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Tournament: 31st Varsity Match • Venue: St George's Chess Club, 87 St James's Street, London • Date: Monday 23 March 1903
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The 31st Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at St George's Chess Club, 87 St James' Street, London, on Monday 23 March 1903. Harry Nelson Pillsbury acted as match umpire (substituting for Leopold Hoffer).

1902«     1903 Varsity Chess Match     »1904
Bd Oxford University   vs   Cambridge University Opening
1 Harold Francis Davidson (Exeter) 0-1 Herbert Anthony Webb (Trinity) Philidor's Defence, 28 moves
2 Henry Delacombe Roome (Merton) 0-1 Harry Bateman (Trinity) Centre Gambit, 26 moves
3 Thomas Herbert Bumpus (St John's) ½-½ Bertram Goulding Brown (Trinity) Queen's Gambit Declined
4 William Mitchell Grundy (All Souls') 1-0 George Leathem (St John's) French
5 Hugh Taylor (Balliol) 0-1 Otto Glauert (Clare) French, 47 moves
6 Adolph Christian von Ernsthausen (Balliol) 0-1 Lai Hee Goh (Emmanuel) Centre Counter, 37 moves
7 Samuel Nevile Foster (Worcester) 0-1 Thomas Lodge (Trinity) King's Gambit, 51 moves
  Venue: St George's Chess Club, London 1½-5½ Date: Monday 23 March 1903  

Main 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 1903, p164; The Times, 24 March 1903; Morning Post - Tuesday 24 March 1903; The Sportsman - Tuesday 24 March 1903; The Field - Saturday 28 March 1903; Ancestry.com; FindMyPast.com; Who Was Who 1897-2007; Wikipedia. No games are available from this match.


(1) no games available as yet - none of the reports seen to date mentions who won the toss so it is not even known which side had white on odd boards. Goulding Brown favoured 1 e4 but the obituary by Milner-Barry tells us that he sometimes played 1 d4 so that is not conclusive, though it makes it more likely that Oxford won the toss and took white on the odd boards.
(2) boards 3 and 4 were adjudicated by Harry Nelson Pillsbury. The absence of Hoffer may explain the absence of game scores; also the proximity of the GB v US Universities match which received more press attention.
(3) Club presidents/captains: Davidson (Oxford), Webb (Cambridge)
(4) The Centre Gambit, played on board 2, is 1 e4 e5 2 d4 exd4 3 Bc4 according to an article in BCM, August 1898, p324.

The Field - Saturday 28 March 1903: "OXFORD v. CAMBRIDGE. This annual chess match took place on Monday last, the 23rd inst., at the St. George’s Chess Club, St. James's-street. Of these contests, which were started in 1873, Cambridge has, up to the present, won a considerable majority, and on this occasion they again proved victorious. The first game finished, and scored by Cambridge, was that between the two captains of the respective teams. Very soon afterwards a second win, on board No. 2, went to Cambridge, and the Cambridge representatives were also successful on boards Nos. 5, 6, and 7. Mr H. N. Pillsbury, the American champion, who acted as adjudicator, then gave a win to Oxford on board No. 4, and a draw on board No. 3." [board results]

BCM, April 1903, p175: Oxford v. Cambridge.—The annual match between the Universities was contested at St. George’s Chess Club, St. James’ Street, W., on March 23rd, and resulted in an easy victory for the Cantabs by 5½ to 1½. At the close of time allotted for play two games were still in progress, and these were adjudicated by Mr. H. N. Pillsbury. Last year the match resulted in a draw. [board results]

The Times, 24 March 1903: "CHESS. OXFORD V. CAMBRIDGE. The annual match, between the Universities was played yesterday afternoon, at the St. George’s Chess Club, St. James’s-street, with the usual number of seven players a side. When time was called, Cambridge had scored 5 wins to 0. Mr. Pillsbury, who adjudicated, gave one of the two unfinished games a draw, and the other he awarded a win for Oxford. Cambridge have a majority of wins in the proportion of 2 to 1 to their credit since 1873, when the first match was played." [board results]

The Sportsman - Tuesday 24 March 1903: "CHESS. THE UNIVERSITIES' MATCH. Yesterday this annual contest took place at the St. George's Chess Club in St. James's-street. Cambridge was the favourite, and speedily assumed the lead in the score, the Oxford captain, H. T. Davidson, being promptly defeated by the leader of the Cantabs, H. A. Webb, in 28 moves. The next victory for Cambridge followed immidiately, H. D. Roome losing to H. Bateman in a smartly-played centre gambit. On Boards Nos. 5, 6, and 7 victory also declared for the Cambridge representatives.

