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John Saunders


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History of the Varsity Chess Match: Sources

John Saunders comments: Here I have brought together some important sources for Varsity chess match history.

1. EARLY OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE CHESS by Philip W Sergeant and Bertram Goulding Brown [BCM Chess Manual 1916, pps 5-13]
2. THE CRITICAL PERIOD OF CAMBRIDGE CHESS by Bertram Goulding Brown [BCM, September 1917 pps 265-273]
3. VARSITY CHESS WEEK 1920 by Brian Harley [Chess and its Stars, Whitehead and Miller, 1936]
4. EARLY OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE CHESS: A SEQUEL by Bertram Goulding Brown [BCM, October 1932, pps 431-435]
5. John Arthur James Drewitt (1873–1931) - Obituaries
6. Edwyn Anthony - Biographical article, Chess-Monthly, April 1891
7. Rev. Charles Edward Ranken - Biographical article, Chess-Monthly, May 1891
8. Lord Randolph Churchill and His Chess Clubs - BCM, March 1895, p112
9. Lord Randolph Churchill as a Chess Player - The Times, 16 February 1895 (probably by Edwyn Anthony)
Appendix of Games

Varsity Home PageBiographies of Varsity Match playersAlphabetical List of Oxford playersAlphabetical List of Cambridge players

1871 challenge by Oxford
From the Cambridge Chronicle and Journal, Saturday 25 February 1871 - E.B. Nicholson's challenge was rejected by the
Cambridge club when they learnt that the Oxford club was composed of young undergraduate members!

1. EARLY OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE CHESS [BCM Chess Manual 1916, pps 5-13]

By Philip W Sergeant and Bertram Goulding Brown

In the following article there are gaps, which the authors regret but found it impossible to avoid, owing to the obscurity of many of the sources from which the desired information had to be drawn. The general plan has been to give the story of chess at the two Universities in chronological order. This involves a constant change of scene, but nevertheless seemed the only possible course if the two chess histories were to be combined in one.

To Cambridge belongs the honour of first devoting systematic attention to chess; and, fittingly, the great college which has since distanced all others in numbers and learning, and even in chess, during the last twenty years, took the first step. In 1832 was founded the "Trinity Chess Club"—confined, of course, to members of Trinity College. [In the year previous there was published at Cambridge an eight-page pamphlet entitled Particulars of a Match at Chess, played in Cambridge in March, 1831. This is mentioned in George Walker's Art of Chess Play (1846)]

Our earliest intelligence of a "Cambridge Chess Club" is in Walker's chess column in Bell's Life in London, August 30th, 1835. This is almost certainly the same "Town and Gown" club which Löwenthal found on his visit to Cambridge in 1851. The first chess club about which we hear at Oxford was one meeting at St. John's College, in the 'Forties. A letter signed "Oxoniensis" in The Chess Player's Chronicle for 1848 (p. 161.) mentions this as in existence "some years before," adding that "all knowledge of its proceedings is now traditionary." No limited effort in favour of chess was made until February, 1847, when a club was established for chess-playing members of the University of Oxford, which in November of the same year assumed the name of the "Hermes Chess Club." At first the members met in one another's rooms; but in January, 1848, rooms were rented at 135, High Street-the address from which "Oxoniensis" writes to The Chess Player's Chronicle.

Already before taking this step the young Oxford club had issued a challenge; and in October, 1847, the "Trinity" and "Hermes" clubs began a two-game correspondence match. The Oxonians won by 1½ to ½. Both games may be found in The Chess Player's Chronicle, 1848, pp. 162-5, with Staunton's notes. It appears from the same magazine for 1853, p. 61, that the "Hermes "representatives were Messrs. R. B. Brien, Fielden and F. Grignon. On the Trinity side the chief burden of the match fell upon a Fellow of the College, H. Wilbraham, whom Staunton described as mathematically accurate, but deficient in book-knowledge—supported by another Fellow, C. B. Scott, later Headmaster of Westminster, S. R. Calthrop, and W. S. Grignon.

It was not unnatural that a college club should lose to a university club; but if Trinity felt any disappointment it must have been somewhat mitigated by a victory over the board, when Wilbraham and another Trinity man paid a hasty visit to Oxford, and there defeated two of the best players of the Hermes Club by 1½ to ½. Who the latter may have been, we do not know; but the leading member of the club, according to The Chess Player's Chronicle, 1850, pp. 321, 357, was R. B. Brien. And in the previous year (p. 33) we find a game just played at the Hermes Club between Mr. Ranken - i.e., the afterwards celebrated Rev. C. E. Ranken - and Mr. Brien.

The foundation of the "Hermes" proved an incentive to the starting of other chess clubs at Oxford. Both Magdalen and Worcester Colleges founded small clubs early in 1847; and in October the "Oxford Chess Club" began its existence, being like its Cambridge compeer, without any college or University restrictions. The main credit for the formation and maintenance of the old Oxford Chess Club (according to the writer of "Sketches of our Provincial Chess Clubs and their Notabilities" in The Chess Player's Chronicle, 1853, p. 60) was due to "Mr. Capper, a member of the University, its zealous and able secretary." This was J. L. Capper, later a member of St. George's Chess Club. In 1849 the Cambridge Chess Club gave proof of its activity by playing and winning a correspondence match against Reading by 1½ to ½. In 1851, as has been said, Löwenthal visited it and found that it had nearly 40 members. Its president was Mr. Deighton, the well-known University bookseller, and its secretary J. S. Foster, ex-mayor of the town. Among the undergraduate members were W. Wayte (who had gone up in 1848) and, probably, A. B. Skipworth. The best players, in addition to the members of the Trinity Club, were J. B. Cherriman, Fellow of St. John's, and the Rev. Anthony Bower. At first the members met in one another's rooms but in 1854 we find the club meeting twice a week at the Lion Hotel in Petty Cury.

The original Oxford Chess Club did not last long. The already quoted article in The Chess Player's Chronicle, 1853, says: "There are now two clubs in Oxford—the Hermes, which meets on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Mr. Thomas's, 135, High Street; and the Oxford (or town Club), which meets on Thursdays at the Three Cups Hotel. The old Oxford Club was a mixed club, open to both University and town; the new Oxford Club is purely a town club."

The idea of an inter-university chess match was first advocated in print in 1853, and by no less a player than Howard Staunton. "It would be admirable indeed," he wrote in The Chess Player's Chronicle, "if, between the Universities, a set contest of chess took place annually ... As to time, we have often seen Oxford and Cambridge crews more than a week at London and Henley; and chess-players, we suppose, might follow their example ...Why not enrol a Cambridge University Club for the purpose of such a match?"

Many years had yet to elapse before Staunton's suggestion was taken up. But in 1855 there was another correspondence match between the Hermes and Trinity Chess Clubs, the Cambridge side winning this time by 2 to 0.

In 1856 a Cambridge University Chess Club came into existence, though it is not the club of to-day, and may have been confined to senior members of the University from its start. It met on February 15th 1856, in the rooms of the Rev. A. B. Skipworth, at St. Catharine's Hall (now College) to begin its first tournament. In 1860 the president of the club was the Edward Walker, of Trinity College, who, together with Wayte, helped Staunton in the preparation of the Praxis; and, when the British Chess Association met this year in Cambridge at the invitation of the University Chess Club, Walker was secretary and treasurer to the local committee. The congress was a fiasco, and the result was a financial position so strained that, had not a patriotic townsman thrown his house open to the competitors, there would have been great difficulty in providing a meeting place for an unexpected fifth day's play. The same year Walker left Cambridge for good, and the University Club temporarily collapsed. It was in a state of suspended animation for four years, during which time the minute book was unfortunately burnt in mistake for waste paper and most of the property lost, both through Walker's negligence it appears. The club's return to life was due to the energy of the Rev. M. Wilkinson, of Trinity, who invited the members to meet in his rooms on February 18th, 1864. It was agreed that there should be weekly meetings in the members' rooms, and H. E. Oakley, of Jesus College, was elected president.

It seems probable that by this time the old Cambridge (town and gown) Chess Club had ceased to exist, for there was a proposal to elect a non-university member to the University Club, which was negatived as contrary to precedent and against the laws. It may be mentioned here that a new Cambridge Chess Club, usually known as "the Town Club," was founded in 1896 and is now very active.

In the season following the revival of the University Club a correspondence match was suggested, and eventually two games were arranged with Dublin (? University), which in 1866 ended in a victory for Cambridge by 1½ to ½. After a proposal to play a correspondence match with Florence had proved impracticable, Bristol was challenged, and two games began in November, 1866, which were probably both lost by Cambridge. Perhaps this was either a symptom, or a cause, of failure of interest on the part of the members. At any rate the attendances began to fall off, and it was resolved to hire a room at 11, Green Street. This change hardly produced the desired effect, and after the Lent term of 1868 we hear no more of the Cambridge University Chess Club's doings until 1871.

Meanwhile at Oxford the Hermes Chess Club seems to have passed away, though neither the manner nor the date of the event is certain. The Rev. C. E. Ranken, however, was still in residence, and on April 23rd, 1869, he called a meeting at his house, which was followed a week later by another, of those interested in chess at the University. April 30th is the foundation day of the Oxford University Chess Club. The Rev. C. E. Ranken was elected first president, E. F. Linton (University) treasurer, and W. Braithwaite (Wadham) secretary; and the rules were drawn up. From the beginning the club has been open to all members of the University, though in practice this has come to mean that it is an undergraduates' club. The first list of members included no less than 103 names, among whom were Lord Randolph Churchill (Merton); Edwyn Anthony (Christ Church); E. W. B. Nicholson (Trinity), afterwards Bodley's Librarian; Lord Garvagh, Canon Grey, etc. Rooms were taken, and meetings were held every Wednesday during term. The chief event of the club's first year of life was a visit from the Rev. W. Wayte, now an Eton master, who gave a blindfold exhibition.

