www.britbase.info
© 1997-2021
John Saunders

 

BRITBASE - British Chess Game Archive

Tournament: 1st Varsity Match • Venue: City of London CC, London • Date: Friday 28 March 1873
Download PGNList of Varsity Matches • Forward to 1874 • last edited: Monday March 8, 2021 3:01 PM

The 1st Varsity Chess Match between Oxford University and Cambridge University was held at City of London CC, Gordon's City Restaurant, 34 Milk Street, Cheapside, London, on Friday 28 March 1873 at 6.30pm (approx) (or 6pm) with Wilhelm Steinitz adjudicating games unfinished as at 11pm. Sand glasses used - 15 moves in an hour.

Bd Oxford University Game 1 Game 2 Cambridge University
1b Walter Parratt (Magdalen) 1-0 1-0 *John de Soyres (Caius)
2w Reginald Brodrick Schomberg (New) 1-0 1-0 Charles Burdett Ogden (Magdalene)
3b Edwyn Anthony (Christ Church) 1-0 1-0 Robert Michael Simon (Caius)
4w Falconer Madan (Brasenose) 0-1 1-0 Francis Henry Neville (Sidney Sussex)
5b Samuel Redhead Meredith (Brasenose) ½-½ ½-½ John Neville Keynes (Pembroke)
6w Edward William Byron Nicholson (Trinity) 0-1 1-0 Walter William Rouse Ball (Trinity)
7b *Benjamin Whitefoord (New) 1-0 - Alfred Robert Hayes (Trinity Hall)
    10-3  

Sources: Oxford-Cambridge Chess Matches (1873-1987), compiled by Jeremy Gaige, Philadelphia 1987; BCM, March 1873, p136; Morning Post, 29 March 1873; London Daily News, 29 March 1873; London Evening Standard, 29 March 1873; BCM, March 1973, p136-137; The Times, 22 Mar 1926, p21; Sergeant, Philip W, A Century of Chess (London 1934); Huddersfield College Magazine, 1873 (various pages); Westminster Papers, 1 April 1873. Eight of the 13 games played are available in the download.

* Whitefoord & De Soyres were the respective Presidents of the Oxford and Cambridge clubs.

Three games per board were planned if time allowed, but no more than two were played (and only one on bottom board).

Chess was the sixth sport/game to be competed for by Oxford and Cambridge, the earlier five being rowing, cricket, athletics, rackets and billiards.

According to The Penny Illustrated Paper and Illustrated Times (Sat 29 March 1873), the original Oxford team was to include Mr SN Fox of New College (and not EWB Nicholson) and either B Whiteford (sic) of New or Mr H A J Lee [? illegible] of Brasenose; and the Cambridge team was to include a Mr Davidson of St John's and not AR Hayes.

The London Standard, 29 March 1873, says that opponents were drawn by lot rather than the players being matched in order of strength (and the writer criticises this arrangement)

The event attracted an enormous crowd and among the 700 visitors were such masters as Lowenthal, Horwitz, Steinitz, Zukertort, Blackburne, Bird, Wisker, Boden, MacDonnell, Potter, Hoffer, Medley, Campbell, Healey and Duffy... Blackburne volunteered to play 13 games simultaneously and Zukertort took on 6 simultaneously blindfold; in Blackburne's display one of his opponents had a board 4 feet square and Blackburne kept asking for a billiard cue and rest with which to make his moves.

Illustrated London News, 5 April 1873 (Howard Staunton): "The University Chess Match;

"Whoever first projected a chess tourney between Oxford and Cambridge as an accompaniment to the great aquatic contention, may congratulate himself on the idea. The scene at this match, which took place on Friday last at the rooms of the City of London Chess Club, 34 Milk street, Cheapside, is the subject of an Illustration on page 325. It was so pre-eminent a success that it is pretty certain to become an annual occurrence; and in that case its influence in disseminating a taste for chess can hardly be exaggerated. According to the estimate of one reporter, the number of persons present at the University contest the other evening was little short of 400, a remarkable proof of the fascination which any trial of skill between Oxford and Cambridge exercises over the English mind, for we know of no other instance when a match of chess has ever attracted a moiety of that number of spectators. The arrangements for the encounter were very simple, and, we believe, gave satisfaction. Seven players were chosen as champions from each University, and paired together suitably.

"By the terms of combat, each pair were to play two games conditionally that the tourney was brought to a close by eleven o’clock at night. Any game unfinished at that hour was to be examined by the umpire and given by him as won to the player who appeared to him to have the best of it; and the side which had scored the greater number of won games was to carry off the honours of victory.

