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John Saunders


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Tournament: 89th Varsity Match • Venue: Christ Church, Oxford • Date: Sunday 21 March 1971
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The 89th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at Christ Church, Oxford, on 21 March 1971. Match arbiters was (probably) Harry Golombek. Four game scores from this match are available - can anyone supply any others?

1970«     1971 Varsity Chess Match     »1972
Bd Oxford University 1971 Cambridge University Opening, No. of Moves
1b George Steven Botterill (Pembroke) ½-½ Raymond Dennis Keene (Trinity) English, 40
2w Peter Richard Markland (Balliol) ½-½ Richard Geoffrey Eales (Christ's) English, 22
3b John Larkin Moles (Corpus Christi) 0-1 Arthur Howard Williams (Downing) French (lost on time)
4w Martyn John Corden (St Edmund Hall) ½-½ John Neil Sugden (St John's) King's Indian Def
5b Roger Rance Smith (Jesus) ½-½ Trevor William Robbins (Jesus) Caro-Kann, 27
6w Robert Walter Lambert Moberly (New) 0-1 Nigel John Holloway (Trinity) Grunfeld, 42
7b Martin Fleury (Jesus) 0-1 Bernard Maurice Rothbart (Jesus) King's Indian Def

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; The Times, 22 March 1971, p2; BCM, April 1971, p137.


[BCM, April 1971, p137 - Harry Golombek] "The annual Cambridge and Oxford University Match was played at Christ Church, Oxford, on Sunday March 21st. Beforehand Oxford were reckoned the likely winners. For one thing, the team was playing on its home ground, in so far as the stately precincts of Christ Church can be regarded as home to anyone; and for another Oxford was deemed the stronger, more consistent team, especially in the lower reaches.

"Whatever the previous expectations, anyone who looked at the positions about halfway through the match, which was in fact when I arrived on the scene, would have gained the strong impression that Cambridge was the winning side. An early draw, in 22 moves, had been agreed on second board in the game between Eales and Markland, this being a disappointment for the Oxford side in view of Markland's recent international achievements. A little later too there came a draw in 27 moves between Robbins and Smith on fifth board."

"Looking round the other boards, the 'only game in which Oxford appeared to hold an advantage was that on top board, where indeed one would have least expected it in view of Keene's formidable record against Botterill. On board six Moberly for Oxford had gone in for an inferior opening variation and was clearly losing all the way. To complete the sad story of the lower boards, Fleury never seemed to get going against Rothbart and likewise lost. So, there where Oxford had been deemed strongest, on the last two boards, they scored nought."

"This would have been enough to win the match for Cambridge in view of the eventual draws on boards one and four; but the nail was driven into the Oxford coffin with extreme force by the result on the third board. This game between Williams and Moles was eventually lost on time by the Oxford player after a series of moves that were indeed consecutive but, as the Cambridge player phrased it, bore only a coincidental resemblance to real chess. Odd that two such gifted players should play so badly. I would give the game here so as to demonstrate its fortuitous nature but that I would then be expected to explain it to my readers. This would be beyond or rather (I hope the players will forgive me) beneath my powers."

"No, the only really publishable game was that on top board. This was the last result to come in and it made the final score Cambridge 5, Oxford 2, a victory almost as crushing as the one the Cambridge boat race crew were to achieve a week later. Cambridge had White on the odd-numbered boards."

[The Times, 22 March 1971, p2] From Harry Golombek, Chess Correspondent, Oxford, March 21 - "The annual chess match between Oxford and Cambridge universities was played at Christ Church, Oxford, today and surprisingly, in view of the strength of the Oxford side, ended in an easy victory for Cambridge by 5—2. Two early draws on boards two and five were followed by the first Cambridge win on board six, where Moberly chose an inferior opening variation against Holloway. Then came tragedy for Oxford when Moles missed a winning chance against Williams on board three and lost on time. A further loss for Oxford came on the bottom board, which was adjudicated a win for the Cambridge team at the end of the session, and finally the game on the top board between two young international players was agreed a draw in a position where the Oxford player was a pawn to the good."

Bernard Maurice Rothbart (12 June 1950, Wood Green, Kent - 5 December 1979, Lambeth, London)

File Updated

Date Notes
2018 First posted
7 January 2021 Added Rothbart-Fleury. Thanks to John Swain for this contribution.
19 March 2023 Roger Smith very kindly sent me the score of his game from this match which I have added to the collection. Many thanks, Roger.
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