1870 was a busy year for the young club. In March a terminal Handicap was instituted and in the first of these the President won the first prize among 11 entries. After this term the Rev. C. E. Ranken retired from his post, and the presidency now went to Edwyn Anthony, already known as Steinitz's best pupil. No doubt to him was due the visit of Steinitz to Oxford on May 17th to 18th. Giving a blindfold exhibition in the Council Chamber on these two nights, the master lost to Ranken, but beat Lord Randolph Churchill, Anthony, Holland, Linton. and Wild. Next term Steinitz repeated his visit and gave a similar exhibition. The club was now meeting twice weekly at 54, Cornmarket.

During this year E. W. B. Nicholson, of Trinity, had been first secretary and then president, displaying great zeal in both posts. On February 13th, 1871, near the end of his presidency, he proposed that a match be played against Cambridge University. The proposal was approved, and a challenge was despatched to the Cambridge University Chess Club.

It was in the same early part of 1871 that the last-named club returned to active life. On January 25th a new secretary was elected—T. W. Levin (St. Catharine's), who, though blind, was both a chess-player and college lecturer in Modern History and Philosophy. The meetings were now again held in the members' rooms, and the records show numerous distinguished names among those of the members. But the Cambridge University Chess Club was to receive a severe shock and have its existence menaced by a new and ambitious rival. The first sign of trouble ahead is the following entry in the minute-book on March 1st, 1871:

"In the preceding week a quasi-challenge had been sent by a chess club at Oxford, through the medium of The Cambridge Chronicle to the Cambridge University Chess Club. Upon the secretary communicating, however, with the president of the Oxford Chess Club, he learnt that the Oxford Club was composed of young undergraduate members. It was decided, therefore, by the present meeting not to accept the challenge."

It is evident from this that, whatever had been the case originally, the club was now entirely one of Dons, whose dignity was a little ruffled by a challenge from the "young undergraduates" of Oxford. But worse was to follow. There were to be undergraduate rivals in Cambridge, and they were to be aggressive! The minute-book thus speaks of the events of the Lent Term of 1872:

"An audacious attempt was made during the early part of the term by a chess club among the undergraduate members of the University to question the existence and tangibility of the Cambridge University Chess Club—the style and title of which the former claimed the right to appropriate. The secretary, however, of the Cambridge University Chess Club promptly referred the deputation calling on him for that purpose to a blue card hebdomadally circulated-and then to the door!"

We may now leave the original Cambridge University Chess Club, merely noting that, after its amicable settlement with its junior rival in 1873, it languished when the energetic Levin resigned the secretaryship in 1879 [During his period, 1872-9, the club played seven correspondence matches, winning against Halifax, Bristol, Glasgow, Birmingham, and Manchester, losing only to Nottingham, and drawing with Cheltenham.], became almost extinct, was re-organized in 1890, and then lived on until 1905, when the membership had become so small that it was agreed to end its separate existence, and the members joined the Town Club, which now has a stronger university than town element.

The history of the present Cambridge University Chess Club begins in Caius College as early as 1870, almost certainly owing to the energy of J. de Soyres, of that college. It was definitely founded as a University club in the Michaelmas term of 1871, with the Rev. A. H. Smith (Caius) as president and de Soyres as secretary; but the transition stage was sufficiently advanced for it to take up the challenge of the Oxford University Club; for in March 1871, there began, by correspondence, the first definite trial of chess strength between the Universities.

Play continued through vacation and ended in November, when the result was:

Bd Oxford University 1871 Correspondence Match Cambridge University
1 C. Wild (Christ Ch.) President 0-1 Rev. A. H. Smith (Caius) President
2 W. E. Foster (University) 1-0 H. C. Kingsmill (Caius)
3 E. F. Linton (University) 0-1 V. N. Portilla (Emmanuel)
4 R. D. H. Gray (Brasenose) 1-0 John de Soyres (Caius)
5 T. Constable (Magdalen Hall) ½-½ C. H. Prior (Caius)
6 Edward William Byron Nicholson (Trinity) 1-0 Robert Michael Simon (Caius)
7 Reginald Brodrick Schomberg (New) 1-0 C. W.Wooll (St. John's)

At this period the Oxonians were meeting at 18, Broad Street, and their balance in hand at the end of 1871 was £9, the best since the club's foundation.

Early in the Lent term of 1872 the new Cambridge club made its "audacious" claim to the title of University Chess Club, with what result we have heard. Thwarted in its aim, it took the title, if it had not adopted it earlier as a college club, of the "Cambridge Staunton Chess Club." The ancient Trinity Chess Club was incorporated in it, and a room was hired at 29a, Green Street, where meetings were held twice a week. These were well attended, the membership being already over 40, and the financial position was strong enough to allow a subscription to the relief fund for Captain Evans. Under its new name the club began on March 14th, 1872, a return correspondence match with the Oxford University Chess Club, of whose doings between the two matches there is not much to record except another visit from Steinitz in February. It was now, perhaps, that Steinitz followed Staunton's lead, 19 years earlier, in suggesting an over-the-board match between the two Universities.

The second correspondence contest lasted through the vacation into October and resulted as follows:

Bd Oxford University 1872 Correspondence Match Cambridge University
1 Edwyn Anthony (Christ Church) 1-0 John de Soyres (Caius)
2 W. E. Foster (University) president 0-1 Rev. A. H. Smith (Caius) President
3 C. Wild (Christ Church) 0-1 Robert Michael Simon (Caius)
4 R. D. H. Gray (Brasenose) 0-1 Francis Henry Neville (Sidney Sussex)
5 Edward William Byron Nicholson (Trinity) 0-1 Charles Burdett Ogden (Magdalene)

Thus two correspondence matches had been played, with honours easy. Both Universities having now fully organized chess clubs, practically all obstacles to an over-the-board match were removed, and when early in 1873 the Oxford club sent a formal challenge to Cambridge for such a match it was promptly accepted. The City of London Chess Club offered its rooms at 34, Milk Street, E.C., as the scene of the encounter, and the date was fixed for Friday, March 28th, the day before the Boat Race.

The arrangement of this match encouraged the "Cambridge Staunton Chess Club" to make another effort to secure the coveted title of "Cambridge University Chess Club," putting it on the same footing as its Oxford rival. Negotiations with the senior club were begun again. No doubt this time donnish susceptibilities were more regarded: for a most satisfactory compromise was arrived at. A treaty was drawn up and signed by representatives of both parties, by the terms of which the clubs were amalgamated, but divided into a Senior and a Junior Branch, with separate officers, meetings, and finances. In the case of a match with Oxford, either club might call itself the Cambridge University Chess Club. Thus the Staunton Club became the Junior Cambridge University Chess Club, which title it retained until the temporary collapse of the Senior Club in the early 'Eighties-it apparently ceased to hold regular meetings in 1881-when the Junior Club took its present name of the Cambridge University Chess Club. The result of the 1873 change and of the interest caused by the inter-university contest was at once seen when at the beginning of next season, Michaelmas Term, 1873. fifty new members joined, including the whole Corpus Christi College Chess Club, bringing the numbers up to 100.

On March 28th, 1873, the first Inter-University Chess Match of the series which has continued unbroken until 1915 duly took place in the rooms of the City of London Chess Club. The arrangements were simple. Each team consisted, as has always been the case since, of seven; and each pair was to play two games, provided there were time. Play began between 6 and 6-30 p.m., and at 11 the umpire, Steinitz, adjudicated all unfinished games. There were rival attractions at the City Club on the night of the match, for Zukertort in one room played seven opponents blindfold, while in another room Blackburne played twelve simultaneously There are various estimates of the number of spectators present, The Illustrated London News saying "little short of 400," and The City of London Chess Magazine "from 600 to 800." Even 400, however, was a record for a chess gathering, and is startling in comparison with the attendance at the Inter-University Match in modern days.

Oxford were the favourite, having in their team Walter Parratt, who was over thirty, and had been known for years as one of the strongest chess-players in Yorkshire; Edwyn Anthony; and three rising players, R. B. Schomberg, F. Madan, and S. R. Meredith. The Cambridge men were much younger in average age than their rivals and much less experienced. The Illustrated London News calls them, "as a rule, very ignorant of chess theory." A decisive victory for the Dark Blues was, therefore, no surprise. At the call of time the score was: Oxford 7, Cambridge 2, drawn 1. Two games awaited adjudication, both of which were given by Steinitz in Oxford's favour. The full score was...

[Link to 1873 match score - note that Sergeant & Goulding Brown give the final score as 9½-2½, counting only one draw on board 4 between Meredith and Keynes whereas other sources show they played two draws]

The respective presidents were Whitefoord and de Soyres. Nicholson came into the Oxford team in the place of S. M. Fox (New College), who was chosen, but at the last moment was unable to play.

After the match the teams were entertained to supper by the City of London Chess Club, Mr. H. F. Gastineau being in the chair. The guests numbered in all about 60, and the reports state that "everything passed off brilliantly." The Universities were cordially invited to repeat the match in the following year.

We have now brought the record of Oxford and Cambridge Chess down to the historic period. Perhaps on a future occasion we shall be able to continue the story until it reaches the present day. We may conclude with the fervent hope that circumstances will soon permit the continuation of the series of matches which began as just described.

[We desire to acknowledge our gratitude for the kind assistance given to us in our search for information by Messrs. W. W. R. Ball, W. H. Blythe, C. P. Dutt, W. H. Gunston, H. J. R. Murray, C. B. Ogden, H. M. Taylor, W. P. Turnbull and G. E. Wainwright.].

[return to start of this article] [return to the index]

2. THE CRITICAL PERIOD OF CAMBRIDGE CHESS by Bertram Goulding Brown [BCM, September 1917 pps 265-273]

n.b. there are a number of overlaps between this article and the one immediately above

The history of chess in Cambridge begins in rather a specially fitting way, for that great college, which has since distanced all others in numbers and learning, and in the last twenty years, has even pro­duced a majority of the best University chess-players, takes the first place also in the organisation of the game in Cambridge. In 1832 was founded the Trinity Chess Club—confined of course to members of Trinity College. [There is a tantalising indication of chess life a year earlier. In March 1831, there was published at Cambridge a pamphlet entitled Particulars of a Match a Chess, played in Cambridge, in March, 1831 (Hatfield, 1831, 8vo, pp. 8). This pamphlet is not in the British Museum, or the Cambridge Free Library, and cannot at present be found in the University Library. The writer would be immensely grateful for news of it, addressed to 10, S. Paul’s Road, Cambridge.]