"The match began at 6.30p.m., and, notwithstanding the rival attractions of a blindfold chess performance by Herr Zukertort and the playing of twelve simultaneous games by Mr. Blackburne, a large majority of the spectators congregated round the long table at which the fourteen University players were seated. Oxford were, of course, the favourites, since among the Dark Blue representatives were Mr. Parrott, long known as one of the strongest players in Yorkshire ; Mr. Anthony, one of the best pupils of Steinitz; and three strong club players, Messrs. Madan, Meredith, and Schomberg. The Cantabs, besides being much younger men, were, as a rule, very ignorant of chess theory, and their defeat was never a matter of doubt.

"At the hour appointed for concluding the tourney two games still remained unfinished, both of which, being decided by the umpire to be in favour of Oxford, were added to the Dark Blue score. The following was the result...

"We trust that the Cambridge players, so far from losing courage at this defeat, will work hard during next year, so as to bring a strong team for the contest of 1874 and a prospect of a better conclusion to it."

BCM, March 1973, p136-137, One Hundred Years Ago by RN Coles

"On March 28th 1873 there took place the first ever contest over the board between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The match was played at the City of London Chess Club, 34 Milk Street, Cheapside, to which premises the club had moved in January from the City of London Tavern. The event attracted an enormous crowd and among the 700 visitors were such masters as Lowenthal, Horwitz, Steinitz, Zukertort, Blackburne, Bird, Wisker, Boden, MacDonnell, Potter, Hoffer, Medley, Campbell, Healey and Duffy, a truly remarkable gathering. In order to relieve the pressure a little and draw off some of the crowd, Blackburne volunteered to play 13 games simultaneously and Zukertort took on 6 simultaneously blindfold; in Blackburne's display one of his opponents had a board four feet square and Blackburne kept asking for a billiard cue and rest with which to make his moves.

"The match which was the centre of all this activity was finally won by Oxford 9-2 with 2 draws, Parratt beating de Soyres twice on top board. It is interesting that twenty years later Parratt was appointed Master of the Queen's Musick. How often since Philidor have music and chess been thus closely linked."

The Times, 22 Mar 1926, p21, on the Oxford and Cambridge Clubs' dinner held on Saturday 20 March 1926 at the Trocadero restaurant: "... Mr Falconer Madan, speaking as one who played for Oxford in the first match on March 28, 1873, gave some amusing reminiscences of that match, with its trying atmosphere, and the "Permeate yourselves, gentlemen, if you please," from one of the distinguished masters present, when there was undue crowding round some of the boards..."

Sergeant, PW, A Century of Chess (London 1934), p294: Walter Parratt "born Huddersfield, 10 ii 1841," died 27 iii 1924, Windsor (Gaige).

"At the same time chess was going on in the other rooms of the building. In one we found Herr Zukertort, a famous Russian player, who has recently come to England, taking part in six games at once - he had offered to play twelve, but there were not sufficient boards and men - without seeing a single move. He sat in a corner of the room, with his back to the tables, looking the picture of abject misery, and apparently suffering from a violent toothache; but nevertheless he managed to win three games, resign* two and only lose one." (Daily News, 29 March 1873) (* other sources make it clear he drew two - either a typo or lack of chess knowledge by the journalist here)

Huddersfield College Magazine, p136, 1873: "The lovers of chess will be gratified to learn that there will this year be an addition to the minor contests which generally attend the annual boat race, and one which will demonstrate that muscle
is not alone cultivated in the amusements of our under-graduates. An inter-University chess match has been arranged to be played between Oxford and Cambridge. The games are to be conducted by seven members of the Oxford University Chess Club against seven members of the Cambridge " Staunton" Chess Club. The match will be played on Friday, the 28th instant [March 1873], the day before the aquatic contest, at the rooms of the City of London Chess Club, 34, Milk Street, Cheapside, and play will commence at 6 p.m. The present is the first occasion of a public contest in this scientific game between the two Universities, and it is understood to be the inauguration of an annual chess match, which, it is hoped, will in future form a pleasing accompaniment to the popular boat race. The announcement has occasioned great interest in chess circles.— " Huddersfield Examiner," March 22nd, 1873. *»* We shall give full details next month. Mr. Walter Parratt, a member of the Huddersfield Chess Club, is announced to play on behalf of Oxford."

