawns.

"In the second game, on the same board, W. Stoney (Oxford), commenced with the Centre Gambit [1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Bc4 according to an article in BCM, August 1898, p324], with which evidently he was more familiar than the Cantab. The latter adopted an inferior defence, with 4.. .d6, and played afterwards ...Qe7, intending to castle on the queen's side, his opponent having castled on that side; but the queen had to retire, and so he lost ground. On the fourteenth move the Oxonian won a pawn. He gave it up again for a superior position and a powerful attack, when he hastily, in the excitement of the moment, transposed the moves he intended to make, and instead of winning, he lost the game. We illustrate the position after White's 22.Qe6. Here Black played 22...Nd8, and Stoney, intending to check with the bishop, followed by Nd5, touched the knight first and had to move it. One of the continuations might have been 23.Ba4+ Ndc6 24. Nd4 Qd7 25. Qc4 and wins."

"Board No.4 was a Queen's Gambit, offered by W. M. Le Patourel (Oxford) and accepted by R. H. Prior (Cambridge). The game was quite even up to the twentieth move, when the Oxonian lost the exchange. At the call of time Mr Hoffer gave the game in favour of Black, in the following position, after Black's 30th move. [Cautionary note: I am very far from certain that I have recorded the final position correctly as the unsatisfactory scan provided in the British Newspaper online archive makes it extremely hard to distinguish pieces on the dark squares. In particular I cannot be certain that the WK is on g1 - another possibility is f2 or even c1. It will be necessary to check with a physical copy of this page in order to be more certain. JS]

"Board No.5.—W. C. Sandford (Cambridge) opened with the Ruy Lopez, and J. F. Ure (Oxford) held his own up to an advanced stage of the game, when he made a hasty move, which involved the loss of the game"

"Board No.6.—F. E. Jelly (Oxford) played also a Ruy Lopez, which R. C. Stephenson (Cambridge) defended with 3...Nd4, an inferior defence (favoured by Bird), which gave White the usual advantage, which he ought to obtain against this defence; but he exchanged queens early, and allowed the Cantab to institute a telling counter attack. The following is the position at the most interesting stage of the game, after White's 26.Bd1." [Cautionary warning: this position has been transcribed from a close to illegible scan in the British Newspaper online archive in which pieces on dark squares can barely be discerned - it may not be correct - JS] 26... hxg3 27. fxg3 Ne3 28. f6 Rxg3 29. Re1 Ng2 30. Rg4 Rxg4 31. Bxg4+ Kd8 32. Re7 Rh6 (The Field columnist gives the following line as being winning for White: 32... Rh4 33. Bf5 Rh5 34. Bc2 Nf4 35. Rxf7 Rg5 36. Rxb7 Ke8 37. Ba4 Nd3 38. Bxc6+ Kf8 39. Bxd5 and wins" but Black can now simply take the bishop with the rook. This suggests to me that the initial position I have given is likely to be wrong.) 33. Rxf7 Ke8 34. Be6 Nf4 35. Re7+ Kf8 Draw by perpetual check. 1/2-1/2

"Board No.7.—E. B. James (Cambridge), having the move, opened with 1.d4, and L. C. Crump (Oxford) replied with 1...d5. Considering that this was the last board in order of merit, the game was above the average of what would have been expected. Both players were soon after the few opening moves thrown upon their own resources, and struggled on manfully with quite an irregular and difficult position. In the ending the Cantab managed to win a piece, but at the expense of three pawns, and could only manage to draw, the Oxonian not being anxious at all about the fate of his game, but rather disappointed that his opponent would not ventore to try for a win."

International Chess Magazine, Vol.6 No.5, May 1890, ppn 129-133: "VARSITY WEEK. Boat race week has come and gone, and Londoners have been brave in blue ribbons, light and dark as their individual fancy inclined, and young 'Varsity and old ’Varsity have thronged the thoroughfares and filled the hotels, and dons and freshmen, graduates and undergraduates have alike forsaken their academic retreats and poured into this modern Babylon. In the boat race itself the dark blue went bravely to the front and Oxford won; but in the struggle which I am about to chronicle—the struggle between the two Universities over the Chess board—it was the light blue that was the flag of victory, for Cambridge carried off the honors of the day.

"On Monday, 24th March, the first encounters in connection with ’Varsity week commenced, as on that day a team of the Oxford men played North London and a team of the Cambridge men the British. The match against the North Londoners took place at the rooms of the latter, Mare Street, Hackney, at 2:30 in the afternoon. The Oxford team was made up of 6 players who took part in the Inter-University match, with the addition of Rev. W. Grundy and Mr. P. L. Osborn. The ranks of the eight North London players did not include any of the strongest players of the club. There was a fair attendance of spectators, including Mr. I. Gunsberg, who acted as umpire. After a good fight, a draw resulted, as shown below.