We first hear of a Cambridge (not a Cambridge University) Chess Club in George Walker’s chess column in Bell’s Life in London, August 30th, 1835. It had a library, for we find it among the subscribers to William Greenwood Walker’s edition of Alexander McDonnell’s games, published in 1836. Four of its members—or, at any rate, four Cambridge residents—were sufficiently interested in chess to subscribe for the book individually.

In 1837-8 it played a correspondence match of two games with Nottingham, and lost both. This result was not in itself remarkable, for Nottingham meant Samuel Newham, one of the strongest provincial amateurs of the time, strong enough to offer Alexandre the odds of Pawn and two moves—though the offer was refused—and later a competitor in the London Tournament of 1851; but the feebleness of Cambridge’s play was remarkable and showed great ignorance of the principles of development. In defending the Scotch Game Cambridge moved the Queen three times in succession after the exchange of Pawns and Knights in the centre; and against the Sicilian Defence, after playing 2 P—KB4, excusable at that date in spite of the experi­ence of the Labourdonnais-McDonnell games, exchanged Pawns after Black’s P—Q 4, instead of advancing P to K 5 [These games are Nos. 375 and 376 in George Walker’s Chess Studies.]

In January 1842, Staunton, writing in the Chess Player's Chronicle (II. 191), tells a correspondent that Mr. H. F. F., of Worcester College, Oxford, had been considered a good player, but that there were now more and better players at Cambridge. In May of the same year (ibid. III. 3) he published a game between two of the club’s strongest players, but without giving their names. It is quite a smart Evans.

It was almost certainly the same club, "a Town and Gown Club," that Lowenthal found with nearly forty members on his visit to Cam­bridge in 1851. W. Wayte [Afterwards the Rev. W. Wayte, Fellow of King’s College, a master at Eton, and Professor of Greek at University College, London] and A. B. Skipworth were then in residence, and the first was certainly a member, and eventually president, of the club. It had given proof of its continued activity two years earlier, 1849, by playing a second correspondence match, this time with Reading. Like the match of twelve years before, this also had a disastrous result, though Cambridge scored half a point out of two games. Reading, however, had no such player as Newham, though its secretary, W. Hodges, won the third prize in the Provincial Tournament of the London Congress, 1851, coming after Boden and Ranken, but ahead of Brien, Deacon and five others, including his fellow member of the Reading Club, Wellman, whom he knocked out in the first round by 2—0 and a draw. Still Cambridge played far better, and the drawn game, in which Reading defended with the Sicilian, was quite a credit­able effort on both sides. The other game was an eccentric Petroff, in which Cambridge (Black) retreated the KKt to Q 3 after the capture of the King’s Pawn. [These games are in the Chess Player's Chronicle, XI., 19-21.]

The club tried to bring about a third correspondence match by a challenge in 1851 to the Hermes (Chess) Club of Oxford University, but the challenge was refused on the ground of lack of time. In 1854 it was meeting twice a week at the Lion Hotel in Petty Cury.

Meanwhile in 1847-8 the Trinity Club had played, and lost, a correspondence match with the newly-founded Hermes Club. It resulted from a challenge of the latter for a match of two games, in which both sides should open and reply with 1 P—K 4. It began in October and ended in May or early June. Trinity began with a Giuoco Piano in the old-fashioned manner (4 P—B 3, 5 P—Q 4, 6 P— K 5), and was lucky to draw at the thirty-fifth move, for Hermes missed a win at move 20. Up to and including move 14 the game followed—-with transpositions—the sixth game of the Staunton- Horwitz match (1846) [Handbook, 117, game 1]. Hermes ventured the Evans Gambit and won—though playing 6 Castles in answer to B—R 4—by vigorous afterplay against a weak defence. [Both games are in the Chess Player's Chronicle, IX., 162-5. But the players in the drawn game were transposed by a mistake, corrected ibid. 190.] The chief burden of the match on the Trinity side fell on a Fellow of the College, H. Wilbraham, afterwards a barrister, whom Staunton described as mathematically accurate, but deficient in book-knowledge, supported by C. B. Scott, another Fellow — afterwards Headmaster of Westminster,—and by G. Calthrop [Not, as stated in the Chess Annual, 1916, S. R. Calthrop, whom Staunton called “the most brilliant and original amateur who has ever yet arisen in the provinces,'’ and compared with Cochrane, but who was unfortunately, lost to English Chess by emigration to America, after only two years' residence at Cambridge. He played in the first American Chess Congress at New York in 1857, but was beaten in the first round, 3—0, by Louis Paulsen. The tournament was played on the “knock-out” principle.] and W. S. Grignon.

It was not unnatural that a College club should lose to a University club, but if Trinity felt any disappointment, it must have been somewhat mitigated by winning what we may regard as the first, though informal, over-the-board contest between the two Universities. Two members, certainly Wilbraham and apparently S. R. Calthrop,—at any rate Calthrop did play some time or other against some Hermes players with success—paid a hasty visit to Oxford, and there defeated two leading members of the Hermes Club by 1½—½. And seven years later, in 1855, the Trinity Club had a complete revenge. It beat the Hermes Club in a return correspondence match by 2—0, offering the Evans, which was accepted, and playing the Petroff as Black.

When Wayte went up to Cambridge in 1848 the chess players used to meet in each other’s rooms. The best players, in addition to the members of the Trinity Club above mentioned, and slightly stronger than any of them, were two Fellows of S. John’s College, J. B. Cherriman, afterwards Professor of Mathematics in the University of Toronto, the best of all, better even than Wayte at that time, and the Rev. Anthony Bower, afterwards Headmaster of the Caistor School. The University Club was not founded till 1856, and it met in the secretary's, the Rev. A. B. Skipworth’s, rooms at S. Catharine’s Hall (now College) on February 15th to begin its first tournament. In November, 1858, it passed its famous resolutions in support of Staunton's announcement that he had not the leisure, health, and energy to play a match with Morphy and at the same time punctually to bring out the monthly parts of his edition of Shakespeare. In 1860 its president was the Edward Walker of Trinity College who, together with Wayte, helped Staunton in the preparation of the Praxis. When the British Chess Association met that year in Cambridge, at the invitation of the University Club, Walker was secretary and treasurer to the local committee. The congress was a fiasco. At the first meeting in the Lion Hotel on August 28th, not only were the president and the two vice-presidents of the Association absent, but also every member of the committee. It was with difficulty that eight candidates could be scraped together for the chief tournament, and of these only Kolisch, Zytogorski and C. H. Stanley are known to fame. Staunton and Deacon put in an appearance for one day, and the Rev. J. Donaldson (Delta) and J. Kling arrived towards the middle of the proceedings, but on no occasion were there more than seventeen people present. The result was such a strained financial position, that if a patriotic townsman, H. C. Foster, had not thrown open his house to the com­petitors, “who, now only, since their visit to Cambridge, felt really at ease," there would have been great difficulty in providing a meeting place for an unexpected fifth day’s play.

The same year Walker left Cambridge for good, and the club temporarily collapsed. It was in a state of suspended animation for four years, during which time the minute-book was unfortunately burnt in mistake for waste paper, and most of the property lost, both, it appears, through Walker’s negligence. [Walker also tried to fix on the revived club of 1864 responsibility for the expenses incurred in printing the Report of the Local Committee of the i860 British Chess Association meeting. But the club declared that it had never authorised the printing of this report, and that there had been no obligation to print it at all.]

Its return to life was due to the energy of the Rev. M. Wilkinson (Trinity), who invited the members to meet in his rooms on February 18th, 1864. Among those present was the Rev. J. Porter, afterwards Master of Peterhouse. The Rev. Percival Frost (S. John's), Lecturer in Mathematics at King’s College and a writer of mathematical text-books, was voted into the chair, and H. E. Oakeley, a Fellow of Jesus College, was elected presi­dent. It was agreed that there should be weekly meetings during term in the members’ rooms. A four-aside consultation game was then played which lasted till 2-15 a.m.! [This game has survived, but is of no interest.]

It seems probable that by this time the old Cambridge Club (Town and Gown) had ceased to exist, for there was a proposal to elect a non-university member to the University Club, which was negatived as contrary to precedent and against the laws. It may be well to say here that a new Cambridge Chess Club, usually known as "the Town Club,” was founded in 1896, and is now very active. Its great annual event is a match with the Oxford City Chess Club, and partly owing to its many strong University players, including Mr. W. H. Gunston, it has won a majority of these contests. [These have been suspended owing to the war.]

Before the next season began Oakeley had left Cambridge, and the Rev. W. C. Green (King's) became secretary—there seems to have been no president. A correspondence match was suggested by Percival Frost, and eventually two games were arranged with Dublin (? Univer­sity). C. B. Clarke, Fellow of Queen’s College, B. W. Horne, Fellow of S. John’s College (a good player, who had won a game from Stanley in the 1860 tournament), and Green himself were the playing committee, but the games were much discussed at the ordinary meetings, and Frost especially showed himself “zealous in devising acute moves.” Frost was evidently a “character." He liked to look over games and to interfere in them; if his suggestion were not adopted, he would pass on to another board, leaving the obstinate player to his fate. We see him on one occasion interposing in a consultation game, and in the words of the secretary—who was one of the winners—being “kind enough to give advice.... with telling effect.” His aphorism, “It’s no use trying to be a great man unless you’ve a bad digestion,” must be considered along with the fact that he always gave lunch to the examiners for the Mathematical Tripos when they met at his house. The members certainly took considerable delight in him, and no one else stands out so clearly in the minute-book. As a result of his and the others’ efforts the club had scored a victory (1½—½) by the beginn­ing of the Lent term, 1866. Dublin defended with a Petroff and lost; Cambridge risked the Counter Gambit variation of the Philidor (3 P—Q 4, P—K B 4) and drew.

The next season Frost was again urgent for a correspondence match, and one with Florence, reputed to have strong players, was proposed, but proved impracticable. So Bristol was chal­lenged, and a match began for a stake or trophy in November, 1866. This was lost, by 0—2. [The games are in Burt’s History of the Bristol Chess Club (1883), pp. 74-75. On their conclusion Green challenged any Bristol player to a correspondence match. Burt accepted; and won by 1½ to ½. Vide p. 79 for the drawn game.]

