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John Saunders


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Event: 69th Varsity Match • Venue: West London CC • Date: 24 March 1951
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Back to 1950 • Forward to 1952 • last edited: Monday March 18, 2024 10:59 AM

The 69th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at West London Chess Club on 24 March 1951. Four game scores from this match are available (boards 1, 2, 3 and 6).

1950«     1951 Varsity Chess Match     »1952
Bd Oxford University v Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1w Leonard William Barden (Balliol) ½-½ Oliver Penrose (King's) Ruy Lopez
2b Alan Fraser Truscott (Magdalen) 1-0 Denis Victor Mardle (Christ's) Dutch Defence
3w John Edward Pike (Exeter) 0-1 John Frederick Barrett (Pembroke) Catalan [Rev. Grunfeld]
4b John Anthony Wall (Balliol) ½-½ Neil McKelvie (Queens') Giuoco Piano
5w John Bradbury Sykes (Balliol - see note) 1-0 Rein Henri Van Dijk (Trinity) Two Knights
6b Ian Ninian Marshall (Merton) 0-1 Henry Alec Samuels (Magdalene) King's Indian Def
7w David John Youston (Hertford) ½-½ Roger John Tayler (Clare) Ruy Lopez

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 26 March 1951; BCM, May 1951, p152; CHESS, April 1951, pps142-143; Dictionary of National Biography (DNB)

(1) Venue: West London CC, 23 Stratford Road, W8 (10am).
(2) Gaige gives "Ninian Marshall" but BCM and The Times give "I Marshall". Leonard Barden remembers him as "Ian". His full name appears to be "Ian Ninian Marshall."
(3) Sykes was listed in Gaige as "Wadham" in 1949 and 1950 and "Balliol" in 1951. This is correct and confirmed by DNB: "... went up to Wadham College, Oxford, in 1947 as an open entrance scholar to read mathematics, graduated with first-class honours in 1950, and went on, first as a Henry Skynner senior student at Balliol College (1950-52), and then as a Harmsworth senior scholar at Merton College (1952-3), to write a DPhil thesis."[JS]

[The Times, 26 March 1951] UNIVERSITY CHESS MATCH - DRAW SECURED BY CAMBRIDGE - FROM OUR CHESS CORRESPONDENT - The annual chess match between Oxford and Cambridge Universities was held at the West London Club on Saturday. For a long time Oxford looked like being the winners, but right at the end Cambridge made up lost ground and the match was drawn, 3½ all. On the top board there was a correctly played, if somewhat featureless, game in which numerous exchanges led to an early draw. On the next board Truscott scored a good win for Oxford in excellent positional style. His opponent, Mardle, defended with a system that left his queen’s bishop without any useful squares for development. Truscott cleverly exploited this to obtain an overwhelming game. Cambridge had their revenge on the third board, where Barrett won equally convincingly against Pike. The game that really turned the match into a draw was that on the sixth board. Here Samuels, having first obtained an advantage, allowed his opponent to restore the balance and even obtain the better game. Then by some clever play he broke through the defences around his opponent’s king and forced a neat win. The detailed results were: — [as above - no game scores]"


The combined Oxford and Cambridge teams usually include some of England’s leading players as “past” members when they meet the leading London clubs before having their own annual match. In the first match this year, against the Civil Service on March 17th, they were narrowly beaten 9½-10½ (top-board results: L. W. Barden ½, N. A. Perkins ½; O. Penrose 1, A. Y. Green 0 ; J. E. Pike ½, J. Neale ½; N. McKelvie ½, E. C. Hughes ½).

Metropolitan also beat them on March 19th by 11-9 (C. H. O’D. Alexander 0, A. N. Trott [sic - Arthur Henry Trott] 1; L. W. Barden 0, D. Miller 1; O. Penrose 1, J. M. Bee 0 ; A. F. Truscott 1, J. Gilchrist 0). The sensation of this match was the defeat of former British Champion Alexander by the young Metropolitan club champion...

On March 20th, the students scored their first win when they beat Hampstead 10½-9½ (R. G. Wade 0, J. Penrose 1 ; L. W. Barden 0, A. W. Bowen 1; O. Penrose 1, M. Blaine 0 ; A. F. Truscott ½, J. W. Cornforth ½). Popular New Zealand master Bob Wade hasn’t been to either Oxford or Cambridge; but, as an Honorary Vice-President of the Cambridge Club, he was roped in to fill a last-minute vacancy.

On March 21st, West London were beaten 11-9 (R. G. Wade ½, J. A. Fuller ½; L. W. Barden ½, F. Fischer ½; D. V. Mardle 1, A. Distler 0 ; D. B. Scott ½, F. J. Camm ½), and on March 22nd last year’s defeat by Insurance was revenged by 12½-7½ (J. M. Aitken 0, W. Veitch 1; L. W. Barden 0, R. Blow 1; D. V. Mardle 0, S. H. Crockett 1 ; D. B. Scott 1, G. C. Nurse 0). In this match Barden crowned a disastrous week by leaving his queen en prise to a knight fork.