Huddersfield College Magazine, p153: "THE INTER-UNIVERSITY CHESS MATCH.
The following account of this interesting and exciting contest is taken, with a few verbal alterations, from the columns of the Illustrated London News :— Whoever first projected a chess tourney between Oxford and Cambridge as an accompaniment to the great aquatic contention may congratulate himself on the idea. The match took place on Friday, March 28th, at the rooms of the City of London Chess Club, 34, Milk-street, Cheapside. It was so pre-eminent a success that it is pretty certain to become an annual occurrence ; and in that case its influence in disseminating a taste for Chess can hardly be exaggerated. According to the estimate of one reporter, the number of persons present at this contest was little short of 400, a remarkable proof of the fascination which any trial of skill between Oxford and Cambridge exercises over the English mind, for we know of no other instance when a match of Chess has ever attracted a moiety of that number of spectators. The arrangements for the encounter were very simple, and, we believe, gave satisfaction. Seven players were chosen as champions from each University, and paired together suitably. By the terms of combat, each pair were to play two games conditionally, that the tourney was brought to a close by eleven o'clock at night. Any game unfinished at that hour was to be examined by the umpire and given by him as won to the player who appeared to him to have the best of it ; and the side which had scored the greater number of won games was to carry off the honours of victory.

"The match began at 6-30 p m., and, notwithstanding the rival attractions of a blindfold Chess performance by Herr Zukertort and the playing of twelve simultaneous games by Mr. Blackburne, a large majority of the spectators congregated round the long table at which the fourteen University players were seated. Oxford were, of course, the favourites, since among the Dark Blue representatives were Mr. Parratt, long known as one of the strongest players in Yorkshire ; Mr. Anthony, one of the best pupils of Steinitz ; and three strong club players, Messrs. Madan, Meredith, and Schomberg. The Cantabs, besides being much younger men, were, as a rule, very ignorant of Chess theory, and their defeat was never a matter of doubt.

"At the hour appointed for concluding the tourney two games still remained unfinished, both of which, being decided by the umpire to be in favour of Oxford, were added to the Dark Blue score. The following was the result :—

Westminster Papers, 1 April 1873: "The institution of Annual Chess Matches, as part of the series of contests between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, is a notable event, and one that we believe will influence beneficially the progress of the game in England. It is of course most unlikely that the Chess Match will ever rival the Boat Race in popular estimation. The character of the game, and the necessity for almost absolute silence on the part of the spectators, are conditions incompatible with popular enthusiasm—which is not unfrequently derived from popular noise—but the public interest in these University contests cannot fail to create in many a desire to obtain some knowledge of the science of the game, and in many more at least an increased zest for its practice. The first Universities Chess Match was played on Friday, the 28th ult., at the rooms of the City of London Chess Club, Milk Street, Cheapside, in the presence of nearly 500 spectators.

"The conditions of the Match were, that the players should be paired according to their reputed strength, that each pair should play two games, inclusive of draws, a time limit of one hour to each player for fifteen moves, and that any game unfinished at half-past ten o'clock should be decided by the umpire, Mr. Steinitz. Play commenced at half-past six p.m., in the large Dining Saloon of the City Restaurant, tastefully decorated with the Universities' colours for the occasion, the assembly including nearly every notability of the Metropolitan Chess World.

"To lessen the inconvenience of over crowding, the Committee of the City of London Club judiciously arranged for a blindfold seance in another room, Mr. Zukertort playing simultaneously seven games sans voir, while Mr. Blackburne conducted an indefinite number of what are called simultaneous games at the same time. Notwithstanding all this, however, the players must have had a hard time of it, from pressure from without, and a perfectly tropical atmosphere. The following is the pairing of the players :—

"Mr. Parratt had the honour of scoring the first Game for Oxford ; Mr. Neville soon afterwards scoring one for Cambridge. The equality however was not long maintained, and when, at 10 o'clock, the score was announced as five for Oxford and two for Cambridge, it became evident that the light blue team were overweighted, and that the Oxford Champions must prove the winners of the first Universities Chess Match. The following is the full score Oxford : Mr. Parratt won 2, Mr. Schomberg 2, Mr. Anthony 2, Mr. Madan 1 ; Mr. Meredith drew both of his games. Mr. Nicholson won 1, and lost 1, and Mr. Whitefoord won 1. Total score— 9 won and 2 games drawn. Cambridge : Messrs. De Soyres, Ogden, and Simon, each lost two games, Mr. Neville won 1 and lost 1, Mr. Keynes drew both of his games. Mr. Ball won 1 and lost 1, and Mr. Hayes lost 1. Total score—2 won, 9 lost, and 2 drawn. After the play, the players, with some fifty or sixty visitors, sat down to a supper prepared by the hospitable Committee of the City of London Chess Club, Mr. Gastineau, the President of the Club, in the chair. After the usual loyal toasts, the Chairman proposed the toast of the evening—the Oxford and Cambridge Chess Clubs, which was received with enthusiasm. Mr. Whitefoord returned thanks for Oxford; and Mr. Simon for Cambridge. The toast of the Chess Press was proposed by Mr. Chappell, and responded to by Mr. Mossop, of the Westminster Papers. The meeting, conducted throughout with the greatest harmony, broke up at a late, or rather an early hour, after an effusion of sweet sounds from Mr Steinitz."

All material © 1997-2021 John Saunders