Perhaps this was either a symptom or a cause of failure in interest on the part of the members. At any rate the attendance at the meetings began to fall off, and it was resolved to hire a room at 11, Green Street. This change seems hardly to have produced the desired effect, and after the Lent term, 1868, we hear no more of the club’s doings till 1871.

On January 25th of that year a new secretary, T. W. Levin, of St. Catharine’s College, blind, yet a chess player and college lecturer in Modern History and Philosophy, was elected, and an active period began. The meetings were now again held in the members' rooms. [Among the members at this period were: Benjamin Hall Kennedy, D.D., of S. John’s College, Regius Professor of Greek, known to every schoolboy through the Public School Latin Primer and its modem revisions; T. R. Birks, of Trinity College, Knightbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy; E. H. Palmer, of S. John’s College, Lord Almoner’s Professor of Arabic; and C. Smith, afterwards Master of Sidney Sussex College.] On one occasion we find a game beginning at 8 p.m. and still in progress at 12. But more certain proof of energy is the series of correspondence matches, 1872-70.

Cambridge University v. Halifax, December. 1872—October, 1873. Won. 2—0. Cambridge played the King's Bishop’s Opening, Halifax the Scotch Gambit. (Playing committee: Horne, Frost, and Professor Kennedy.)
Cambridge University v. Bristol, November, 1873 -August. 1874. Won, 2—0. Cambridge played the Ruy Lopez. Bristol played the King’s Gambit (Declined). [Burt, pp. 139-40.] This was a return match, and was played for a trophy, a five- guinea board and set of men.
Cambridge University v. Glasgow, October, 1874—February, 1875. Won, 2—0. Cambridge played the Scotch Game, and as Black defended with the Petroff.
Cambridge University v. Nottingham, October, 1875—October, 1876. Lost, 0—2. Cambridge played the Ruy Lopez, and defended with the French. This match was also played for a five-guinea board and set of men.
Cambridge University v. Birmingham, October, 1876—June, 1877. Won, 1½—½. There were two playing committees: Horne; L. Ewbank, a Senior Fellow of Clare; and Smith opened with 1 P—K 4, and Birmingham defended with 1 P—Q Kt 3. Professor Birks, J. N. Keynes (Pembroke), and F. H. Neville (Sidney, Sussex), had to defend the English Opening.
Cambridge University v. Manchester, October, 1877—March, 1878. Won, 2—0. Cambridge played the Ruy Lopez, Manchester played the King’s Gambit (Declined).
Cambridge University v. Cheltenham, October, 1878—February, 1879. Drawn, 1—1. Cambridge played the Ruy Lopez, Cheltenham the Three Knights. Both games were drawn.
Nearly all these games have survived. The following is one of the best:—

These matches were no doubt due to the severe shaking-up the club received 1871-2 through the challenge to its existence by a new, ambitious, and vigorous society. The following entry in the minute book, March 1st, 1871, is the first sign of trouble ahead: "In the preceding week a quasi-challenge had been sent by a chess club at Oxford University, through the medium of the Cambridge Chronicle, to the Cambridge University Chess Club. Upon the secretary com­municating, however, with the president of the Oxford Chess Club, he learnt that the Oxford Club was composed of young undergraduate members. It was decided therefore by the present meeting not to accept the challenge.” It is evident from this that, whatever had been the case originally, the club was now entirely one of Dons, and thus its dignity was a little ruffled by a challenge from the “young under­graduates” of Oxford. But worse was to follow. There were to be undergraduate rivals in Cambridge, and they were to be aggressive! The excellent secretary breaks out in horror and indignation at the events of the Lent term of 1872: “An audacious attempt was made during the early part of the term by a chess club among the under­graduate members of the University to question the existence and tangibility of the Cambridge University Chess Club—the style and title of which the former claimed the right to appropriate. The secretary, however, of the Cambridge University Chess Club promptly referred the deputation calling on him for that purpose to a blue card hebdomadally circulated—and then to the door!”

How all differences were adjusted, and the two clubs came into complete accord and alliance—the younger club indeed acted as a “feeder” to the older, and greatly contributed to its strength—will be told in a moment when we come to trace the history of the present Cambridge University Chess Club—or Junior Club, as it was long called. It may be as well here to finish our survey of the Senior University Chess Club—to give it the new name adopted in the Lent term, 1873. After the resignation of the secretaryship by the energetic Levin at the beginning of the chess season of 1879, it languished, and apparently ceased to hold regular meetings in 1881, though there may well have been some informal meetings at irregular intervals. It was reorganised in 1890 and had another long period of prosperity with Mr. W. H. Blythe (Jesus) as secretary, and Messrs. W. H. Gunston (S. John’s), F. Deighton (Peterhouse), G. A. Schott (Trinity), C. W. C. Barlow (Peterhouse), C. Warburton (Christ’s), and Dr. J. N. Keynes as the leading members. In June, 1890, the Counties’ Chess Association, and in April, 1893, an informal congress arranged by Skipworth, met at Cambridge, and some of these took part in the tournaments. There is a game won by Mr. Deighton on the latter occasion in Chess Sparks. But by 1905 the membership had become so small that it was agreed to end the club’s separate existence, and its remaining members joined the Town Club, which now has a stronger University than Town element.

The history of the present Cambridge University Chess Club begins in Caius, as early as 1870, almost certainly owing to the energy of J. De Soyres of that college. It was founded as a University Club in the Michaelmas term of 1871, with the Rev. A. H. Smith (Caius) as president and De Soyres as secretary, but had taken up, more than six months earlier, that challenge from Oxford to a correspondence match which the old University Club had refused. The match lasted from March to November, and was lost by 2½ to 4½. Smith and De Soyres were the only winners; C. H. Prior (Caius) made a draw; while H. C. Kingsmill (Caius), V. N. Portilla (Emmanuel), R. M. Simon (Caius), and C. W. Wool (S. John’s) were all unsuccessful.

In the Lent term of 1872 it began a return match—which lasted into the long vacation—and took ample revenge by a 4—1 victory. De Soyres lost to Edwyn Anthony at board 1, but the Rev. A. H. Smith, F. H. Neville (afterwards F.R.S. and Fellow of Sidney Sussex), C. B. Ogden (Magdalene), and R. M. Simon (Caius) all won their games.

Early in the same term it made the "audacious” claim to the title of Cambridge University Chess Club, so questioning the existence of the older club. Thwarted in this, it took the title, if it had not adopted it earlier as a college club, of the Cambridge Staunton Chess Club, and declared its adherence to the laws in the Praxis. The ancient Trinity Club was incorporated in it, and a room was hired at 29a, Green Street, where meetings were held twice a week. These were well attended by the members, who already numbered over forty, and the financial position was strong enough to permit a subscription to the relief-fund for Captain Evans.

In the Lent term of 1873 the club, hoping to make some arrange­ment by which it could use the coveted title Cambridge University Chess Club for its first over-the-board match against Oxford (proposed by Staunton twenty years before!), again began negotiations with the old club. No doubt this time Donnish susceptibilities were more regarded, for a most satisfactory compromise was arrived at. There are signs that the seniors were not without pride in the exploits and plans of their young rivals. Was not the new club "numerous and spirited?" Had it not "won matches with Oxford, etc.?” Did it not “purpose engaging in a tournament with the Oxford Chess Club during the week of the great Putney Inter-University Boat Race?” Well it has been rewarded. “The two chess clubs have become allied!” And the treaty has been solemnly drawn up, and signed by a repre­sentative of each club, by two of the Dons indeed—to keep up their superiority to the last!

The terms, in short, were these. The clubs were amalgamated, but divided into a Senior and a Junior Branch, with separate officers, meetings, and finances. In the case of a match with Oxford either club might call itself the Cambridge University Chess Club. Thus the Staunton Club became the Junior Cambridge University Chess Club. It retained this title till the temporary collapse of the Senior Club in the early eighties, when it took the present title of the Cambridge University Chess Club. [The outside dates for this are 1882 and 1890.] The result of the 1873 change, and of the interest caused by the Inter-'Varsity contest—doubtless also of the keener rivalry caused by the overwhelming success of Oxford by 9½-2½—was at once seen, when at the beginning of next season (Michaelmas term, 1873) fifty new members joined, including the whole Corpus Chess Club, bringing the numbers up to one hundred. The club’s critical period was over.

B. Goulding Brown.

The writer wishes to acknowledge the kind help and long-suffering patience under his incessant inquiries, of Messrs. W. W. Rouse Ball (Trinity), W. H. Blythe (Jesus), C. P. Dutt (Queen's), W. H. Gunston (S. John's), C. B. Ogden (Magdalene), H. M. Taylor (Trinity), the late W. P. Turnbull (Trinity and S. Catharine's), and H. J. R. Murray (Oxford).

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3. VARSITY CHESS WEEK 1920 by Brian Harley - from Chess and its Stars, Whitehead and Miller (1936)

THIS chapter consists of a haphazard selection from articles in The Observer, spread over a dozen years.


The resumption of this interesting annual event after the War made the occasion of the article given below.

A picture hangs on the wall of the City of London Chess Club, representing the first Inter-’Varsity chess match, which was played in the year 1873. The undergraduates of that time, with their luxuriant beards and whiskers, look like (and some probably are) the grandfathers of the present beardless generation at the Universities.

In a week’s time smooth-cheeked little bands from Oxford and Cambridge will arrive in London, seeking the scalps of the chess-playing inhabitants. This will be the forty-fourth expedition against the City, the only omissions being in the years 1915 to 1918, when the game was played on a larger board.

The combined Universities, past and present, in the early part of the chess week will measure their strength against some of the strongest London teams, including the City of London Club – on the evening of March 17 – and the Metropolitan. All this is but the preliminary, the trial run, for the real event – the Forty-fourth Inter-’Varsity Chess Match, which will be contested at the City Club rooms on March 19, at 2-30 p.m. At that hour seven Oxonians will solemnly seat themselves opposite seven Cantabs – why seven nobody knows, but this has always been the number of boards – each with his clock and score-sheet at hand, and the mental conflict will begin. Oxford have last year’s defeat to avenge, when they suffered a disaster even worse than the fate of Wordsworth’s septet, who could, at any rate, claim one survivor in the obstinate little maid: in plain and unpoetical English, the score read: “Cambridge 7, Oxford 0.”

