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John Saunders


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Event: 70th Varsity Match • Venue: West London CC • Date: Saturday 29 March 1952
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1951 • Forward to 1953 • last edited: Monday May 27, 2024 4:50 PM

The 70th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at West London Chess Club, 10 Holland Park, London W11, on Saturday 29 March 1952. Three game scores from this match are available (boards 1, 2 and 6).

1951«     1952 Varsity Chess Match     »1953
Bd Oxford University 1952 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1w Daniel Abraham Yanofsky (University) ½-½ Oliver Penrose (King's) Ruy Lopez
2b Leonard William Barden (Balliol) 1-0 Denis Victor Mardle (Christ's) English
3w John Edward Pike (Exeter) ½-½ Neil McKelvie (Queens') Ruy Lopez
4b David John Youston (Hertford) ½-½ Anthony George Conrad Paish (Caius) Two Knights
5w John Alexander (New) 0-1 Henry Alec Samuels (Magdalene) King's Indian
6b Henry Morton (Christ Church) 1-0 Alan John Willson (St John's) King's Indian
7w David Leslie Barrett (Corpus Christi) 1-0 Jeremy John Arthur Handley (Selwyn) Sicilian

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 31 March 1952; Manchester Guardian, 27 & 31 March 1952 & 17 April 1952, p3; BCM, May 1952, p130; CHESS, Vol.17 no.200, May 1952, p158 & p170

Venue: West London CC, 10 Holland Park, London W11 (10am) and not at 23 Stratford Road, W8 as originally announced (Manchester Guardian, 27 March, p3)
Adjudications: Boards 1, 4 and 5, by Sir George Thomas, though, according to Leonard Barden's account in CHESS, only boards 1 and 5 were adjudicated.

[The Times, 31 March 1952] "OXFORD'S WINNING LEAD IN CHESS MATCH - CLOSE GAME ON TOP BOARD - FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT - Oxford won the university chess match at the West London Club on Saturday, for they lead Cambridge by 4—1 with two games to be adjudicated by Sir George Thomas. The standard of play was high, as expected—Yanofsky and Barden were prize-winners in the recent Hastings international tournament, and Penrose and Mardle have competed with success in the British championship. Against Yanofsky’s Ruy Lopez, Penrose defended with the open variation, and both sides played for attack, bringing about a complicated game. At call of time, after several exchanges, they had reached a rook and pawn ending with bishops of opposite colour, and a draw seems likely. Barden had some advantage when, faced with a breakthrough, Mardle blundered in a critical position. In desperation he sacrificed a piece, but cool play by Barden won easily. Pike lost his opening advantage but managed to force a draw by repetition of moves. Paish worked up an attack by returning a sacrificed pawn, but the Oxford player equalized to a drawn ending. The next board should be a win for Cambridge, a pawn upon adjudication. The best game of the match was played on board six, where Morton obtained control of the queen’s bishop’s file and, by a pretty sacrifice, smashed his way to a mating attack. Barrett had the advantage throughout against Handley, who was afflicted with a bad bishop. Oxford had white on the odd-numbered boards. [results but no game scores]"

[Manchester Guardian, 31 March 1952, page 6] "UNIVERSITY CHESS - The annual chess match between Oxford and Cambridge on Saturday resulted in victory for Oxford by 4 to 1 and two unfinished games." (Game score of Willson-Morton given on 17 April 1952.)

[BCM, May 1952, p130] "On March 29th, at the West London C.C., an exceptionally strong Oxford team defeated Cambridge... [results] during the preceding week the Combined Universities defeated the Civil Service 10½-9½ and Insurance CC 13-7. The annual encounter between Past Members was won by Cambridge 7½-4½, who thus maintain a good lead in the series which dates from just after the first world war."

[CHESS, Vol.17 no.200, May 1952, p158 & P170: THE UNIVERSITIES’ LONDON WEEK by Leonard Barden

"Before playing their own annual match, the Oxford and Cambridge teams encounter the leading London clubs in matches which this year produced some fine games on the top boards. The Universities’ team particularly impressed with their 15-5 win against Hampstead, the London League champions (top board results : (1) D. V. Mardle 1, J. Penrose 0; (2) O. Penrose 1, A. W. Bowen 0; (3) J. W. Cornforth ½, E. Brown ½; (4) N. McKelvie 1, J. Stone 0). Both [Oliver] Penrose and McKelvie won by excellent sacrificial attacks against their British Championship opponents.

Other matches were won against West London [on Wednesday 26 March] by 12½-7½ (C. H. O’D. Alexander ½, E. G. Sergeant ½; Dr. J. M. Aitken ½, F. J. Camm ½; D. V. Mardle 1, J. King 0 ; O. Penrose 1, W. S. Wallis 0)...