"The match between Cambridge and the British Chess Club was played at the rooms of the latter, King Street, Covent Garden, W. C., there being a large attendance to witness the play. The Cambridge players were made up of 6 of the men engaged in the Interuniversity match and Mr. W. H. Gunston, Mr. J. A. Israel and Mr. F. G. Scovell. The British team was a mixed one, including as it did some of the strong players of the club. From the first the British took the lead, and when Mr. Hoffer gave his decision on the two unfinished games after time had been called the score stood: British Chess Club, 7 ; Cambridge University Chess Club, 2.

"On the following evening, Tuesday, 25th March, the match between the United Universities (past and present) and the City of London (second team) was played in the "Salutation," Newgate Street, E. C. Play commenced at 7:30, at which hour the rooms presented a very animated appearance, most of the city notables being on the scene, whilst the "masters" were in force these including Messrs. Blackburne (who acted as umpire), Gunsberg, Lee, Mason and Van Vliet. The teams that play on each side in this particular match, year by year, are the most carefully selected of any engaged during boat race week, for nothing is left to chance—players putting in an appearance at the last moment, or the making up of "scratch teams" under the game time limit. Year by year the conditions of this match remain practically unaltered. These are that the Universities team shall be made up of the 14 Interuniversity players and 6 past players, thus making a total of 20. The City tram is made up entirely of second players, selected, as a rule, from those who are actually engaged in pending club tournaments. Generally, the six past University are selected three from each University, but on this occasion Cambridge supplied three of these redoubtable warriors and Oxford only one. On the other hand, one or two of the Interuniversity players were absent, and their places were taken by either present players, but even then one board was left vacant, though Mr. G. Adamson waived his right to claim a win for the City on this board by default, preferring that the match should be decided by games actually played. Seeing, however, that the City had not done well in the last three matches, Mr Adamson put into the field the very strongest possible team he could—that is, with his first team barred.

"In this connection I here desire to correct a remark in the London Field that may have arisen from a mistake, but which is none the less curious, considering that the conditions of the match are so well known. Speaking of the United Universities team, the Field says: "Some of their best men were absent, namely, Gattie, Wainwright, Locock, Lowe, Carr, etc.; but. of course, the City could have matched these strong players, too, having such large numbers to select from." As a matter of fact, had the strong past University players been included in the team, they would have merely displaced some or all of the strong past players who did take part in the fight, and, judging from the result of the play in the “past players" match, the change could not materially have strengthened the 'Varsities' team. On the other hand, the City had "no large numbers to select from," so far as matching these strong players, for, as a matter of fact, Mr. Adamson had already called in every available strong player of the second class. Casual readers of the Field's report might imagine that the secretary of the City club had a free hand to call upon even the strongest players of the club, irrespective of class, but this not being the case the phrase used in the Field is certainly not well chosen.

"After play had commenced at the various boards, it proceeded very steadily on each side until the score stood one each. Then the City began to draw ahead, and the score was City 4, Universities 2, and thus having gained the lead the Cits never lost their grip, but, playing carefully, increased their score until, when time was called, it stood, City 10, 'Varsities 6, and three games unfinished. At board No. 11 the position was complicated, but the odds were on the City, though not sufficient to warrant Mr. Blackburne doing more than declaring it a draw.

"At board No. 12 Mr. H. G. A. Brown (a new and valuable recruit to the City forces) had had a hard fight with the Oxford captain, Mr. Le Patourel, but had at length broken in and was a piece ahead, and Mr. Blackburne at once gave the game to the City. At board No. 14 the City player. Mr. A. H. Watson, was a Pawn ahead, and, as Mr. Blackburne pointed out, had a few more moves been played, a winning position might have resulted from best play, but as it was left he did not feel justified in declaring more than a draw, and the City therefore won by 5 games.

"Taking the top six boards where the past University players sat, this is an excellent performance of the City men, for they actually equalized matters there, each side scoring three; and as the City fully expected, from the nature of things, to be in the minority here, they are to be congratulated this year. This is the sixth annual match between the combined 'Varsities and the City seconds, and the score of match play is now equal, each side having three out of the six, the "Two Blues" winning in 1887-'88-'89, with a total of 57 games, and the City in 1885-’86 and 1890, with a total of 62 games.

"The eighteenth annual Inter-University match was played on Thursday, 27th March, at the rooms of the British Chess Club, King Street, W. C. The handsome saloon was gaily decorated for the occasion with dark and light blue hangings. All through the afternoon the rooms were thronged by visitors, many well-known University men being present and great interest being evidently taken in the match. There is one condition of the match that I consider ought to be altered, and that is the provision which allows a second game to be started on any board whereon the first game has been finished before 4 o'clock. In a match which commenced at 2:15 such a condition is, in my opinion, a premium to skittle play, and anyhow it lessens the value of a team match when some players play one game board and others two. I have been a staunch believer in "one board one game” theory for years, but if players wanted a two-game match, then time should be given to every pair of players to complete both games, if the test for supremacy is to be anything like fair.

"The play in the early part of the match proceeded very steadily, and only one game was decided before 4 o’clock, wherefore only at one board was a second game possible. On the board where this occurred Oxford was very unfortunate, for in the first game Mr. Stoney had decidedly the better game, but by an unsound combination lost ground and was forced to put up with a draw; whilst in the second game he also got a manifest superiority, but, playing hastily, lost. In the end Cambridge won by the odd game.