This debacle was taken so much to heart by the Oxonian authorities that (it is said) a strong movement was set on foot to substitute compulsory chess for compulsory Greek, and some believe that this was the real origin of the attack upon that ancient language. We have heard rumours of a Chess Chair, which no doubt would be occupied by the don who did so well at the Hastings Congress of last August, J. A. J. Drewitt. Under his guidance undergraduates would gladly abandon the study of paradigms and particles for that of Pawn-promotions. Cambridge will then have to struggle hard to keep its lead of six in the forty-­three matches already played (23 wins, 17 losses and 3 draws).

The history of the ‘Varsity chess clubs dates from the early seventies. Both were built up on the ruins of numerous defunct chess associations, beginning as far back as the ‘thirties, and have endured as many amalgamations as a modern bank. The Cambridge Club was originally confined to senior members of the University, and it is on record that its dignity was ruffled by a challenge from the “young undergraduates” of Oxford in 1871 – which challenge was refused, as the Minutes show. However, after the first Inter-’Varsity Undergraduate Match in 1873, the Cambridge dons climbed down, and signed a Treaty with the Junior Club.

Of the two clubs, Cambridge has produced rather more prominent chessplayers than Oxford, including H. E. Atkins, one of the few living English masters, C. E. C. Tattersall, W. H. Gunston, E. E. Colman, F. P. Carr, H. J. Snowden and W. Winter – last year’s president – who is about the finest of the young British players of to-day; while Oxford has to its credit P. W. Sergeant, G. E. Wainwright and F. F. Russell, the Rhodes scholar, who has played for America against England.

This year the Cantabs will be headed by their club president, L. S. Penrose, who is addicted to the reprehensible habit of composing chess problems – a vice that has been the doom of many a promising player. Mr. Penrose will have a hard task against T. H. Tylor, the Oxford top board, who is of first-class amateur strength, a rara avis amongst undergraduates. No less than five of the Cambridge “probables” hail from St. John’s, and Oxford must look to it that they do not lose to one College, in which case seven Half Blues would not look half blue.

The forty-fourth match actually ended in a draw of 3½ points each. Here is the game played on board No. 1. [Penrose v Tylor]

The great game of the match, however, occurred on board No. 3, and the dull, vapid announcement that the result was a draw conveys nothing of the intense excitement that thrilled the spectators. Some called the game a chapter of accidents, and some a comedy of errors, but the truth is that it was a legitimate gamble on the part of Mr. Bigelow. The history of the Bigelow campaign runs thus: he first won the exchange; then, threatened with the loss of a Bishop, offered up his Queen instead. Mr. Barnes, alarmed at such irregularity (like the Austrian generals against Napoleon), refused the sacrifice. A little later the Oxonian gave up a piece for two Pawns, and when time was called he had a hopelessly lost game. But he still had a card to play: as the sinister tread of the adjudicator was heard approaching, Mr. Bigelow leant across the board and offered his opponent a draw. This masterly manoeuvre saved the match for the Dark Blues, since Mr. Barnes, quite obviously in an hypnotic trance, was unable to refuse. Mr. Bigelow must surely play a good game of poker.

Of the protagonists mentioned, Penrose has become a doctor of medicine, and seems to have abandoned both the game and problem composition. Tylor is a don, and has been for some years one of the strongest chessplayers in England. Bigelow returned to the States and went into business. A few years ago "Biggy" was running a successful chess feature in one of the New York journals.

In this year of grace, 1936, the score of the inter­-‘Varsity chess matches stands thus: Cambridge 27 wins, Oxford 25 wins, and 8 drawn matches.

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4. EARLY OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE CHESS: A SEQUEL by Bertram Goulding Brown [BCM, October 1932, pps 431-435]

In the B.C.M. Chess Annual for 1916 there was printed an article with the above title by Mr. P. W. Sergeant and myself. The Cambridge portion of this, with corrections, enlargements and additions, appeared in the B.C.M. for September, 1917, over my name. To these there now succeeds a sequel, or, to put it more modestly, a series of footnotes.

The Senior University must, of course, be dealt with first. We might have begun with Aubrey’s notice, in his Brief Lives, of Francis Potter (1594-1678), B.D., F.R.S., of Trinity College.

"Memorand. he played at chesse as well as most men. Col. Bishop, his contemporary at Trin. coll, is accounted the best of England. I have heard Mr. Potter say that they two have played at Trinity Col. (I think 2 daies together) and neither got the maistery. He would say that he lookt upon the play at chesse very fitt to be learnt and practised by young men, because it would make them to have a foresight, and be of use to them (by consequence) in their ordering of humane affaires. Quod N.B." [Letters written by eminent persons, etc. : 1813. ii Part ii, pp. 503-4.]

But our great omission was all mention of the first chess club that ever existed at Oxford, the Brazen Nose Chess Club. [I first knew of this club later, from Reminiscences of Oxford, 1900, by ‘be Rev. W. Tuckwell, son of the founder. There I found the club laureat’s Poem and some important details, and, more valuable still, the information that file club’s minute book was in the writer’s possession, and that he hoped that it would eventually respose on the shelves of the Bodleian. Drawing a bow at venture, I asked my friend A. H. Wykeham George if he would look into the matter on one of his visits to Oxford. He was kind enough to do so, with the happiest results. He found not only the minute book, but, bound with it, five pages, devoted to the club, of a pamphlet—No. 13 of Our Memories: Shadows of old Oxford, December, 1891, by the late C. H. O. Daniel, Provost of Worcester, and also a letter from the Rev. W. Tuckwell, noting the precious volume to Mr. F. Madan, himself a Brasenose man and Bodley's librarian. From all these Mr. Wykeham George made copious extracts, and to him the Oxonian reader will be chiefly indebted for any pleasure that he may get from reading my account.] This was founded in February, 1810, by William Tuckwell, from about 1815 to 1845 the leading Oxford surgeon, “the most fascinating man I ever met” wrote a friend to his son, a man so generous that he gave the first two hours of his working day to the poor, who, from the slums of the city and from the villages of the county, flocked to his funeral, literally in hundreds. Besides being a good chessplayer—he had lessons from the great J. H. Sarratt, whose fee was a guinea a lesson [Reminiscences of Oxford, p. 65. Can this be substantiated from any other source?]—he was one of the best whist and piquet players in England, and when challenged by a London expert to a three nights’ contest at the last game, came off the winner with three hundred pounds in his pocket. He had a marvellous memory, especially for poetry; read French, Italian and Spanish; and once when challenged, wrote impromptu an English verse rendering of an Italian song.

Tuckwell was not a member of the University, but his son speaks of him as "I imagine a member ex gratia of every Oxford Common Room" [The letter from the Rev. W. Tuckwell to Mr. F. Madan.] and as "the last of the old Oxford school. . . . They played as well as worked, those fine old fellows—luserunt satis atque biberunt—lost and won their guineas gaily, chirruped their genial wit and anecdote, laid the ghosts of eating cares in floods of generous 'Comet' port, which enriched and liberated, never dulled or over-fraught, their brains.” He was, however, the first president of the new club, but all the other members were Brasenose men, and the list included the Vice-Principal of the College, the Rev. Richard Stephens, president during the second and, apparently, last year of the club’s existence—with Tuckwell the only member to be celebrated by name in the laureat’s poem, ["His creation benign Father Tuckwell beholds, And Steph gives the chaplet to mirth."]—and A. T. Gilbert, afterwards Bishop of Chichester.

The character of the club will be best shown by giving some of the Rules:

(1) That the members of the society shall not exceed eight* in number.

* The Propriety of Rule 1 is obvious. Since in chess there are eight pieces, so in every chess club there should only be eight members—thus every man has his piece.

(2 and 3 arrange for weekly meetings on Thursday evenings, in rotation by seniority, in members’ rooms from seven till twelve p.m.).

(4) That every member actually residing in Oxford who is not present by eight o’clock shall be subject to the fine of one shilling.

(6) That in the supper to be provided for the evening a barrel of oysters to be the chief Luxury of the Table (quamdiu mensium nomina caninam, quod aiunt, litteram continebunt).

(9 and 11 appoint Tuckwell president and nominate five other members, thus showing that the original members numbered six only).

(10) That no cards be allowed.

(13) That the fines be applied to an anniversary dinner in Lent Term.

(20) That a Club Box, etc., be provided for this purpose (balloting) inscribed with the motto Regum inviolabile Numen.

(22) That the name of the candidate be published orally by the nominator ten minutes at least previous to the commencement of the ballot.

(26) That a Poet Laureat be attached to this Society, and be considered an honorary member.

(27) That the first Poet Laureat be Mr. Dunbar.

Thomas Dunbar, keeper of the Ashmolean, antiquarian, wit, conversationalist and writer of vers de l’Université (most of which are lost, because never printed but merely handed about in manuscript) wrote the poem, [Printed in full in Reminiscences of Oxford, pp. 259-60.] referred to and quoted above, for the club’s first, and only, anniversary dinner. When he left England on a visit to the East, the Club gave him a Latin letter, written by Gilbert, as his credentials to the Commander of the Faithful, Grand Master of Oriental Chess-craft.

The dinner took place on the day of the first annual meeting, February 14, 1811. The fines for the year amounted to five pounds ten shillings, and the result was what the minute book calls “a sumptuous dinner” held at the King’s Arms, which began at five o’clock and must have continued till after nine, for “Old Tom is tolling” is written as a note on the opposite page of the record. Stephens, the new president, was in the chair; Lingard, the secretary, was vice-chairman. Tuckwell, four other members and the laureat were present, and seven guests, including Sir Christopher Pegge, Regius Professor of Physic, and Henry Matthews, author of The Diary of an Invalid.

