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John Saunders


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Tournament: 137th Varsity Match • Venue: RAC Club, Pall Mall, London • Date: 2 March 2019
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John Saunders reports: The 137th Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at the Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London on 2 March 2019. The match sponsors were the Royal Automobile Club. The chief match arbiter was Matthew Carr and also in charge of operating the live boards. Cambridge won the toss and chose Black on odds.

2018«     2019 Varsity Chess Match     »2020
Bd Oxford University Rating Nat 4½-3½ Cambridge University Rating Nat
1w Hou Yifan (St Hilda's) 2662g CHN ½-½ Matthew Wadsworth (Queens') 2386f ENG
2b Isaac Sanders (Christ Church) 2355f ENG 1-0 Ryan Rhys Griffiths (Wolfson) 2359f IRL
3w Lisa Schut (Jesus) 2259wm NED ½-½ Conor Murphy (Christ's) 2361f IRL
4b Joris Gerlagh (University, capt) 2258 NED 0-1 Gwilym Price (Clare) 2138 ENG
5w Benjamin Foo Zhi Rong (Magdalen) 2254c SGP 0-1 Gustavo Leon Cazares (Selwyn) 2059 MEX
6b Daniel Abbas (Magdalen) 2253f ENG 1-0 Peter Finn (Girton) 1863 ENG
7w Gordon Scott (Merton) 2237 ENG ½-½ James Cole (Downing, capt) 1921 ENG
8b Filip Mihov (Balliol) 2155 MKD 1-0 Naomi Wei (Trinity) 1787 ENG
  Av. Rating = 2304.1     4½-3½ Av. Rating = 2109.2    

© 2019 John Saunders, all photos and text - not to be used without permission

Best game prize went to Isaac Sanders (Oxford board 2) while the brilliancy prize went to Gwilym Price (Cambridge board 4).


2019 Oxford team
2019 Oxford University team: Andrew Rogozinski (reserve), Daniel Abbas, Hou Yifan, Joris Gerlagh (captain),
Benjamin Foo, Lisa Schut, Gordon Scott, Filip Mihov, Isaac Sanders.

2019 Cambridge team
2019 Cambridge team: Peter Finn, Naomi Wei, Ryan Rhys Griffiths, Gustavo Leon Cazares, Gwilym Price,
James Cole (captain), James Walsh (reserve), Conor Murphy, Matthew Wadsworth.

Hou Yifan plays Matthew Wadsworth
A unique moment in chess history: the world's longest running regular chess fixture, now into its 137th match, welcomes the world's top woman player Hou Yifan (St Hilda's College, Oxford) as she shakes hands to start her game with Matthew Wadsworth (Queens' College, Cambridge)

3.45pm - first blood to Oxford on board 8 as Filip Mihov brings off a material-winning combination to beat Naomi Wei. Until now Cambridge had been looking quite cushy, with Gwilym Price still looking to be well on top versus Joris Gerlagh, and Matthew Wadsworth doing quite well against Hou Yifan.

Maomi Wei v Filip Mihov
Naomi Wei
Board 8: Naomi Wei 0-1 Filip Mihov

4.17pm: great result for Cambridge... not a win, but a draw for Matthew Wadsworth against Hou Yifan rates as one of the most remarkable results ever in this long-standing match. Well done, Matthew.

Matthew Wadsworth holds his nerve - and the game
Hou Yifan
Draw for Matthew Wadsworth against Hou Yifan.

4.30pm - Cambridge level the score at 1½-1½ as Gwilym Price beats Joris Gerlagh on board four. When we were conducting the formal photos earlier, the Oxford captain dropped the trophy and I jokingly told him that was a very bad omen. It was for him, at any rate, beaten by a lower-rated opponent.

Gwilym Price v Joris Gerlagh
Oxford captain Joris Gerlagh goes down to defeat against Gwilym Price.

4.50pm: board seven ends in a draw. Black, the Cambridge captain James Cole, may have been better there but Gordon Scott rescued a half-point. But another 300+ rating differential wasted by Oxford.

Scott - Cole
"Draw, actually": Cambridge's Hugh Grant lookalike James Cole did well to draw with Gordon Scott but a win was nearly on the cards. Match score 2-2.

Yikes... 5.52pm and the Cambridge board two Ryan Rhys Griffiths has just blundered into a mating net when he could probably have looked forward to a draw. A tragic turnabout for Cambridge as they had been looking at an advantage in the match despite their big rating deficit. Oxford 3-2 Cambridge.

Ryan Rhys Griffiths loses to Isaac Sanders
Ryan Rhys Griffiths was doing OK before blundering into a mating net against Isaac Sanders

6.08pm and board three ends in a draw. That makes it Oxford 3½-2½ Cambridge. Still two games left.

Conor Murphy
Lisa Schut
Conor Murphy and Lisa Schut draw.

Just two minutes pass and now Cambridge level the match with a win on board five for Gustavo Leon Cazares against Benjamin Foo. Oxford 3½-3½ Cambridge and it's all down to board six.

Gustavo Leon Cazares
Benjamin Foo
Gustavo looks confident, Benjamin looks disconsolate. Cambridge win...

The last game ended at 6.30pm with Daniel Abbas edging out Peter Finn to clinch the match for Oxford. They will be much relieved after starting as hot favourites. Great effort from Cambridge who ignore the rating list and gave it their all.


The end is nigh... Oxford win by a whisker. Well done, both teams.