The annual Oxford v. Cambridge Match began on March 24th with Cambridge two up in the series (Oxford haven’t been level for over 60 years!). An indication of the present strength of University chess is given by the number of players who have won honours in outside competitions: Barden and Penrose have played with success in the British Championship; Truscott is a former Navy and Oxfordshire champion; Mardle and Barrett have won Premier Reserves sections at Hastings ; and McKelvie was runner-up in this year’s Surrey Championship. The match was drawn. [results]

[BCM report, May 1951, p152] OXFORD v. CAMBRIDGE

The University match was played at the West London Chess Club on Saturday, March 24th. Cambridge won the toss for the fourth year in succession and took White on the odd-numbered boards. The games began at 10 a.m. with arrangements for six hours play if necessary. However, by the lunch break, four of the games were over. Sykes had won for Oxford, his opponent overstepping the time limit in a lost position; Barrett had replied for Cambridge by beating Pike, who mishandled the opening; and the games at boards one and four had been agreed drawn after sedate plate [sic! presumably 'play' is meant] on both sides.

Lunch brought photographers and news of the "Boat Race(?)." On balance, Oxford had the advantage in the remaining games. At second board, Mardle had played the Dutch (which should be re-named Cambridge) Defence and Truscott's Knights were roaming in and out of his position. Against the King's Indian, Marshall had allowed the King's side to be opened but had play on the other wing. On the bottom board, Youston was a pawn down but had compensation.

Mardle resigned soon after the resumption - Truscott had played an excellent positional game. Tayler and Youston agreed a draw. This left Cambridge 2½-3½ down with the match depending on board six. The Oxford player had failed to find a satisfactory plan and was running into time trouble. Samuels gradually gained the ascendancy and finished off with a neat mating attack.

The West London Club is to be congratulated on the excellence of their arrangements. Ample refreshments were provided for the players and also for the considerable number of spectators who attended. The two teams later adjourned to a West End hotel for a celebration dinner which it is hoped to make an annual event. R. J. T[ayler]. and D. J. Y[ouston].

Oxford Past v Cambridge Past, 7 April 1951, St Bride's, London

Bd Oxford University Past 1951 Cambridge University Past Opening, No. of Moves
1b Dr James Macrae Aitken (Balliol) 0-1 C Hugh O'D Alexander (King's) Two Knights' Def
2w Theodore Henry Tylor (Balliol) 1-0 P Stuart Milner-Barry (Trinity) Catalan
3b Alfred William Bowen (Oriel) 0-1 William Winter (Clare) QGD
4w John Warcup Cornforth (St Catherine's) 1-0 John Matthias Bee (St Catharine's) English
5b Richard Hilary Newman (Worcester) 0-1 Roland Hartnett (Downing) Dutch Def
6w Dr Hans Georg Schenk (Exeter) 1-0 Eric Augustus Coad-Pryor (Trinity) QP
7b William Ernest Baker Pryer (Pembroke) ½-½ John Dean (St Catharine's) QGD
8w Nicholas Anthony Perkins (St John's) ½-½ Eugene Ernest Colman (Trinity) English
9b John Montgomerie (Corpus Christi) ½-½ John Robert Gilbert (St Catharine's) Scotch
10w Dermot Michael Macgregor Morrah (New) 1-0 George Spencer Brown (Trinity) QGA
11b Michael James Albery (Exeter) 1-0 William Rawson Greenhalgh (Pembroke) Vienna Game

[The Times, 9 April 1951, p2] "Teams representing Oxford University Past and Cambridge University Past met at St. Bride Institute in London on Saturday [7 April 1951]. This annual match always produces some excellent, hard-fought chess as some of the country’s leading players are to be found on both sides. This year the advantage soon swung to Oxford, who did especially well on the lower boards, and, though the Cambridge top boards held their own, Oxford eventually won comfortably by 6½-4½. On the first board Alexander soon won a piece but then his opponent put up a really dour resistance and the ending was adjudicated a loss for the Oxford player only after much deliberation. Milner-Barry worked up a promising attack against Tylor but spoilt it all by a blunder when pressed for time. On the third board Winter established an advantage by strong play and won the ending with great accuracy."


File Updated

Date Note
2019 Original upload.
14 January 2021 Added the score of the game Trott-Alexander from the Metropolitan vs Combined Universities match played prior to the Varsity match itself, and also the Alexander-Aitken game from the subsequent Cambridge Past vs Oxford Past match in April 1951.
All material © 2019 John Saunders