But this, though a great effort, was, apparently, alas! almost an expiring one, for the last entry in the minutes comes two months later—on April 18. The large number of fines prove that it had always been difficult to secure a good attendance. [But some of the fines were levied on members who failed to forward the fines’ book to the place of meeting.] And several entries show a small, strict party of enthusiasts striving hard, if with mock-heroic seriousness, for the letter of the law:

"May 24, 1810.

“Although this be the night of a Choral Concert, yet it is determined that no such excuse shall avail for the prevention of a Chess Club, and consequently that such members as have absented themselves on that pretext beyond the usual hour shall be fined.”

(And fined no less than five of the society were accordingly.)

“Nov. 15.

(After the names of five absentees.)

“In addition to these fines which have been legitimately imposed upon the absent members enumerated above, a severe reprimand is hereby recorded against the general Spirit of Defection which has been exhibited this evening.”

“Dec. 20.

“In consequence of the presumptuous and unprecedented Resolution of a few Individuals (we blush to add members of the Chess Club) it was determined that the club should be deferred to some future period, more suited to their own private convenience. Such a resolution we do most decidedly condemn, as violating the Principles upon which the club was originally established, and as tending most materially in consequence to its Disorganisation and it Ruin.”

It is sad to find the founder among the guilty on all three occasions.

In writing of chess in Cambridge I began at the year 1832, not knowing that Christopher Wordsworth in his Social Life at tke English Universities in the Eighteenth Century tells us that Simonds D’Ewes, fellow commoner of St. John’s, 1618, played chess sometimes, and that the game is mentioned in the tripos verses for 1780 as being played in a coffee-house at Cambridge. [Edition of 1928, The Undergraduate, revised and re-arranged by Brimley Johnson, p. 200. I owe this reference to Mr. F. Madan.] But I pointed out in a footnote that there was a tantalising indication of chess life a year earlier than 1832, viz., a pamphlet published in the town entitled Particulars of a Match at Chess, played in Cambridge, in March, 1831 (Hatfield, 1831, 8vo., pp. 8). As this pamphlet was not in the British Museum, or in the Cambridge Free Library, and could not then be found in the University Library (and I think it can now be definitely stated that it is not there) I printed a request that anyone who knew of its whereabouts would be kind enough to communicate with me, but had no reply.

However, there was at any rate one copy still in existence, hidden in a volume then in the Rimington Wilson Library at Broomhead, and formerly in the possession of George Walker, lettered Lewis on Chess, containing the two series of Progressive Lessons on the Game of Chess, and, bound between them, the long wished-for pamphlet. After the Rimington Wilson sale in 1928 this volume appeared in Mr. Quaritch’s catalogue and was purchased by me.

The pamphlet is a badly printed [E.g. Q. ad. Q.R. 2. really means QxQRP: and one is faced with such puzzles as K to K.K. 3!] octavo of eight pages, containing the full score—in two of the games down to the actual mate—of a three-game match between two unnamed players. It therefore marks an important stage in the history of chess literature—a separate publication giving the first complete account of a match at chess between two players, as distinct from a correspondence match between two clubs: for the three games of the match Deschapelles—Lewis played in 1821—which in any case was only a match at odds (Deschapelles gave Pawn and move to Lewis)—were not printed till 1836, and then not separately, but in W. G. Walker’s Games at Chess by the late Alexander McDonnell, and Lewis admitted that they had not been taken down at the time, and that, in consequence, some of the moves in one of them had been transposed.

Fortunately on the title page there is a MS. note by George Walker giving the names of the players. “This match was played between Mr. Gordon, of Trinity College, and Mr. Oppenheim, Professor of Languages; it was won by the former.” As “Gordon, Z. H., Esq., Cambridge” was one of the subscribers to Lewis's First Series of Lessons, I did not expect to have to look further for the winner. But there seems to have been no such member of the University, to say nothing of Trinity. And there were two Gordons in residence at Trinity, either of whom might have been the man. First, the Hon. Francis Arthur Gordon, son of George, Earl of Aboyne, pensioner, matriculated 1828 (age 21), M.A. 1831 (by the old privileges of a nobleman: no examination, or B.A. degree, and no necessary period of six and a half years from matriculation). Secondly, Francis Hastings Gordon, son of Anthony Gordon, sizar (October 2, 1826; aged 20), matriculated 1827, B.A. 1831.

It is more likely that the Earl’s son went to the expense of publishing an account of his victory than that a poor sizar did so, or had friends who would think it worth while to do so for him. And the greater age of the former strengthens this identification.

“Mr. Oppenheim, Professor of Languages,” is also to seek on the official lists of the University. No doubt he was a foreigner, living in Cambridge, and giving private tuition in French and German. All the Professorships of Modern Languages are of much later date, and it is to be noted that Walker does not assign him to a College, as he does Gordon. He is probably the H. D. Oppenheim, Esq., of Cambridge, who was one of the subscribers to W. G. Walker’s McDonnell volume.

George Walker ends his MS. note as follows: “From these games it appears to me that a first-rate player could give either of these gentlemen more than the Rook.” If the editor allows them to occupy any of the sacred space of the B.C.M., this harsh judgment will not, I fear, be thought a great exaggeration.

B. Goulding Brown.

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5. John Arthur James Drewitt (5 March 1873 – 19 March 1931) - Obituaries, etc

Magdalen College, Oxford. Did not play in a Varsity chess match but played a significant role for Oxford University Chess Club after WW1. See also the article above on the 1920 Varsity chess week by Brian Harley. [§ different sources give different versions of his d.o.b - his birth was registered in the 2nd quarter of 1873 and there is a baptismal record for 13 April 1873. Therefore the the d.o.b. of 17 October 1873 given in Alumni Oxonienses must be wrong. One BCM obit gives the year of birth as 1872 which is also probably wrong. April 1873 is likely to be correct. However, I was able to find reference to the birth of a son on 5 March 1873, at Patching, to the wife of Mr J Drewitt, jun. in the Horsham, Petworth, Midhurst and Steyning Express - Tuesday 11 March 1873]

Alumni Oxonienses: Drewitt, John Arthur James, born at Patching, Sussex, 17 Oct. 1873; s. John, gen. Magdalen, matric. 22 Oct. 91, aged 18 (from Magdalen coll, school), demy 91.

[BCM, April 1931, p166] It is again our sad duty to report the loss of one of our finest British players. J. A. J. Drewitt, of Oxford, Hastings, and Sussex, met with a fatal accident while travelling from London to Hastings, on March 19th. For years his eyesight had been very bad, and it is assumed he intended to walk into the corridor of the train, but opened the door on the other side, falling on to the line while travelling at 40 miles an hour.

The accident was noticed by some platelayers, and an ambulance hurried to the spot, but Mr. Drewitt died before reaching hospital.

The writer finds it difficult to convey to readers of the B.C.M. the great loss British chess has sustained. A player of master strength in his best form, with a profound and specialised knowledge of both the theory and history of the game, Mr. Drewitt was yet a man of extreme modesty, and was at all times willing to play with strong, medium, or weak players, especially schoolboys; always taking pains, and giving his opponent the benefit of his vast knowledge and experience. He has probably conceded more drawn games when having a positional advantage than any other chess player. When he entered for a tournament the question was generally which prize he would win.

He was a brilliant conversationalist on the very rare occasions when he could be persuaded to talk, his knowledge of human nature being wonderfully keen. His generosity was great, but usually sufficiently unostentatious to pass almost unnoticed.

Settling in Hastings after the war, Mr. Drewitt soon worked his way to the championship of the Club, a position he actually held on the day of his death.

At the Congresses of the British Federation he won the first class tournament at Malvern in 1921, with a score of 9 out of a possible 11. About this time he was a keen and most successful lightning player, but in later years abandoned this form of the game for the more serious master play.

His spectacular win against Rubinstein at the Hastings Christmas Congress of 1922 was fully reported at the time and established his reputation internationally.

At the strong Major Open at Southsea in 1923 he made the best score of the English players, his game with Alekhine (who won first prize) being memorable from the future champion’s first move with the White pieces (P—Q Kt4).

In the Major Open at Southport, 1924, he was second (to Rubinstein) with a score of 8 out of 11. In 1925, at Stratford-on-Avon, he scored 9½ in the Major Open, sharing first prize with Znosko-Borovsky, while at Edinburgh in 1926 the same two players with J. H. Morrison provided a triple tie. [note - I have applied a correction to this paragraph which was given in the May 1931 issue of the magazine - JS]

In the London International Tournament of 1927, Mr. Drewitt’s name is bracketed with W. Winter at the head of the Major Open Tournament, 8½ points; such well-known players as Seitz, Sterk, Balogh and Buerger following.

It was not until 1928, at Tenby, that Mr. Drewitt could be persuaded to play for the British Championship, although his entrv would have been accepted many years before.

He was a good friend to the London Chess League, playing in their Annual Congress and always doing well. In fact his name will be found wherever chess was played, and none was more welcome to the organisers or to his opponents. The loss of his strength and presence in the Sussex County team will be irreparable, and the famous Hastings Club room can never look quite the same. In the heavy roll of chess obituaries in the last twelve months no name will be more widely regretted than that of J. A. J. Drewitt.

[BCM, May 1931, p197] J. A. J. DREWITT—AN APPRECIATION. By J. H. Morrison.

John Arthur James Drewitt came of a Sussex family, and was born in 1872. From Magdalen College School, where Mr.—now Sir— Owen Seaman was his form-master, he won a classical demyship at Magdalen, and went into residence in Michaelmas Term, 1891. He took a First in Greats in 1895, and in the following year won a prize fellowship (in philosophy) at Magdalen, out of a very strong "field." From then until 1904 he divided his time between Oxford, Germany (Tübingen) and St. Andrews, where for three or four years he was assistant to the Professor of Humanity. At Michaelmas, 1904, he was appointed Lecturer (= Tutor) in Classics and Philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford, and he held this post (being elected to a fellowship in 1907) until he resigned, for reasons of health, and retired on a pension from the College, in 1919.

