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John Saunders


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Event: 62nd Varsity Match • Venue: City of London CC • Date: 14 March 1938 • last edited: Monday March 18, 2024 11:44 AM
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The 62nd Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at City of London Chess Club on 14 March 1938. Four game scores from this match are available.

1937«     1938 Varsity Chess Match     »1939
Bd Oxford University 1938 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1b Alfred William Bowen (Oriel) 1-0 David Bernard Schultz (Magdalene) QGD
2w Brebis Bleaney (St John's) 0-1 John Dean (St Catharine's) Caro-Kann
3b Rodney Montgomery Baine (Merton) 1-0 John Francis O'Donovan (Jesus) Alekhine's Defence
4w Edward Leslie Stuart (Merton) 1-0 Mervyn Edward Wise (Pembroke) Nimzowitsch Defence
5b Hanns Andreas August Hammelmann (Brasenose) 0-1 Philip Charles Hoad (Trinity) Centre Counter
6w Guy Garland Reaks (Oriel) 1-0 James Sydney Abraham (Downing) QP
7b William Goodwin (Magdalen) 0-1 Irving John Good (Jesus) French Defence

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; BCM, May 1938, p230; The Times, 15 March 1938; Manchester Guardian, 15 March 1938


Boards 3 and 7 were adjudicated by Sir George Thomas.

[BCM, May 1938]: "The 62nd match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities took place at the City of London Chess Club on Monday, 14th March. Contrary to all expectations, Oxford won by four games to three. Throughout the season the Cambridge team had consistently done well against teams that had beaten Oxford quite easily, and an overwhelming victory was anticipated for the Cambridge side. That this did not materialise was due partly to the overwhelming nervousness that seems to prevail in these matches and partly to unexpectedly good play by some of the Oxford players."

"Cambridge had white on the odd-numbered boards. On the top board the Cambridge player maintained precedent by losing his Queen at an early stage of the game. There is a high rate of mortality amongst Queens on the Cambridge top boards. We can remember no less than three of the post-War Cambridge first boards who have lost their Queen during the first few moves of the game. On the 2nd board the Oxford president lost considerable material through a series of blunders. On the 3rd board a drawish position was obtained and Baine offered his opponent a draw. This O'Donovan refused, since at that time the state of the score seemed to indicate that he had to win his game to save the match. However, in his subsequent efforts to do so, he lost a Pawn and his position speedily became lost. Eccentric play in the opening on the 4th board was duly punished by the Oxford player who won a good game in incisive fashion. On the 5th board some vigorous play by the Cambridge player met with merited success."

"The game on the 6th board was a strange one. The Cambridge player defended the Queen's Pawn with the Dutch Defence. His opponent replied with a variation all his own. It is possible that he had heard that one should fianchetto against the Dutch Defence and, being uncertain as to which Bishop should indulge in this oblique practice, placed them both on the long diagonals. In any event, he obtained the inferior game out of the opening. But the Cambridge player inexplicably weakened at the crucial moment and, once given his chance, Reaks played in an effective style quite different from his opening tactics. The game on the 7th board was a triumph of perseverance where after several vicissitudes the Cambridge player outplayed his opponent in the ending. The games on the 3rd and 7th boards were adjudicated by Sir George Thomas. The record of these matches now is: Cambridge 28, Oxford 26, drawn 8."

[The Times, 15 March 1938, p16]"A CLOSE STRUGGLE - FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT - The 62nd chess match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities was played yesterday at the City of London Chess Club, and was won by Oxford by four games to three, after a close struggle.

"Cambridge had the move on the odd-numbered boards. The match fluctuated in the manner traditional in this event. At the adjournment for luncheon Oxford had clearly winning positions on the first and fourth boards; but the three games on the bottom boards stood rather in favour of Cambridge, while those on boards two and three were level, though the white player in each case retained the advantage of the move.

After luncheon events moved fast. Mr. Bowen and Mr. Stuart duly scored their wins, but their success was counterbalanced by the sudden and unexpected collapse of Mr. Bleaney and Mr. Hammelmann. A tragedy befell Cambridge on Board 6, where Mr. Reaks, who had played like a rabbit before luncheon, suddenly changed into a tiger; and Mr. Abraham, who had so far played very well, collapsed before this sudden metamorphosis. The last two games were bitterly contested, each side having two rooks and pawns. Mr. O'Donovan quite properly refused a draw, since it did not appear that Mr. Good could win. But Mr. Good did win, and Mr. O’Donovan’s gallant gesture cost his side the match. These last two games were adjudicated by Sir George Thomas, but the verdict was clear.

