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John Saunders


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Tournament: 88th Varsity Match • Venue: Downing College, Cambridge • Date: 21 March 1970
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1969 • Forward to 1971 • last edited: Monday March 18, 2024 9:29 AM

The 88th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at Downing College, Cambridge, on 21 March 1970. Match arbiters were Harry Golombek and Bob Wade. Three game scores and one part-game score from this match are available - can anyone supply any others?

1969«     1970 Varsity Chess Match     »1971
Bd Oxford University 1970 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1b George Steven Botterill (Pembroke) 0-1 Raymond Dennis Keene (Trinity) Catalan, 42
2w Martyn John Corden (St Edmund Hall) 0-1 Arthur Howard Williams (Downing) Alekhine's Def, 28
3b John Larkin Moles (Corpus Christi) ½-½ Richard Geoffrey Eales (Christ's) King's Indian Def
4w Peter Richard Markland (Balliol) 0-1 John Neil Sugden (St John's) Sicilian
5b Ronald Leslie Johannes (Balliol) ½-½ Trevor William Robbins (Jesus) Catalan
6w Roger Rance Smith (Jesus) 1-0 Julian Francis Thomas Kirk-O'Grady (Peterhouse) Old Indian Def
7b Leslie Steven Blackstock (Worcester) 1-0 Nigel John Holloway (Trinity) Ruy Lopez

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 23 March 1970; BCM, May 1970, p151.

Gaige's booklet gives Les Blackstock's college as 'Trinity' but BCM gives 'Worcester' which I am sure is right. (It has been confirmed by Roger Smith.)

[BCM, May 1970, p151 - Harry Golombek] "A departure was made from established tradition this year and instead of playing the match on neutral territory in London it was held at Cambridge on March 21st in the Music Room of Downing College. This proved an excellent venue and the same venerable clergyman who has haunted the match for the last twenty years (at least to my knowledge) turned up again looking hardly any different for the passage of a year, possibly a little more ghostlike, if that were possible."

"One drawback there was in the matter of tantalization; in an ante-room there was a locked book-case with a glass front and looking through the glass it seemed to me there were several first editions of books like Johnson's Lives of the Poets. How I longed to leaf through them during the early stages of the match!"

"Leaving this frustrating experience let me turn to the actual play which was on a distinctly high level as one might have expected of a match which included some of the leading young players of the country. It should be observed that nerves, which usually play an important role in this match, were not, apparently at any rate, at all stretched or tensed this time. Cambridge, the favourites, played with a cool consistency that may have been derived from the calmness of their top board, Ray Keene. Incidentally, may be the change in venue this year was due to the influence of the Cambridge first board. The reasons are recondite but clear. The dinner that evening was held at Peterhouse, a college famed for its excellent port and also a place that would seem to have a never-failing supply of whitebait. Ray is partial to both of these rather luxurious items - as who isn't?"

"Turning back reluctantly to the play on remembering I am writing for a chess magazine and not the Epicure's Gazette (nor the Wine Society), Cambridge soon took the lead. Play started at 1 in the afternoon; by 6.10 the score was Cambridge 2, Oxford 1 and in another five minutes Cambridge had 3 to Oxford's 1. Two sedate draws on Boards 3 and 5 were followed by a couple of victories for Cambridge on the top two boards."

"The redoubtable Keene had been expected to win on top board and he always looked like doing so. But on Board Two the Oxford side had a player who only a little while ago became the first British player to beat Smyslov. Williams, quite undeterred at the fame of his adversary, took advantage of a pawn move that weakened his opponent's King-side to bring off a nice combination that totally destroyed his adversary."

"But Oxford looked like redeeming themselves on the lower boards. On the seventh board Blackstock outplayed Holloway in the later middle-game and the Cambridge player resigned just before time was called. On the sixth board play was not ended when time was in fact called but the game was clearly lost for Cambridge and so adjudicated by a highly talented team of two (consisting of R. G. Wade and a veteran with the initials H.G.)."

"That left the score 3-3 with everything depending on the fourth board game where Sugden was faced by the winner of the last Hastings Challengers' Section, P. R. Markland. Now, Sugden too had been playing in this very same section where he came equal 23rd to 28th, no less than 3½ points below Markland. One might be forgiven for thinking that Markland should have proved an easy winner. In actual fact, this time Sugden had all the play and his game too was adjudicated a win, without any doubt, but this time for Cambridge. So a lively and well-fought encounter ended in Cambridge's favour by 4-3. The details follow, and it should be observed that Cambridge had White on the odd-numbered boards."

"The best games of the match were those on the top two boards."

File Updated

Date Notes
2018 First upload.
1 January 2023 Added the score of the board 3 game, Eales ½-½ Moles, found in an issue of Chessman Quarterly. The game may not be complete.
19 March 2023 Roger Smith very kindly sent me the score of his game from this match which I have added to the collection. Many thanks, Roger. EDIT: an emendation to the score was applied the same day.


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