It was, therefore, mainly in Oxford that his work was done, and to Oxford he belonged. He was a man of extraordinarily wide reading; and from his experience of literature he had derived a great appreciation and command of style. His contributions to the study of Homeric origins, based on stylistic considerations, have passed into the literature of the subject (see, e.g., The Classical Quarterly, April, 1908). More than this, however, it was the fine mental capacity shown in his philosophical work that was especially remarkable. Here his deep knowledge, his intense but always critical interest, and his strong constructive power, transcended any category of ability, and gave the impression of genius. Originality, such as he had, is always rare, and perhaps nowhere rarer than in the subjects which had formed his chief study. Besides originality, his quickness, his insight, and his immediate grasp of essentials, were all qualities of a mind which in dealing with any subject could not fail to be purposive; and all this was given, with most generous devotion, to the service of his pupils and of the College. As is not uncommon with certain types of mind of the highest rank, he was too critical of his own work to write much; but, as evidence of what was and of what might have been, there exists a contribution to metaphysics, in which penetrating criticism, original construction, and final scepticism, all of them scintillating with wit and driven by intellectual passion, have been packed into six printed pages, and now lie buried and forgotten in a back-number of Mind ("On the Distinction between Waking and Dreaming": Mind, January, 1911).

His utterly fearless honesty of mind (perhaps the rarest of mental qualities) was reflected in his personal character : he was honest to the bone, most scrupulous in matters of honour, and the loyallest of friends. As for his conversation, it was unsurpassed in range and point. Those who knew him only as the diffident and reticent chessplayer, always underrating his own game and his own opinion, would hardly guess that his audacious and incisive wit had won a reputation in pre-war Oxford. Talk, at its very best (at high-table, in common-room, or round the fire in college rooms), can be one of the finest and most delightful of the arts; but it is also the most evanescent, and the least reproducible. Like music, like all the best things in life, it is an end in itself. Already Drewitt’s conversation is no more than a fading memory in the minds of his contemporaries and his pupils; and all the best of these were killed, of course, between 1914 and 1918. The holocaust of youth, and the loss of friend after friend, affected him, as it affected many other middle-aged men compelled to stay at home, far more than was generally recognized. There was, besides, the strain of the general situation; for the differences between "Germanness" and "Englishness" meant very much to him; he realized that more than once during the war the enemy had a "won game"; and he thought he knew what a German victory would have implied. Simultaneously, certain minor accidents and annoyances, which in other circumstances he could have afforded to despise, combined to wear down his nerves, which were always his weak point; and it was with a sense of great relief that he resigned his fellowship in the summer of 1919. But in the loneliness of his provincial retirement he never ceased to miss the civilization of pre-war Twentieth Century Oxford, which is now as much a thing of the past as the "Nineties" themselves. There was some point in the remark of a pre-war enemy, that he couldn’t imagine Drewitt living anywhere except in Oxford.

In his retirement he turned to chess, which had always been one of his interests (he had been a member of the Oxford University Club since he was an undergraduate). The first public tournament in which he played was (immediately after his retirement) the "Victory Congress" at Hastings in 1919; and he often referred to it later as the high-water mark of enjoyability in tournaments. Since then he has taken part in every one of the Federation’s summer congresses, in all the tournaments held at Easter, and almost always in one or other of those at Christmas (first at Hastings and latterly in London). He became a member of the Hastings Club (acting as honorary secretary in 1923-4), a country member of the City of London Club, and a full member of the London League and the British Federation. His knowledge of the game was, of course, encyclopaedic; and it was always at the service of the younger players. His own play was of a high order, sound rather than brilliant, capable at its best of extending the strongest professionals. In spite of his determined efforts to remain in the background (partly because he hated limelight, partly because he wished to open the way for younger players), it soon became evident that he was among the dozen best players in England; but in 1919 he was already in his 47th year, and nervous strain had made its mark on him. He was quite content to be a servant rather than a master of the game. There were times, naturally, when he tired of it (during the last few years he learned three or four new languages, including Russian and Bohemian, to kill time); but on the whole it served him well to the end, and he was grateful, as he said, especially when he saw "other retired persons" (not possessed of this resource) on the front at Hastings.

"The end of every day is darkness." His eyes, which from time to time for many years had given cause for grave anxiety, had become definitely worse during the past twelve months; he had been compelled to cut down his reading, and even his chess; and again, perhaps, certain minor and ordinarily contemptible annoyances may have succeeded in troubling him at last. His friends, who know how much they have lost, will know also that he himself would not have regretted the accident which has ended his life.

"Turn safe to rest, no dreams, no waking."

To the Editor of the B.C.M.

Sir,—In your obituary of J. A. Drewitt, you refer to his kindly consideration for weak players : my case may serve as an example.

I have the misfortune to be totally disabled, and have to pass my time, when not in bed, in an invalid chair. One afternoon, nine years ago, Drewitt called. We had not met previously. I knew him only by name and reputation; but he had heard that I played chess, and must have known that I was but a poor player. Drewitt had come all the way from Hastings, a tram journey, prompted by the kindly thought that he might help me to pass the time pleasantly. That was the first of many visits. For three years Drewitt came regularly; his visits ceased when his sight became so poor that he could not face the return journey to Hastings in the failing light. He arranged with a player, as strong and kindly disposed as himself, to take his place. Apart from the privilege of being beaten by so distinguished a player, Drewitt’s visits were a great pleasure. He was a witty conversationalist, hls stories of his experiences at Oxford and his comments on current events were most entertaining, his knowledge of many subjects profound: his loss is great.

"A Kt Player"

In The Times of April 6th there was a very well-informed and appreciative note upon the late J. A. J. Drewitt, emphasising how, during his period of tutor in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford, 1912-1919, Drewitt made a deep impression on his pupils, and the abler men recognised him for one of the most remarkable philosophers in Oxford. After his voluntary and much lamented retirement, he found in chess, at Hastings, a resource for his brilliant and restless intellect.

[The Times, 28 March 1931] DREWITT. —On March 19, 1931. at Hastings, the result of an accident, John Arthur James Drewitt, Fellow of Magdalen and Fellow and Tutor of Wadham, Oxford, eldest son of the late John Drewitt, of Patching, aged 58

[The Times, 6 April 1931] MR J. A. DREWITT A correspondent writes of Mr. J. A. Drewitt, whose death was recently announced in The Times:—He went up to Magdalen College, Oxford, from Magdalen College School in 1891. His shyness and a touch of eccentricity perhaps somewhat hampered his college career. A really good scholar, with a rather fatal attraction to subjects off the beaten track, he obtained only a second class in Honour Moderations, followed by a first class in Lit. Hum., due, it was understood, entirely to the striking quality of his philosophical papers. He won a prize fellowship at Magdalen in 1895, and later went to St. Andrews as assistant to Professor Burnet. At this period he did some very elaborate work on the augment in Homer, and part of his researches was published in the Classical Review. While at St. Andrews he kept in close touch with his old college, and in 1907 returned to Oxford as tutor in philosophy at Wadham. As a teacher he made a deep impression on his pupils, and the abler men recognized him for one of the most remarkable philosophers in Oxford. But, owing to personal scruples, he resigned his post in 1919, in spite of the efforts of his colleagues to dissuade him, and retired to Hastings as the best centre for chess, finding in the fascinating problems of that game a resource for his brilliant and restless intellect.

(Further info regarding Drewitt's death by misadventure may be found in the Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 28 March 1931)

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6. Edwyn Anthony - Biographical Article from The Chess-Monthly, April 1891

Entry in Varsity Biographical File

Chess-Monthly, 1891, ppn 225-227: “Mr. Edwyn Anthony is a native of the city of Hereford, and his career, both as a Chess-player and in other directions, has been of a somewhat desultory character. He learnt the moves from his father at so early an age that he knows the fact only by hearsay. As a boy, Mr. Anthony displayed much fondness for the game, as well as a great love of mathematics, mechanics, and reading of all sorts. He had no opportunity of practice with strong players until he happened, when a young man, to become acquainted with Steinitz, to whose tuition Mr. Anthony attributes the greater part of whatever Chess skill he possesses. During the whole period of his residence at Christ Church, Oxford, Mr. Anthony was the strongest undergraduate player; and, in conjunction with Lord Randolph Churchill, the Rev. C. E. Ranken, Mr. Nicholson (librarian of the Bodleian), and others, founded the Oxford University Chess Club. He succeeded Mr. Ranken as its President, and, during Mr. Anthony's Presidency, Mr. Steinitz gave two exhibitions of blindfold play. In 1872 Mr. Anthony played in a correspondence match for Oxford against Cambridge, his opponent being the Rev. F[sic]. de Soyres, whom he defeated. Together with Mr. Steinitz, he had a large share in the establishment of the annual Inter-University contests. He took part in the first of them, and won both his games. Mr. Anthony has also played with success for his University against the Birmingham Chess Club, and in other similar encounters. Mr. Steinitz, with a natural leaning towards an old friend and pupil, believes Mr. Anthony to be one of the strongest amateurs in this country. Truth, however, compels us to say that Mr. Anthony would have really earned that distinction, had his avocations permitted him to enter upon serious Matches and Tournaments.

Edwyn Anthony

“Mr. Anthony has contributed considerably to Chess literature. Among his efforts, we may mention articles on “International Chess Notation” (Westminster Papers and International Chess Magazine); a series of letters on “Luck at Chess” (The Chess-Monthly); “The Inexhaustibility of Chess,” and “Remarks on a Problem Code” (The Chess-Players' Chronicle); and a pamphlet entitled “Chess Telegraphic Codes.” For some three years Mr. Anthony edited the Chess columns of the Hereford Times, and obtained for it the reputation of being one of the most amusing and instructive columns published in the United Kingdom. During that time he contributed to its pages several useful notes on the Openings.

“Mr. Anthony has composed and published in various periodicals some seventy or eighty Chess problems, and he has competed twice in Problem Tourneys. The first time (Löwenthal Problem Tourney) his set was disqualified through the unsoundness of one of the problems. On the second occasion (Chess-Players’ Chronicle Tourney), Mr. Anthony's problem was honourably mentioned, being placed fourth among 46 competitors. This last competition strengthened his opinion, previously held, of the somewhat unsatisfactory nature of problem competitions. He was then a young composer, and thought himself placed too high in coming above such men as Miles, Collins, Thursby, MacArthur, Abbott, Jacob Elson, Pradignat, and Jespersen, while too low as regards at least one of the three problems put above him. For the judge commended one of them for the unusual merit of mating the King no less than nine different squares, and failed to observe that Mr. Anthony's problem contained, curiously enough, precisely the same feature.