"Mr H. N. Pillsbury, the celebrated American chess player, who had been engaged as adjudicator, gave a victory to Oxford on Board No. 4 and a draw on Board No. 3 between Messrs Brown and Bumpus. The score, therefore, was 5½ games to Cambridge and 1½ games to Oxford. Since these matches were started in 1873 Cambridge has always held the leading position, and the total score now is nearly two to one in their favour. Below is the full score, with the openings adopted. Both teams are invited this evening to the Prince of Wales' Theatre by Mr George Edwardes." [board results - identical report in Cambridge Daily News - Tuesday 24 March 1903]

Morning Post - Tuesday 24 March 1903: "UNIVERSITY CHESS MATCH. The annual chess match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities was played yesterday at the St. George's Chess Club, 87 St. James's-street. This is the oldest of the Metropolitan chess clubs, and it has long associations with the match, though for some years until yesterday the university players had been accustomed to hold their encounter at the British Chess Club. The last-named institution has, however, ceased to exist as a separate organisation, and the match yesterday acquired additional interest through the renewal of a relationship intimately connected with the past history of the St. George's and the Oxford and Cambridge Clubs.

"This was the thirty-first encounter between the Universities, and like the majority of the previous contests it resulted in a win for the Cambridge team, who made a total of 5½, while Oiford only scored 1½ out of the seven games played. Cambridge has now won twenty matches, representing an aggregate of 168 points, while Oxford has won nine matches and has a score of 134 points. Two matches, those of 1883 and last year, were drawn. The easy victory of Cambridge yesterday is the more surprising in view of the close scoring of last year and of the good form shown by the Oxford players in recent matches. The Cambridge University Club has, however been very energetic of late, and its success is no doubt in a great measure due to the marked accession of zeal on the part of its members.

"The combined universities will play a match by cable on Friday and Saturday with the universities of America. The English side will be accommodated at the Criterion, Piccadilly-circus, and visitors will be admitted to witness the games."


Thursday 19 March - Combined Universities 8½, West London 11½
Friday 20 March - Combined Universities 9½, City of London 11½
Monday 23 March / Tuesday 24 March - Combined Universities 3½, US Universities 2½ (Cable Match)

BCM, April 1903, p164: "Oxford University v. Wilts Oxonians.—This annual match between the University Chess Club and a team of Old Oxonians from Wilts, arranged by the Rev. J. F. Welsh, took place at Oxford, on March 5th. The visiting team, who were entertained to lunch before the match at the Japanese Café, in the 'High,' where the club now meets, were glad to find the ’Varsity team so strong this year and its prospects so good. Score:—"

1903 Oxford University v Wiltshire Oxonians
Bd Oxford University   vs   Wiltshire Oxonians
1 Henry Delacombe Roome (Merton) ½-½ Rev. Alexander George Gordon Ross (New)
2 Harold Francis Davidson (Exeter) ½-½ Rev. John Francis Welsh (Christ Church)
3 Thomas Herbert Bumpus (St John's) 1-0 Arthur Schomberg (Oriel)
4 Hugh Taylor (Balliol) ½-½ Rev. Richard Edward Coles (Pembroke)
5 Adolph Christian von Ernsthausen (Balliol) 0-1 Rev. E Wells (Exeter)
6 Samuel Nevile Foster (Worcester) 1-0 P Rowlands
7 Edward Paice (Merton) 1-0 William Cecil Wigan (St John's)
  Venue: Oxford 4½-2½ Date: Thursday 5 March 1903


(1) Rev. Richard Edward Coles (1840 – 1922). Matric. 1858, Pembroke College, Oxford; scholar, 1858; B.A., 1862. Rector of Corsley, Warminster, from 1886.
(2) William Cecil Wigan (18 March 1876 – 21 December 1966). Matric. 16 Oct., St John's College, Oxford. B.A., 1901. Educ. Charterhouse. Doctor, worked for a long time in Nyasaland.

BCM, July 1903, pp300-301: "THE MUZIO GAMBIT. We are indebted to Mr. W[illiam]. N[icolaas]. Macfarlane, of University College, Oxford, for the following analysis of an attack in the Muzio Gambit. The point of interest is White’s 6th move, Bxf7+, followed by 7 Qxf3!, against which Mr. Macfarlane says he cannot find any adequate reply. The variations submitted have the merit of being selected from a number of games played either for Oxford University or at the University Club, to test the endurance of the attack. In view of the recent revival of the Muzio in the Vienna Gambit Tournament, our readers will no doubt appreciate Mr. Macfarlane’s article and notes." [The analysis given below, much of it unconvincing, includes at least three actual game scores played around this time at Oxford, or for Oxford teams. No names of players are supplied. However, one can assume that none of them comes from the 1903 Varsity match itself since only one King's Gambit was played in that match, and won by the Cambridge player - JS.]

File updated

Date Notes
17 April 2022 Original upload. Still some biographical details and match reports to be added later.
02 May 2022 Further updates applied.
All material © 2022 John Saunders