"After the match the British Chess Club entertained the two teams to dinner, when a large company sat down, presided over by Mr. George Newnes, M. P.

"This is the eighteenth match between the two Universities, and of these Cambridge has won 11 and Oxford 6, and one has been drawn. Of the total games played Cambridge has scored 117½ and Oxford 106½.

"The week was brought to an end by a match played on Saturday, 29th March, between representatives of the Old Blues. Fortune again favored the Light Blues, who won by 7½ to 2½."

BCM, May 1890, p178: I had only time last month to record the score of the annual match between the two Universities. As to the play itself there is not much to be said, as it did not present any special feature. I think, however, it is a pity that a match of the importance of the Inter-University is not carried out on the “one board one game” principle. The attempt to get two games played comes to nothing except on one or two boards, and on these hurry as a rule interferes with the good quality of the games produced. As a matter of fact, in the present match, only on one board was a game got through in time to start another, and the second game had no chance of being completed. One of two courses ought to be adopted in future matches; either more time should be given for the play, if two games are to be got through, or (what I on principle prefer) the match should be “one game.” A friend suggests that the match should be one of two rounds, and played on successive days; there is something in this suggestion, and it would certainly be a great improvement on the haphazard way at present adopted.

Chess Players' Chronicle, Vol. 11, No.374, 12 April 1890, ppn 105-106: "THE UNIVERSITIES CHESS WEEK. As usual the Chess players of the two Universities fought a number of matches during the week ending 29th ult. On Monday the representatives of Oxford met the North London Club, at the rooms of the latter, 206 Mare Street, Hackney. There were eight players a side, and the outcome of the contest was an equal score, three wins and two draws to each team.

"The Cambridge players fought the British Club the same day, but in their case the result was far different. Nine players took part on each side; four of them drew their games, but in the other cases the British Club players won, thus making the score 7 to 2.

"On Tuesday the two Universities united their strength against the City of London Club. Nineteen boards were engaged in the match, which resulted in favour of the City men, by ten to five, with four draws.

"Wednesday, being boat race day, chess was forgotten, but on Thursday the annual fight between the two Universities was fought at the British Club. The result proved in favour of the Cambridge team, who won three games to two, with three draws. It is worthy of mention that Oxford lost the match through allowing one of their men to start a second game, a practice that is rapidly dying out in Club matches.

"This year's contest was the eighteenth in which the two Universities have engaged, and the eleventh won by Cambridge. Oxford has secured six victories, and the other was a draw (1883). During this period 224 games have been played, 95 of which have been secured by the light blue representatives, 84 by the dark blue, and 45 have been drawn.

"A match between past representatives of the Universities was played on the 29th, when Cambridge scored 7 wins, to 2 secured by Oxford, with one draw."

1890 Universities Week Matches

Monday 24 March - Oxford University 4, North London 4
Monday 24 March - Cambridge University 2, British CC 7
Tuesday 25 March - Combined Universities 7, City of London 2nd Team 12

1890 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match, Saturday 29 March 1890, British Chess Club (2nd Match)

1890 Oxford Past v Cambridge Past Match
Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Walter Montague Gattie (Christ Church) 0-1 0-1 William Hewison Gunston (St John's)
2w Hon. Horace Curzon Plunkett (University) ½-½   John Neville Keynes (Pembroke)
3b George Edward Wainwright (University) 0-1 1-0 Francis Parker Carr (St Catharine's)
4w Rev. John Francis Welsh (Christ Church) 1-0   Rev. James Fearn Sugden (Trinity Hall)
5b Richard Whieldon Barnett (Wadham) 0-1   Herman George Gwinner (Trinity)
6w Charles Cotterill Lynam (Hertford) 0-1   Rev. Hugh William Sherrard (Non-Coll.)
7b Rev. Edward Herring Kinder (Brasenose) 0-1 0-1 William Henry Blythe (Jesus)

Daily News (London) - Monday 31 March 1890: OXFORD v. CAMBRIDGE. A most interesting match between past members of both the University Chess teams was played at the British Chess Club on Saturday last. The match derived additional interest from the fact that all the gentlemen engaged have greatly improved their playing strength since the days when they played with the respective teams. We need only mention that Mr. Wainwright, the present Amateur Champion, as well as Mr. Gattie, who formerly occupied the same position, played for Oxford, the losing team, to show how strong the play must have been. Each side was represented by seven players, and play began at 2.30 p.m. and concluded at 6.30, when one game was left to be adjudicated by Mr. Gunsberg, who acted as umpire. Of the Cambridge players, Messrs. Gunston and Sherrard particularly distinguished themselves by fine play. The Rev. J. F. Welsh won a very good game for Oxford, which we give below. The result of the match was a decisive victory for Cambridge by 7½ games to 2½. [Both the Oxford wins were published in the Morning Post - none of the seven Cambridge wins seem to have been published - JS]

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Date Notes
3 April 2021 Original upload.


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