"On the first board. Mr. Bowen played the Duisburg Counter-Gambit against Mr. Schultz, a rare and refreshing spectacle on so solemn an occasion. Black gives up a pawn for a quick development, and White has to defend with great care to avoid drifting into serious difficulty. Mr. Schultz, who has not done himself justice in this match, played his Queen to the wrong square; Mr. Bowen harried him so successfully that he eventually trapped the queen, and though Mr. Schultz obtained two pieces and a pawn or two. it was insufficient compensation. Mr. Schultz gave up soon after luncheon.

"On Board 2 a Caro-Kann Defence was developed on orthodox lines, the Oxford President having a promising position at the adjournment. The interval unsettled him. however, and he made a slip immediately on resumption, losing a pawn without compensation. A further mistake cost a piece, and he gave up shortly afterwards, when his one remaining knight was imprisoned.

"On the third board Mr. Baine played Alekhine’s Defence, and a typically stodgy position resulted, in which it was difficult for cither side to attempt anything. Mr. O’Donovan, after declining the draw, lost a pawn, and, though he made a desperate struggle, Mr. Bainc was not to be denied. One of O’Donovan’s rooks was imprisoned on the queen’s side, and Black could demonstrate a mating position on the other wing.

"On Board 4 Mr. Wise, a very ingenious but eccentric player, indulged his taste for the bizarre in the opening once too often. Mr. Stuart built up an overwhelming attack, and Mr. Wise resigned when confronted with a conventional queen sacrifice to which there was no reply. An excellent game by Mr. Stuart, but he should not hammer his clock so fiercely; it is disconcerting and intimidating to his opponent.

"On Board 5 Mr. Hammelmann played Alekhine’s Defence, which was transposed by his opponent into a variation of the Centre Counter. Mr. Hammelmann tried to simplify too early, and, after the exchange of queens, was left with weak pawns to defend. He lost one of these, and shortly afterwards a piece by a neat combination. A very good, quiet game by Mr Hoad.


"Board 6 was really the decisive game. Mr. Reaks did not seem to have much idea of how to deal with his opponent’s Dutch Defence, and Mr. Abraham soon wrested the initiative from him. After luncheon he mysteriously made some faulty exchanges, as the result of which Mr. Reaks was left with two united passed pawns in the centre. He pushed one of these home with an incisiveness in marked contrast to his opening strategy, and scored a fine win in 35 moves.

"On Board 7 the Oxford player played a French Defence. At the adjournment Mr. Good appeared to have rather the best of it, but Mr. Goodwin managed to force off the queens and emerged with the superior endgame. Mr. Good fought back well, however, and eventually converted an unpromising endgame with rooks and pawns into a winning one. He won first one pawn and then another, and had an easy win on adjudication. If only Mr. O'Donovan could have foreseen it!"

[Manchester Guardian, 15 March 1938]: "The sixty-second in the series of chess matches between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was played at the City of London Chess Club yesterday. Before the present match Cambridge had won 28 matches to 25. with 8 matches drawn, and perhaps they started slight favourites on general form through the current season.

"Oxford’s seventh man arrived twenty minutes late owing to a train breakdown, but he was able to make up leeway so successfully that after nine moves a side he had taken a quarter of an hour less by the clock than his opponent.

"No games had been finished before the lunch interval, when both teams were entertained by Sir George Thomas. Soon after resumption of play Bowen, on the top board, drew first blood for Oxford. Courageously he had adopted the Von Hennig-Schara gambit against his opponent, who went astray, and on the fifteenth move lost his queen for bishop, knight, and one pawn, after which his defeat was inevitable.

"The next game to finish was on board 4, where Stuart (a player who is known in Liverpool chess quarters) won smartly against Wise. Cambridge then secured two wins in succession, on boards 2 and 5, but Oxford took the lead again with a win on board 6, leaving two games still to be decided. Both of these were rook and pawn endings, with level forces, but neither of them a clear draw. In fact, as finishing-time drew near the Cambridge seventh man managed to win first one pawn and then another, so that there was no difficulty in deciding in his favour. The position on the third board was harder, but Sir George Thomas, adjudicating, found a win for Oxford. The final result, therefore, was Oxford 4, Cambridge 3."

1938 Universities' Week

Date 1938 Universities Week
Tuesday 15 March Combined Oxford/Cambridge 7½-6½ Hampstead
Wednesday 16 March Combined Oxford/Cambridge 12-9 City of London
Thursday 17 March Cambridge University 5-7 Athenaeum
Thursday 17 March Oxford University (consultation match) ½-3½ Lud-Eagle
Friday 18 March Combined Oxford/Cambridge 10½-7½ Insurance
Monday 21 March Combined Oxford/Cambridge 12½-5½ West London

File Updated

Date Notes
2020 First uploaded
15 February 2023 Added details of universities' week matches, plus two games from those matches.
All material © 2020-2023 John Saunders