“Outside the Chessboard, Mr. Anthony has led an active though, as before remarked, a somewhat desultory life. He took high University honours, and for some time paid considerable attention to mathematics, being elected a member of the London Mathematical Society, contributing many problems to the Educational Times, and writing a couple of papers for the Oxford and Cambridge Messenger of Mathematics. He also wrote a good deal anonymously for the Press. Shortly after Mr. Anthony had been called to the bar and had commenced practice as an equity draughtsman and conveyancer, an unexpected incident changed the current of his life. The Hereford Times, which was founded by Mr. Anthony's father, stands as one of the leaders among provincial newspapers in the adoption of type web machinery. As often happens in such cases, a considerable period elapsed before the new machines worked well, and the labour and worry thereby entailed fell upon Mr. Anthony and his brother. This circumstance turned his thoughts towards the construction of printing presses, a subject with which he had been more or less familiar from boyhood. The result was that Mr. Anthony obtained several patents in England and the United States for Improvements in Web Printing, and no single inventor has done more to advance the art of fast printing than has Mr. Anthony. An excellent proof thereof is that Mr. Anthony received from Messrs. Hoe and Co., the largest printing machine manufacturers in the world, close upon ten thousand pounds—a large sum for simply bare patent rights. The negotiations with that firm, however, necessitated a visit to America; and Mr. Anthony, like many others who have gone to that great country with the intention of making a short visit, remained there for some years. On his return to England, he felt it was too late to resume the practice of his profession, which had been ended almost before it had well begun, and he settled in Herefordshire, where he takes a vigorous part in local public life. Mr. Anthony is a member of the County Council, and does a good deal of work in politics, being President of the South Herefordshire Liberal Association and chairman of the company which has recently founded the Hereford and County Liberal Club; and he has been invited by the Hereford Liberal Association to contest the city at the next Parliamentary election—an invitation, we believe, Mr. Anthony has declined.

“Elsewhere we give a few specimens of Mr. Anthony’s worth, both as a player and a problem composer.”

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7. Rev. Charles Edward Ranken - Biographical article from The Chess-Monthly, May 1891, p258

Entry in Varsity Biographical File

The Chess-Monthly, May 1891, p258: "The Rev. C. E. Ranken was born in 1828, near Bristol, learnt ordinary Chess when he was twelve, but only began to study and practise it at all theoretically when, during his career at Oxford, he had the advantage of constant play with the late Mr. Brien, about 1848-50. On taking a curacy in 1862 he nearly gave it up altogether, but resumed it in 1881, when he came to live at Richmond, within easy reach of the Rev. W. Wayte, then a master at Eton. Being appointed, in 1867, to the vicarage of Sandford-on-Thames, and being obliged to reside in Oxford, he was requested by Lord Randolph Churchill to resuscitate the University Chess Club, which had ceased to exist with the demise of the Hermes Chess Club about 1852. This they succeeded in doing, and the Rev. C. E. Ranken was its first president. He now began to take part in the meetings of the Counties’ Chess Association, and won the first prize twice.

CE Ranken

In 1851 he was the second prize winner of the Provincial Tourney which was held in London in connection with the first International Tourney of that year, Mr Boden beating him for first place by two games to one. In 1863 he took part in the Vizayanagaram Tourney in London; but after a good start—having beaten MacDonnell, Fischer, Ensor, and other strong competitors, and having drawn both against Bardeleben (winner of the first prize) and Gunsberg—he only succeeded in tieing with Mr. Gossip for the fifth and sixth prizes. He has played in a good many correspondence matches, taking first prize in that of the British Chess Association in 1872, and being successful also in the Post-card contest with America. In 1877 he became editor of the Chess Players’ Chronicle, and since 1881 he has been one of the chief contributors to the British Chess Magazine, conducting the most difficult department of a Chess periodical, namely the analysis of the games." [Varsity Biographical File]

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8. Lord Randolph Churchill and His Chess Clubs - BCM, March 1895, p112

In the Times of February 16th [1895], a correspondent from Hereford, easily identified as a distinguished local amateur and journalist [Edwyn Anthony], writes of Lord R. Churchill as a chess-player in his Oxford days. Lord Randolph’s residence dated about the years 1868-72: and in conjunction with the Rev. C. E. Ranken (then living in Oxford as the Vicar of the adjoining parish of Sandford), Mr. E. W. B. Nicholson, now Bodley’s Librarian, Mr. E. A. Anthony and others, he founded the existing University Chess Club. On Mr. Steinitz’s first visit to the club, Lord Randolph took one of the boards at the blindfold exhibition, and made an excellent fight. This game is now re-printed from the C.P.C. ii. 110 of Mr. Skipworth’s series; and with it a game from the Illustrated London News, in which Lord R. Churchill and Messrs. Ranken and Anthony consulted against Steinitz and succeeded in drawing. The C.P.C. contains another game between the late Earl of Ravensworth and Lord Randolph Churchill, but being away from his books the present writer is unable to give the reference. The Times correspondent shows that it was only through a regrettable omission that Lord Randolph did not take part in the first Inter-University match between Oxford in Cambridge in 1873.

"In the following year he entered Parliament, and from 1874 to 1880 was an almost silent supporter of the Government. At some time during this period he joined the St. George’s Chess Club, and continued a member till his death. At first he was tolerably frequent in his attendance, and justly regarded as a player of great promise; it transpired, we remember, that he had been taking private lessons from eminent professionals. After the general election of 1880 the “cold shade of opposition” brought out Lord Randolph’s parliamentary fighting qualities: as he became absorbed in his brilliant political career he ceased to frequent the club, though he certainly attended one of our chess dinners (we forget the occasion) and made an interesting speech. He continued on the best of terms with the members of the club, and in his constituency of South Paddington found in Mr. Minchin, our honorary secretary, one of his ablest and most influential local supporters. From the little we saw of his active play we fully endorse the judgment of the Times correspondent that his chess was “original, daring, and sometimes brilliant”; that he was “a courteous and non-domineering winner, a tranquil and good-tempered loser.” W[illiam].W[ayte].

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9. Lord Randolph Churchill as a Chess Player - The Times, 16 February 1895 (unattributed but by Edwyn Anthony)

A correspondent writes from Hereford, under date February 5:—

None of the numerous obituary notices which have appeared of the late Lord Randolph Churchill allude to his partiality for the game of chess. He was, however, a lover of that game, and he possessed far more than ordinary skill in its practice. During his residence at Oxford he used at times to play a good deal; and, in conjunction with the Rev. C. E. Ranken, Mr. Nicholson (now librarian of the Bodleian), the writer, and others, he founded the Oxford University Chess Club.

On the first visit to Oxford of Mr. Steinitz, the champion chess player of the world,Lord R. Churchill conducted one of the boards at the blindfold exhibition, and made an excellent fight. It is to be regretted that he did not take part in the first over-the-board Inter-University chess match between Oxford and Cambridge. He was certainly a stronger player than some of those who did,but at the time he was no longer in residence, and his name had become unfamiliar to the resident undergraduates. Writing in reply to a suggestion of the writer, who was playing, and who also had keen non-resident for a long time,the secretary said that it was too late to alter the arrangements, and added, "I have no knowledge of Lord R. Churchill’s play, nor did I know that he was even eligible.”

Lord R. Churchill’s chess, though it necessarily lacked the strength derivable from book-knowledge and frequent bouts with great masters, was original, daring, and sometimes brilliant. In the opinion of the writer, who has played with him a good deal, Lord Randolph had all the qualities (with a possible exception in regard to patience) needful to become a very fine player; and, had he cared to take the trouble, he might have achieved a high place among chess amateurs. Contrary, too, perhaps, to what might have been anticipated from the impetuosity of his disposition, he was not alone a courteous and non-domineering winner, but also a tranquil and good-tempered loser.

After his entrance into public life Lord R. Churchill seems to have gone little, if at all, into chess circles, though his interest in the game continued to the end of his life, and he played occasionally with Mr. Steinitz, the writer believes, for some time after he had reaped eminence in the House of Commons. His name appears as vice-president in the programme of the last Congress held at Manchester in 1890. Two incidents may be related. Lord K. Churchill did not, as a rule, attend the Chess Club meetings, but on one occasion he happened to drop in when a resolution had just been proposed by the writer, as president. Immediately Lord R. Churchill moved an amendment, and spoke with such energy, eloquence, and warmth that he all but carried his point, despite the previous unanimity of opinion the other way.

At a certain stage of the consultation game, transcribed below, Lord R. Churchill suggested a move which was disapproved of by Mr. Ranken. The latter gentleman was many years senior to Lord R. Churchill and the writer, and was well known at the time as one of the strongest amateur players of the day. The discussion on the point was long, and its animation seemed to surprise the great champion. At length, by that pertinacity and pugnacity which he afterwards so often and so brilliantly displayed on a larger battlefield, Lord R. Churchill won the day. As the allies managed to draw the game against their redoubtable adversary, they have no reason to regret the move made (21. P-KB3, according to the writer’s recollection).

The two following games are, so far as the writer’s knowledge extends, the only ones on record in which Lord R. Churchill took part:—

Game No. 1 (published in the Chess Players’ Quarterly Chronicle, vol. 2, p. 110).

Game No. 2 (published in the Illustrated London News, vol. 57, [27 August 1870] p. 227).

Consultation game, played in Oxford at Mr. Anthony’s rooms, between Lord Randolph Churchill, the Rev. C.E. Ranken, and Mr. Anthony, consulting together against Mr. Steinitz.

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APPENDIX OF GAMES (n.b. other games appear above in their appointed place in articles)

1. Oxford Hermes Club 0-1 Cambridge Trinity Club, corr. 1855

2. Exeter Literary Society 0-1 Cambridge Junior University Chess Club, corr. 1871

3. Cambridge University CC 1-0 Bristol CC, corr. 1873

4. Bristol CC 0-1 Cambridge University CC, corr. 1873

5. University College Aberystwyth 0-1 Cambridge University, corr. 1898

All material © 1997-2022 John Saunders