...and Insurance [on Thursday 27 March] by 13-7 (Dr. J. M. Aitken ½, R. Blow ½; D. V. Mardle 1, S. H. Crockett 0; O. Penrose 1, G. C. Nurse 0; A. F. Truscott 1, R. N. Coles 0). In this match Mardle gave a classic demonstration of the currently most-favoured play against the King’s Indian Defence, using his control of the centre to launch an irresistible king-side attack. [n.b. we know the dates of the West London and Insurance matches only via the scores recorded in Dr JM Aitken's scorebook]

The score against the Civil Service (D. V. Mardle ½, R. J. Broadbent ½; A. W. Bowen 1, A. Y. Green 0 ; N. McKelvie 1, C. G. Butcher 0 ; J. W. Cornforth 1, N. A. Perkins 0) is 10-9 in the Universities’ favour with a game for adjudication which is likely to make the final result a draw; and only against Metropolitan (J. F. Barrett 1, D. Miller 0 ; R. J. Tayler 0, J. M. Bee 1 ; J. A. Wall 0, Dr. J. Dean 1) are the Universities likely to lose. Metropolitan lead 9-5 with six games for adjudication, including the top board game between D. V. Mardle and A. H. Trott, which Mardle should win. Mardle’s performance throughout the week against such strong opposition confirms the impression already given by last year’s British Championship that he is rapidly becoming one of the most formidable players in the country.

The Oxford v. Cambridge match began on March 29th at the West London club with Cambridge two ahead in the series—Oxford have not led within living memory. With a man who has beaten the world champion on the first board and a prize-winner in the Hastings Premier Reserves on the seventh, Oxford had this year probably a stronger team than ever before. On the other hand, the Cambridge top boards had all shown splendid form in the London week—so it is not surprising that, in a tense match, it was four hours before the first game finished. As a last-minute surprise to avoid prepared opening variations, Cambridge shuffled their team order. However, Mardle then fell into a book line in the English Opening which gave Barden a big space advantage and eventually a winning breakthrough; and Paish found himself confronted with the Fritz variation of the Two Knights’ Defence for the first time in his life—though to his credit he found the right line over the board. [Oliver] Penrose beat off all Yanofsky’s efforts to get an attack going; McKelvie drew a sharply-played game with Pike; and Samuels scored the only Cambridge win by steadily evaluating an extra pawn. Thus despite Oxford’s paper superiority at the top, the match was decided on the bottom two boards, Barrett beating Handley by determined use of small advantages, and Morton finishing nicely from the diagrammed position [full score available].

1952 Universities Week Results

[Monday 24 March?] - Combined Universities 5, Metropolitan 9, plus 6 adjudications
[Tuesday 25 March?] - Combined Universities 15, Hampstead 5
Wednesday 26 March - Combined Universities 12½, West London 7½
Thursday 27 March - Combined Universities 13, Insurance 7
[Friday 28 March?] - Combined Universities 10½, Civil Service 9½

Oxford Past v Cambridge Past, Saturday 5 April 1952, St Bride's Institute, London

Bd Oxford University Past 1952 Cambridge University Past
1 Theodore Henry Tylor (Balliol) ½-½ Conel Hugh O'Donel Alexander (King's)
2 James Macrae Aitken (Balliol) 0-1 (Philip) Stuart Milner-Barry (Trinity)
3 Alfred William Bowen (Oriel) 0-1 William Winter (Clare)
4 John Warcup Cornforth (St Catherine's) 0-1 Roland Hartnett (Downing)
5 Richard Hilary Newman (Worcester) 1-0 John Matthias Bee (St Catharine's)
6 Nicholas Anthony Perkins (St John's) ½-½ David Bernard Scott (Magdalene)
7 William Ernest Baker Pryer (Pembroke) 0-1 John David Solomon (Downing)
8 John Montgomerie (Corpus Christi) ½-½ John Robert Gilbert (St Catharine's)
9 Edward Leslie Stuart (Merton) 1-0 Roger John Tayler (Clare)
10 Dermot Michael Macgregor Morrah (New) 0-1 Eugene Ernest Colman (Trinity)
11 Michael James Albery (Exeter) 1-0 Eric Augustus Coad-Pryor (Trinity)
12 Joseph Francis Palmer Deller (Lincoln) 0-1 William D Lowe (Christ's)

The Times, 7 April 1952, p8: "UNIVERSITIES PAST CHESS MATCH • SUCCESS FOR CAMBRIDGE • FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT • The annual match between Oxford University Past and Cambridge University Past took place at the St. Bride Institute on Saturday and ended in an easy victory for Cambridge by 7½-4½. On the top board Alexander won a pawn against Tylor but could not quite manage to extract a win from the position. Milner-Barry always had the upper hand against Dr. Aitken, Winter won well against Bowen, who went astray in the middle game."

N.B. Eugene Ernest Colman was the most senior of the past players in this 1952 match, having played in the 1900 Varsity match.

Another Oxbridge game played in 1952, probably not during the Universities week's fixtures but earlier...

File Updated

Date Notes
2019 Original upload
2020 Some commentary added from Leonard Barden for which many thanks.
10 April 2022 Further biographical details and university week match info.
2 June 2022 Added the board two game D.Mardle 0-1 L.Barden which I found in a 1952 CHESS Magazine.
27 May 2024 Added the game J.Penrose 0-1 D.Mardle (Hampstead v Combined Universities) which was given in Richard Eales' book 'Cambridge Chess' (Sutton Coldfield 1978).


All material © 2019 John Saunders